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Salem Multicultural Institute

We believe that the key to establishing Salem and Oregon as a culturally rich and welcoming place is broad-based community involvement.


Salem Multicultural Institute

The Salem Multicultural Institute began on February 15, 1997, on rolls of poster paper stretched across a dining room wall. Two moms with young daughters saw the need to create a positive, tangible response to growing concern about racial tensions in Salem. 

That response took the form of a festival, a celebration of all of the many cultures that make Oregon such a wonderful place. 

The inaugural Salem World Beat Festival was held in conjunction with the grand opening of Salem's long-awaited Riverfront Park on June 27-28, 1998. 

This grass-roots effort has grown out of meetings in living rooms and coffee shops into a meaningful celebration and year-round community volunteerism. More than 400 volunteers, 70 sponsors and 150 exhibitors and performing arts groups are involved with the festival annually. The average annual attendance has reached approximately 25,000 guests. Awards to the festival include: Cultural Event of the Year from the Salem Convention and Visitors Association; a Queen of Peace Community Service Award; a Quality of Life Award from Today's Choices, Tomorrow's Community; Best Festival 2006 from the readers of Salem Monthly and, twice, Best Cultural Heritage Event from the Oregon Festivals and Events Association. Also, the Salem Multicultural Institute itself was named Best Non-Profit in 2007 and 2008 by Salem Monthly readers.

Because of the positive connections made at the festival, the organization’s volunteers have been called to serve the community in the areas of cultural programming, referrals and committee work throughout the year. In 2006, the Salem Multicultural Institute moved our offices downtown and opened the World Beat Gallery at the Reed Opera House with an exhibit entitled Diversity in the Philippines.  The gallery and the performance series, which began in 2007, encourage local ethnic communities to showcase cherished traditions in the intimate, historic setting of the Reed.


The World Beat Gallery gives local cultural communities a space to share their heritage: the stories told and items exhibited come directly from members of our community. The Gallery is open year-round, Monday-Friday and occasionally on Saturdays. Group tours can be scheduled and we welcome all ages! 

There is no admission charge.

Upcoming Events will be posted soon.  

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Dragon boats originated in China thousands of years ago, when people took to the water on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in order to ensure that rain would come and as a way to ward off misfortune. In Chinese mythology, the dragon controls rain, rivers, oceans and lakes - and makes its home in the water. Another component of dragon boat history includes the death of poet Qu Yuan. Legend has it that he was so distressed about corruption in the kingdom that he jumped into a river carrying a heavy rock. Witnesses took to their boats to try and save him. When they couldn't, they began beating on drums to keep the dragons away from his body. 

Salem was a couple of millenia late to the game, but we now have six dragon boat teams here in town. Five of the teams are part of the World Beat Dragon Boat Club: The Angry Unicorns, Highland Roosters, Queen's Dragon Riders, Salem Water Otters and the Unsinkable Survivors (a cancer survivor team). Each team has its own style and level of intensity - and all are looking for people to join. Dragon boating is a great way to get outside, get some exercise and meet some incredible people.

No experience is necessary! For more information about the club and how to give dragon boating a try, click here. Although the Willamette is, sadly, free of dragons, we promise that you'll still have a great adventure!

Thank You Sponsors!

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World Beat Salem
PO Box 4611

Salem, OR 97302

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