Newport Folk Festival Historical Record by MICA

I’m a graduate student at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) studying Data Analysis and Visualization. For a final class project this past spring, I studied the Newport Folk Festival and created a “historical record” visualization digging into the history of the event. As a music enthusiast and fan of the fest, I wanted to create a cheeky piece of memorabilia that other fans and collectors would be interested in adding to their record collection.

The Newport Folk Festival is an annual event held in Newport, RI, established in 1959 by George Wein as a folk/blues/country equivalent to the Newport Jazz Fest. In the 2000s, Jay Sweet took the reigns as producer, expanding the genres of music represented at the festival. The 64-year-old festival has been a site of protest (1963: Joan Baez and SNCC activists perform and rally support for the March on Washington), controversy (1965: Bob Dylan goes electric), and rebirth (2022: Joni Mitchell performs for the first time in public in 9 years).

In the images shared here, I show the mock-up sketch I made along with the final images. As you can see in the sketch, many of the elements remain consistent with my original idea. Some chart types change, but overall, the idea worked.

More information about the work:
• The record’s cover art sets the scene with a crowd shot of Fort Adams. The typography and design are inspired by records put out by the Newport Folk Festival label.
• The record sleeve and record itself deal with venue and crowd size data:
o The back cover features a tree map of artists who performed the most at Newport Folk Festival, grouped by genre.
o The record sleeve has venue maps on either side and compares relative size of the crowds over time. One side shows Freebody Park, a WPA era stadium where the festival was originally held (one stage). The other side shows Fort Adams, a former United States Army post on the water between Newport Harbor and Narraganset Bay (three stages).
o The physical record compares crowd size from the first year of the festival to the most recent year, 2022 and features a data sonification element—one track plays crowd size in audience volume.
• The inside cover represents all genres of music performed at the festival over time. As you can see from a glance, the festival started with fewer genres represented and increased dramatically in the 2000s with the hiring of producer Jay Sweet.
• Finally, there’s a pull-out poster. The network diagram shows who has performed together at the festival and separates out each grouping of artists by genre.