West Virginia Folklife 2016 Activities Report

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Swiss folk singers at the 2016 Helvetia Community Fair in Helvetia, WV

West Virginia Folklife Program – Fiscal Year 2016 Activities Report

 What is the West Virginia Folklife Program?

The West Virginia Folklife Program is a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council, dedicated to the documentation, preservation, presentation, and support of West Virginia’s vibrant cultural heritage and living traditions. West Virginia Folklife is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Folk & Traditional Arts Program. The West Virginia Folklife Program employs West Virginia’s first state folklorist to carry out this work.

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Ruby Abdulla makes traditional Indian roti in her Charleston, WV home

What has the West Virginia Folklife Program done lately?

 In fiscal year 2016, the first full year of the West Virginia Folklife Program, we launched our statewide folklife fieldwork survey documenting traditional artists and tradition bearers across the Mountain State. In addition to recording 38 oral history interviews with 41 participants in 17 counties, we also held four public interest meetings and classes to inform the public on our work and the broader study of folklife. In July we received one of two Henry Reed Fund Award Fellowships from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to support our free public concert with octogenarian Gilmer County ballad singer Phyllis Marks. The concert was recorded and will become part of the Library of Congress’ archival holdings. West Virginia Folklife has also facilitated collaboration of those engaged in folklife activities across the state, worked to expand opportunities for traditional artists in West Virginia, and developed a course of action for an ongoing state program.

Phyllis Marks, ballad singer
Gilmer County ballad singer Phyllis Marks performs at the West Virginia Humanities Council historic MacFarland-Hubbard house

Other West Virginia Folklife Programs:

  • We launched the toll-free West Virginia Folklife Hotline at 1(844)618-3747 where the public can leave “tips” on tradition bearers and important community traditions they believe should be documented.
  • We are partnering with the Southern Foodways Alliance on the Helvetia Foodways Oral History Project, documenting food and agricultural traditions in the Randolph County Swiss community.
  • State folklorist Emily Hilliard published a regular column in Goldenseal magazine.
  • We led an Oral History Workshop at the Darden Mill in Elkins, training over 25 participants in oral history methods and practice.
  • We launched the West Virginia Folklife Program blog and social media sites, drawing over 2,000 followers and over 12,600 visits and views.
  • West Virginia Folklife held public interest meetings in Charleston, Wheeling, and Williamson and taught a People’s University Class at Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling, with 100 attendees.
  • We represented West Virginia Folklife at the 40th anniversary celebration of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
  • State folklorist Emily Hilliard was a guest speaker in a West Virginia University graduate seminar in folklore and a senior English class at Fairmont State University.
  • West Virginia Folklife was featured in the Charleston Gazette-Mail and on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s “The Front Porch”.
  • State folklorist Emily Hilliard presented at the American Folklore Society Annual Conference in Miami, Florida, and at the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Annual Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"What Is Folklore?" presentation
State folklorist Emily Hilliard holds a community public interest meeting at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV

Read the West Virginia Humanities Council 2016 Activities Report here.

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