West Virginia Folklife 2017 Activities Report

Lorelie Nicolas-Tenney harvests sorghum at Appalachian Acres Farm in Upshur County

West Virginia Folklife Program- Fiscal Year 2017 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.

Blues, soul & gospel singer Doris Fields (Lady D) is a 2017-2018 Folklife Apprenticeship Program Master Artist

 What has the West Virginia Folklife Program done lately

In 2017, we launched the West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The program supports five master-apprentice pairs in folklife and traditional arts apprenticeships statewide. We continued our statewide folklife fieldwork survey documenting traditional artists and tradition bearers across the Mountain State. In addition to recording 16 oral history interviews with 38 participants in 15 counties, we also held six public interest meetings to inform the public on our work and the broader study of folklife.

We collaborated with West Virginia Public Broadcasting to produce the short audio and video documentary “Building a Broom by Feel: James Shaffer, Charleston Broom & Mop” on West Virginia’s last handmade commercial broom maker. The audio piece aired on West Virginia Morning and Inside Appalachia. The video piece continues to air on the West Virginia Channel and went viral on Facebook with over 650,000 views. The video documentary screened at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, as part of its ethnographic film event on September 30.

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 continued to execute our course of action for an ongoing state program.

Jim Costa and friends
Old-time musician and collector Jim Costa performs at the West Virginia Humanities Council

Other West Virginia Folklife Programs:

-We partnered with the Southern Foodways Alliance to produce the Helvetia Foodways Oral History Project, documenting traditional foodways in West Virginia’s Swiss community with eight oral history interviews, audio slideshows, photos, video, writing, and transcripts.

-We hosted the second “West Virginia Folklife Presents” free concert at the MacFarland-Hubbard house with Summers County old-time musician Jim Costa and University of North Carolina folklorist Zoe Van Buren. The concert was at capacity with 60 in attendance. We also partnered with McArts to host a concert with activist songwriter Elaine Purkey at Ya’sou Greek Restaurant in McDowell County.

– State folklorist Emily Hilliard published an article on the Folklife Program’s work in Helvetia in the summer issue of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Humanities Magazine and for the Bitter Southerner. She also wrote the introduction to Patrick Gainer’s Folk Songs from the West Virginia Hills, reprinted by WVU Press. Hilliard contributes a regular column to Goldenseal magazine.

-We operated the toll-free West Virginia Folklife Hotline at 1(844)618-3747 where the public can leave “tips” on tradition bearers and community traditions they believe should be documented.

-We maintained the West Virginia Folklife Program blog and social media sites, drawing over 3,500 followers.

-We established an archival partnership with West Virginia University Libraries, which will become the repository for all of our collected materials, making them available to the general public.

-West Virginia Folklife was featured in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and the West Virginia Metro News radio network.

– Hilliard presented on the Folklife Program’s foodways documentation at the Appalachian Studies Association Conference in Blacksburg, as part of the panel “Cornbread Convocations and Dancin’ Dumplin’s: Engaged Scholarship Programs in Appalachian Foodways.” She also presented on an Appalachian Foodways panel at WVU’s New Story conference, and attended the American Folklore Society annual conference and the Conference on the Future of American Folkloristics.

West Virginia Folklife logo

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