West Virginia Folklife Program- Fiscal Year 2018 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.
What has the West Virginia Folklife Program done lately?
In 2018, we welcomed the inaugural class of the West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, supporting 5 master-apprentice pairs studying the traditions of old-time fiddle and stories of Clay County, salt rising bread, blues/black gospel, old-time fiddle of the Greenbrier Valley, and green traditions/herbalism. The program is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
We continued our statewide folklife fieldwork survey documenting and forging relationships with traditional artists and tradition bearers across the Mountain State. We have now recorded over 68 recorded oral history interviews with more than 83 consultants in 27 counties to date. We shared this work on our blog at wvfolklife.org and social media platforms, through our regular column in Goldenseal Magazine, and at community meetings in Pocahontas County and at Shepherd University in Jefferson County, guest lectures at Shepherd University, West Virginia University, and George Mason University, and talks at the Appalachian Studies Association annual conference in Cincinnati and the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in Buffalo.
We received a 2018 Gerald E. and Corrine L. Parsons Fund Award from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The award funds research in the Center’s West Virginia collections, focusing on archival content related to African Americans and other cultural communities whose contributions are often marginalized in historical and vernacular culture narratives of the Mountain State.
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.
Other FY2018 West Virginia Folklife Activities:
-We collaborated with West Virginia Public Broadcasting to produce an audio and short video documentary on neon sign maker James L. Day of Kanawha County. The pieces have aired on West Virginia Morning, Inside Appalachia, and the West Virginia Channel.
-We partnered with the West Virginia Community Development Hub in a “takeover” of their New Story conference in Lewisburg on May 31-June 1. Folklife programming included a showcase of our Apprenticeship Program, an herb walk with master herbarist Marion Harless, a concert by old-time fiddle apprentice Annie Stroud, and a roundtable discussion with three folklife apprentices.
-We partnered with the Appalachian Food Summit to plan and host their bi-annual gathering in Bridgeport, September 14-16. The Summit featured our folklife master-apprentice pair in blues/black gospel Lady D and Xavier Oglesby, who performed at Friday’s free Cornbread Convocation, and master-apprentice pair in salt rising bread Susan Brown and Amy Dawson, who led a free baking workshop at the Bridgeport Farmers’ Market on Sunday.
-We hosted the George Mason Folklore Program field school in May, assisting students with oral history interviews and teaching them about ethnographic documentation and cultural heritage in southern West Virginia. The archive collected by the students will become part of the West Virginia University & George Mason archives.
-In July we participated in an archives roundtable discussion at the Augusta Heritage Center with representatives from other national and regional folklife and archival institutions, to discuss strategies for preserving the Augusta archives and cultural heritage holdings at other small archives in the region.
-We continued to operate 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 continued our archival partnership with West Virginia University Libraries, the permanent repository for our collected fieldwork materials.