Back again for the second week of guest blogging, this is Alisha Martin of the Kentucky Folklife Program. I'll apologize in advance for the long post!
Hello again from Folklore land! Last week I told you all a little something about folklore and folklife, and let you know about our recent fieldwork in Shelbyville and Louisville. Today I thought I'd let you in on what happens after we've gotten back from the field.
Back in the office and thankfully out of the cold, it was time to buckle down and do the paperwork--not a very attractive project, but you can't just do the research and then forget about it! We have to keep track of the documentation our fieldwork generates. We collect it and store it not only for ourselves, but for other researchers interested in Kentucky folklife. So, interview logs, photo logs, informed consent forms and several other things had to be completed and filed.
Now, once that was done, what were we going to do with it? For this instance, it was pretty simple. The entire reason for this round of fieldwork was to present Latino artists at Kentucky Crafted: The Market. Now, the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP) is kind of mandated to go out and do fieldwork--it's just what we folklorists do. We have a decent amount of work collected over the years: county cultural surveys, collections of various ethnicities, art forms, etc. There is a smattering of everything in our archives at the moment.
Having all of this research done is pretty cool because it means we can pull from our sources as needed for projects. Now, we’ve established that folklorists do research, but what do we do with it afterward? That’s the distinction that makes us into public folklorists! Saying that you’re a public folklorist is fairly self-explanatory. After all, we work for and present to the public.
Our current big project is, of course, Kentucky Crafted: The Market. It’s now in its 28th year and this year’s theme is ART FULL LIFE. I’m told there will be nearly 200 artists selling fine art and craft, publications from authors, DVDs from our talented Commonwealth filmmakers and CDs from Kentucky musicians. There will be performances throughout the days (mark your calendars for March 6th and 7th!) as well as family activities. And, one of the things that caught my attention: specialty foods! While there will be all sorts of fun stuff for adults and kids alike, KFP will be holding court in the aptly named Folklife Area. For this year, we wanted to present the wide range and diversity of Latinos here in Kentucky. I mentioned last week that we interviewed two artists, Rita and Jorge, but we’re lucky to also have three artists we’ve worked with before: Jose, Edgar and Ana.
Jose and Edgar will be creating alfombras: a kind of sawdust carpet that is brightly colored and arranged into religious symbols, designs, and words. Evidence points to how they are a blend of Central American and Spanish cultures; Mayan priests walked on carpets made of flowers and feathers, and early Spanish Christians are said to have had processions over floral carpets. Ana is another seamstress in our group. She’s known for creating items known as tela and huipil. See, Ana is an indigenous Mayan from Guatemala. Don’t know what those items I mentioned are? Come to The Market and you can find out (totally shameless plug).
It’s these kinds of events that the Folklife Program thrives on. One of our past projects was the Kentucky Folklife Festival. We presented all sorts of traditions and communities at our last Festival in 2007: aging communities, the Chinese-American community, the Louisville German-American game of Dainty (trust me on this, there is nothing dainty about it!), and many more. We took up all of the grounds around the Old State Capitol and down by the river! More than 30,000 people visited over the course of three days. We’re serious when we say we’re celebrating Kentucky’s living traditions.
When we’re not putting on the festival, it gives us time to do other things like The Market, or work on exhibits like "Made to Be Played: Traditional Art of Kentucky Luthiers." It’s currently touring around the state, introducing visitors to the skills of luthiers (stringed instrument makers) and the beauty that they create. While it is currently visiting libraries, museums and historical societies, "Made to Be Played" was also a major concert series at the Kentucky Historical Society’s Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in the summer of 2009. Several bands held jam sessions or complete concerts and the Folklife Program conducted narrative stages with artists to give audience members an inside look into the lives and livelihoods of luthiers and musicians.
We also like to help teachers out with ways to incorporate folklore into education. We even have a guide for teachers, aptly named A Teacher's Guide to Kentucky Folklife(let me know if you want a copy!) that includes lesson plans on folklife and where they fit in to Kentucky’s academic expectations. We also teach them how to use a narrative stage.
Narrative stages are fairly important in our public programming. In fact, if you come to The Market you’ll see one in action! So, the narrative stage is one giant conversational interview piece. We provide the starting context, and then ask questions of the artists about their tradition. If there is one thing we’ve found, it’s that people will talk when brought together. Get three or four tradition bearers up on stage to chat about their art forms, and you have the potential for hours of discussion! Don’t worry, though, we don’t aim for something that long!
We like to give our artists an introduction before they start performing or presenting. As many a folklorist has said, it’s all about context! Look at it this way: it’s not just the person, performance or item that’s being shown that’s important, it’s what helped to shape that performance, person or item. How is this piece ultimately a product of the environment? Why did this artist choose bluegrass over jazz? You get the idea. I think in this case, folklorists are about the journey as much as the destination.
Folklorists can be a verbose lot, can’t we?
Not only will we be there at the Market, but KHS’s Education department will be part of the children’s activity area creating miniature alfombras. Not only will visitors get to see masters in action, they will get the chance to make their own sawdust carpets to take home.
If you’re interested in coming to Kentucky Crafted: The Market to see us, here’s a little information:
KENTUCKY CRAFTED: THE MARKET
Kentucky Exposition Center, South Wing B
Open to the Public:
Saturday, March 6, 2010 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, March 7, 2010 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $8 Adults, Children 15 and under free.
$3 off admission with coupon from www.kycraft.ky.gov
Parking at Kentucky Exposition Center is $6.
Hope to see you there!