It’s a beautiful Friday morning as Mark and I drive a white, motorpool cargo van down the Bluegrass Parkway. (Bob is driving and talking, Mark is typing.) We are heading to Munfordville to pick up dozens of white oak baskets made by members of the Mammoth Cave Basket Makers Guild, and deliver them to the Living Arts & Science Center in Lexington for an upcoming exhibition.
This is one of our many travel dates of late. Within the last month or so, we have
- moved the Made to be Played exhibit from the Center for Traditional Music at Morehead, to Hyden Citizen Bank (where visitors of the Osborne Brothers Bluegrass Festival viewed it, and where Bob got to stay in the Mary Breckinridge House), to Greenbo Lake State Resort Park (the first state park to host the exhibit)
- taken a trip to Horse Cave to meet with Community Scholar Mary Margaret Villines of the Kentucky Repertory Theatre to prepare for the aforementioned basket exhibit
- traveled to the Kentucky Horse Park to scope out the construction of the Kentucky Experience Pavilion, where the lots of great artists will perform during the World Equestrian Games.
Traveling frequently across the state, we meet people in their communities, and experience their culture. Often, we hear music along the way, whether it’s played at a local festival, or on local radio (such as WRFL’s Friday morning surf music show). Why so much travel? This work supports an aspect of the Folklife Program’s mission – conservation of folk culture.
Conservation (not to be confused with preservation) is about encouraging traditional art forms to grow, by educating the public, building pride in local heritage, and promoting traditions within a community and beyond. With so many Kentucky traditions to help conserve, this mission is ongoing. At the state level, we support such efforts through grants, archives, and public programs.
While KFP's work supports conservation, the real driving force is usually someone in the community who takes initiative and coordinates efforts over time. Luckily, there are allies all over who work toward the same goal. Here are a couple of examples that come to mind while sitting in this noisy van:
- Dr. Lee Harris of First Baptist Church in Frankfort, who organized a group to take some interview training and, with help from a KSU intern, document stories of senior church members, archive recordings, and present these stories at a church anniversary celebration
- Dr. Loyal Jones, Bob’s mentor who started the Appalachian Center at Berea College, and who we just learned is this year’s Governor’s Arts Award winner in Folk Heritage
- Dr. James Middleton, who has done much to conserve the Mammoth Cave basket tradition by sponsoring the Hart County Fair Basket Competition, and generated interest in the tradition and inspired new creativity among basket makers. The walls of his Family Medical Center showcase a vast collection of locally made baskets and quilts (the Center welcomes visitors, even when you are feeling well.)
These three individuals are cultural conservation leaders. (It is a coincidence that all three are doctors.) We have almost reached our destination so, in closing, readers, do you know any cultural conservationists? If so, pay tribute and describe them in a comment below!