Folk and Traditional Arts Program Coordinator, Wisconsin Arts Board.
Where do you currently work?
I’m the Folk and Traditional Arts Program Coordinator for the Wisconsin Arts Board. In this position I work to support and sustain Wisconsin’s traditional artists, and cultural communities and organizations through the coordination and implementation of statewide initiatives and services focused on folk and traditional arts. I manage the Arts Board’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, which provides support for individual artists, as well as our Folk Arts and Arts in Education grant programs. I also oversee our Woodland Indian Arts Initiative, which provides support for both traditional and contemporary Native American arts and artists. A great deal of this work involves disseminating information about our grant opportunities, providing technical assistance to applicants, and just generally being a resource to artists, communities, and organizations. I also conduct fieldwork related to WI folklife and work to develop public programming to increase exposure to traditional artists and arts organizations, while encouraging dialog in hopes of building understanding. The goal of increasing the visibility of traditional artists is also to encourage economic support for their work. Anne Pryor was my predecessor at the Arts Board and I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside her in some of this work since I started in August. In addition to the Folk and Traditional Arts Program, I also direct the Arts Board’s Folk Arts in Education Program, and much of this work relates to representing the Arts Board as a partner Wisconsin Teachers of Local Culture. I’ve had the opportunity to join Anne Pryor and Mary Hoefferle, Art Education faculty member at UW-Madison, (and lots of other folklorists) in developing cultural tours for educators rooted in encouraging the application of local and place-based knowledge in curricula and in the classroom setting.
How has folklore prepared you for your career?
My time at WKU gave me the opportunity to fine-tune my fieldwork skills and think critically about public folklore and cultural work. At WKU, and as an undergraduate student at Ohio State University, I had the opportunity to work alongside some great professors, folklorists, and fellow students who were instrumental in shaping my understanding of the field. WKU provided opportunities for hands-on experience with an emphasis on practical skills like grant writing, public speaking and presentation, ethnographic interviewing, and active listening, and I utilize these skills all the time in my work at the Arts Board. My understanding of folklore continues to shape my worldview and day-to-day interactions, and my time at WKU helped me think more critically about why I do this work. Following graduation in 2015, I had to opportunity to further develop my fieldwork, documentation, and facilitation skills while piecing together contract work. I worked on a state-wide folklife survey in Mississippi, under the guidance of WKU graduate Jennifer Jameson, Folk & Traditional Arts Direction with the MS Arts Commission. Prior to my move to Madison, I also worked for Community Partnerships RC&D based in Lewistown, PA. As the contracted folklorist on staff, I documented traditional artists in central PA, and worked to promote the PA Council on the Arts’ Folk & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. The Kentucky Folklife Program also pulled me in on their recent Bosnian Project, and I assisted with interview transcriptions.
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