Let Your Folk Flag Fly: Folklore Research and the Informal Arts (repost)

This article is a fantastic discussion of the importance of folklore research and the informal arts.

by Crystal Wallis

Over the last decade, you’ve probably known someone who took up dance or music classes, or maybe someone who joined a knitting or craft group, or started a novel. According to a 2008 NEA study, 74 percent of Americans participate in the arts through attendance, art creation, or media. Whether you call it the Pro-Am Revolution, the Long Tail, or participatory arts, foundations and arts leaders are taking notice of people getting together to be creative. Currently, however, theory is ahead of practice regarding collaboration between these casual groups of individuals and their more professionalized counterparts.  As a result, the world of formal arts institutions (nonprofit arts organizations, grantmakers, and arts agencies) remains apart from that of the informal arts (pro-am participatory groups, classes, and networks).

Folklorists are uniquely suited to bridge the gap between these two worlds. Their research methods address uncovering artists outside the nonprofit arts infrastructure, a factor essential to building a sustainable local arts network.  If foundations and arts policy decision makers want to build such an environment for the arts, folklorists can aid them in taking steps towards authenticity and sustainability.

The Importance of the Informal Arts

Several studies over the last ten years have emphasized the importance of informal arts as well as nonprofit arts organizations, commercial arts, arts education, government, and businesses, in creating a healthy environment for the arts.

 Cultural Development in Creative Communities (2003) came out right after Richard Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class. Published by Americans for the Arts, it cites Portland, Oregon as an example of the new creative city, having “an especially large number of mid-sized and smaller organizations . . . [where] informal arts activities thrive . . . [and] many arts spaces sponsor project based collaborations . . . .” The authors (among others, Bill Bulick and Carol Coletta, current ArtPlace spearheader) continue: “Community asset mapping must encompass this breadth [commercial, nonprofit, and informal] in order to ferret out nodes and catalysts of cultural vibrancy, synergy, and impact.”

You can finish reading this article on Createquity.com.

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