NASAA Notes: June 2023

June 7, 2023

Nebraska and Tennessee: Folk and Traditional Arts Programs

As we wrote earlier this year, state arts agencies are pursuing a wide range of programs to ensure that folk and traditional artists are well-supported within their state. This month, NASAA features two more states that are employing powerful strategies to promote the preservation, transmission and creation of folk and traditional arts. The Nebraska Arts Council has evaluated its internal folk and traditional arts outreach strategies and the Tennessee Arts Commission is offering a new Folklife Institute.

Nebraska Arts Council

Drill teams, like the featured Destruction Drill Team, draw on movements and traditional dances as varied as military marches and African stepping, while also providing an important focal point for civic pride and intergenerational connections. Photo courtesy Nebraska Arts Council

In September 2022, the Nebraska Arts Council (NAC) published the results of its 2021-2022 study of folk and traditional arts in Nebraska. The Folk and Traditional Arts Outreach Report examined current artistic practices within the Omaha metro area, examined NAC’s outreach strategies, and made recommendations as to how NAC could further assist the flourishing folk and traditional arts in the state. The report surveyed multiple folk and traditional artists and organizations and included the following findings, which could affect NAC’s ability to extend its grant outreach:

  • Folk and traditional arts often augment non-arts community organizations and/or business enterprises. Because of this, organizations were not necessarily aware that they are eligible for grant funding.
  • Artists engaged in for-profit models were concerned about the cost/benefit analysis of pursuing grants.
  • The use of the term award might be more effective, as the term grant can carry different interpretations across cultures, and may be perceived negatively in an immigration system in which financial assistance can threaten one’s immigration status.

The report offers a series of next steps to further engage NAC in folk and traditional arts. Recommendations include incorporating a folk and traditional arts fellowship into the existing fellowship programs and working with creative districts to provide incentives to hire or pay folk and traditional artists. The report also suggests focusing on a culture of welcoming that reinforces NAC’s accessibility, providing interpretation services to grant seekers, and meeting aspiring grantees where they are, regardless of any connection to an arts based organization. The report concludes with short features of Nebraska folk and traditional artists across just a few of the 46 surveyed disciplines.

Nebraska continues to support folk and traditional artists through other programs, such as including a “Folk and Traditional” designation for the state artist roster and continuing to support folk and traditional artists through existing grant programs. To learn more, contact Nebraska Arts Council Program Coordinator Stephanie Plummer.

Tennessee Arts Commission

“On Site with Mike Compton and Jackson Carter,” a video featuring Monroe-style Mandolin playing as part of a Tennessee Arts Commission Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program. Video courtesy Tennessee Arts Commission

The Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) has started a new folk and traditional arts initiative, Tennessee Folklife Institute. In partnership with Humanities Tennessee, TAC is offering this new training workshop to assist in documenting, preserving and presenting the state’s folklife traditions. The institute offers five sessions to train participants on fieldwork techniques, multimedia presentation, archival research, and festival, exhibit and project management.

Each applicant to the institute submitted a proposal for a specific folklife project that engages with living community traditions. Admitted participants are taught by a multigenerational team of folklorists and cultural leaders from across Tennessee.

The work is directly connected to the Tennessee Arts Commission’s Folklife Program, which is staffed by trained folklorists who actively document and exhibit the rich diversity of Tennessee folklife traditions. TAC also directs the state’s Tennessee Folklife Heritage Award, recognizing long-term achievements within tradition- and culturally rooted arts. The award is presented biennially through the Governor’s Arts Awards.

The Tennessee Arts Commission also provides dedicated grants to bolster folk and traditional arts within the state. Folklife organizations are able to apply for support for folk and traditional arts via TAC’s Project Support, Partnership Support and Major Cultural Institution grants. Individual artists can apply for apprenticeship funding via the Tennessee Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program. For more information, contact Tennessee Arts Commission Director of Folklife Bradley Hanson.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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