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Folk Arts

What are folk arts? Folk arts are names for the arts that we shape for ourselves, rather than learn in school or from formal institutions. Folk arts are rooted in community traditions, in collective experiences. This means that while individuals make up folklore, new stories, songs, or sayings, these arts endure because they name the experiences of many people. When we share stories at the end of the day, recall a proverb that gets to the heart of a situation, or eat traditional foods at holidays, we are using our own folk arts. Calling these arts "folk" is a way of naming what is collective, community-based, or a peoples' tradition. It is a way of distinguishing arts that represent more than an individual point of view. The term is also used because in this country, the creative expressions of ordinary people are not always seen as art, or as significant, or as part of a tradition. Because mainstream and elite notions of art generally marginalize the majority of world cultural and artistic traditions, the notion of "folk" art is a way of making equal room for all peoples' habits of expression and creativity. (More...)

  • Capsule introductions to a sampling of artists who sustain community folk art traditions in our city and region.
  • Issues impacting folk and traditional arts locally.
  • Samples from more than 26 years of our publications – magazines, books, and documentary videos – can be found here, in our virtual reading room of resources.
  • All the materials on our web are drawn from our field research – time we spend seeking out, talking with, and listening to artists, community historians, cultural workers, people who have in different ways taken on responsibility for sustaining cultural alternatives here and now. Learn more about our archive.
  • Links to more resources can also be found here.