Hot Folk Arts Issues in Philadelphia

Feedback on the essays posted on this page invited and welcome! Please let us know your thoughts. And please don't quote or reproduce without permission.

Cultivating Folk Arts and Social Change. Invited plenary address, American Folklore Society meeting, October 27, 2012, New Orleans, Louisiana. By Debora Kodish

Teaching Folk Arts and Cultural Heritage in Philadelphia: Challenges and Possibilities.
Invited paper, 2nd International Conference, China-US Forum on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Nashville, Tennessee, May 1, 2012. By Debora Kodish

Imagining Public Folklore.
An essay describing what public folklore is, for a handbook, A Companion to Folklore. Regina Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem, ed. By Debora Kodish (2011).

Envisioning Folklore Activism. A first effort to articulate some of what Philadelphians, and great activists and folklorists, have taught us at PFP over the last 24 years. The essay begins to explore what activists can offer folklore and what folklore can offer activists. Published in the Journal of American Folklore (Winter 2011). Join the American Folklore Society and read the whole issue, with a powerful article by Roger Welsch on the beginnings of the Native American Graves Repatriation and Protection Act (NAGPRA), by Bill Ivey on value and values in folklore, and more. By Debora Kodish (2011).

Experimenting at Disaster's Edge: Thoughts on Folk Arts of Social Change. An essay to accompany a traveling exhibition, Making it Better, on Pennsylvania traditiional arts today. By Debora Kodish (2009).

Thoughts on arts and social change. This brief essay introduces women and trans artists who received grants from the Leeway Foundation for projects on art and social change. How do we think about their efforts (and our own)? See the whole book here. By Debora Kodish (2007).

The enormous (and widening) wealth gap that separates rich and poor is mirriored in the state of folk arts locally. Read PFP staff reflections on this (along with profiles, and thoughts about folk arts nationally), download the Pew Fellowships in the Arts magazine (Fall/Winter 2004); PFP staff and constituents were invited to contribute.

The impact (and other side) of gentrification. We're tracking some of the places where local communities fight gentrification and urban "removal" through our "Space Wars" project. As a field of study, folklore has both witnessed, and documented the cost of, similar "modernization" projects, across the globe and for generations. In our documentary with Community Leadership Institute, called I choose to stay here, local residents tell of how the city is taking their homes, and about their fight against this dubious progress. You can read about recent threats to ODUNDE's plans for a cultural center in an essay by ODUNDE founder and PFP board member Lois Fernandez. Or, get the PFP/Asian Americans United documentary videotape about struggles for self-determination (and against land grabs) in Philly's Chinatown. Called Look forward and carry on the past: stories from Chinatown, the video was broadcast in 2003 on WYBE in Philadelphia, is now available for purchase, and was awarded 2nd prize for Best Documentary in the First Glance Film Festival! An earlier statement about land grabs in Chinatown, and against the proposed stadium is here, too: Read an emailing from April 2001: The struggle against a stadium in Chinatown.

Anti-War Effort. With your help, we catalogued more than 600 anti-war signs and slogans sighted in demonstrations 2003 -2007: this is what democracy reads like! The running list was posted as an update to our Folk Arts of Social Change virtual exhibition. Also, read the PFP's statement of opposition to the war on Iraq.

Educational equity. When the commonwealth of Pennsylvania took over our city's school system, and the city was poised to hand large numbers of schools over to private for-profit corporations (including the controversial Edison Company), in the spring of 2002 , the Philadelphia Folklore Project became an active member of Philadelphians United to Support Public Schools, a broad coalition of the City's public education stakeholders and advocates. We stood firmly together on the belief that the current system of public education is inadequate and that the privatization of our schools is not an acceptable solution to improving the situation. We joined together to fight for a new system of public education, one in which current funding injustices are rectified and quality public schools, particularly in poor and urban areas, are established. A statement about why we became involved is posted here.