The Folklife Program works with folk arts and other traditions from Tennessee’s multi-ethnic cultural heritage. In addition to oversight of TAC grant making for projects and organizations in the field, the program conducts a wide array of other services and activities. It acts as a public clearinghouse for information and resources on Tennessee folk culture and immigrant traditions, maintaining files, print materials, photographs, and other media built up in over twenty years of on-going contacts and fieldwork. The program provides content advice and technical assistance to museums, presenters, festivals, and community organizations, as well as to documentarians and researchers involved with folklife projects. It delivers similar services in support of the interests of practicing folk artists in the state. It regularly serves as a liaison with national and regional programs and projects in the field and works with heritage tourism development efforts that make use of folk cultural resources. Often in partnership with other organizations, the program has pursued a long list of special projects, including exhibits, publications, festival programs and concerts, museum acquisition projects, documentary recordings, professional development aids for folk artists, and heritage trails.
While some forms of folklife overlap with conventional arts disciplines—such as music, dance, craft and visual art, or literature—others include such things as customs and folkways, celebrations and observances, practical skills and occupational lore, and games and pastimes. Unlike forms of culture affiliated with institutions or learned through books and schools, folk traditions are passed down informally by word of mouth or customary example among specific groups of people who inherit them according to their place, ethnicity, or other shared bond. Some examples of Tennessee folklife are quite old and locally unique, but others can be recent or modernized, more widespread, or even transplanted by new arrivals to the state. Although oral history is related to folklife, the program does not support or engage in strictly historical activity. While folk materials are sometimes commercialized, reinterpreted, or adapted to other settings, it is the Folklife Program’s priority to work with these cultural expressions in ways that best benefit and reflect upon their communities of origin.
For More Information and Assistance:
Dr. Robert "Roby" Cogswell
Director of Folklife
Dr. Dana Everts-Boehm
Folklife Program Assistant