Folklife Publications and Projects

NEW as of August, 2012!  “Diversity in the Arts:  From Mission to Practice.”  The fruit of a special project with TAC’s Folklife Program, Nashville’s Global Education Center shares this inspiring short film offering a “best practices” model for cultural diversity in arts programming, board development, and outreach to the underserved.  The twenty minute film features footage from selected Global Ed programs, interspersed by interviews with staff, board, artists and participating youth.  “What’s unique about the GEC is that it encompasses many cultures,” says Afro Latin dance instructor Steven Damo. “It’s truly global in both its mission statement and in its practice.”   GEC director Ellen Gilbert notes , “We want artists to present their culture in their own way.  You have to include their communities in the planning if you want it to be culturally sensitive.”  With this goal in mind, the Global Education Center is unique among non-profit arts organizations in Tennessee in that the majority of its board is truly international and multi-cultural in scope and perspective.  And somehow it all works, because everyone is dedicated to “show the commonalities of people,” as Ellen puts it.

view " Diversity in the Arts:  From Mission to Practice "

view " Diversity in the Arts:  From Mission to Practice" with Spanish Subtitles


Tradition:  Tennessee Lives and Legacies is a photography book and companion exhibition highlighting the state’s folk heritage.   A collaboration between TAC Folklife Program Director Robert Cogswell and Nashville photographer Dean Dixon, Tradition portrays its subjects through extensive color portraiture along with short essays summarizing their lives and art forms.  Though most of the subjects are individuals, some are two or three people who partner in keeping their legacy alive.  Their traditions include music, dance, crafts, foodways, and related practices and customs.  The project’s wide scope reflects grassroots diversity, creativity and vitality found across the state.  Its people, though all unique, share common attachments to their cultural identities and lifelong dedication in what they do.  The hardbound volume is large-format, containing 164 pages, with dust jacket and digital image DVD.  Copies can be purchased online at Tennesseans for the Arts website.

purchase a copy of Tradition: Tennessee Lives and Legacies


The Handbook for Tennessee Folk Artists brings together business, legal, and professional advice for practicing traditional artists and includes references to more specific sources of help on many topics.  This is the third edition of the guide, first published in 1989, once again updated for the Folklife Program by original author Patricia A. Wells.  It covers a number of new topics that reflect changing times, as well as helpful new internet sources.  This web version is fully interactive, and it can also be downloaded and printed.  Note that this is a large file (30.2 MB), and it may take some time to download with a slow internet connection.

download Handbook for Tennessee Folk Artists


The Cumberland Music Tour was a 1988 concert series sampling the outstanding musical traditions of the Cumberland Plateau along the Tennessee-Kentucky line.  A joint project of the TAC Folk Arts Program, the Southern Arts Federation, and Bob Fulcher of TN State Parks, the tour took a group of local musical masters to venues in southeastern states and up the East Coast.  Essays by Fulcher in the tour program booklet document the artists and their important Appalachian legacy.

download Cumberland Music Tour program


For several years, the Gospel Arts Day Nashville programs celebrated the city’s heritage of African-American gospel music with concerts, honorary recognitions, publications, a photo exhibit, and a documentary video.  Sponsored by Nashville Gospel Ministries and directed by researcher Doug Seroff, the Gospel Arts Day events were part of a national network of such local programs.  The 1988 program called attention to the community quartet tradition and honored the renowned Nashville group, The Fairfield Four.  In 1989 Mrs. James A. Myers (long-time director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers) was the honoree, and the program, which featured a reunion of singers who had trained under her, focused on the Fisk University legacy.  Seroff’s essays in the program booklets are among the most authoritative sources on the history of African-American religious music in Nashville.

download 1988 Gospel Arts Day Nashville program
download 1989 Gospel Arts Day Nashville program


Tennessee Folk Music Recordings:  A Recommended List.   This 1989 project called on a panel of experts to compile recommendations of best available recordings of Tennessee folk music in various genres, following the model of the American Folklife Center’s annual “selected list” publications.  The usefulness of this list is now limited because all the recordings were then on LP format.  Many of the recommendations are not now available on CD, and some other fine CD recordings have also since appeared.  But the publication is still of interest to serious folk music listeners.

download Tennessee Folk Music Recordings


Fiddle and Old-Time Music Contests in Tennessee.    This 1989 fold-out brochure served as an introduction to traditional music contest events and a schedule of contests then held in the state.  The original listing is now far out-of-date, but we have reproduced here the portions of the publication that introduced contest events to visitors and discussed the history of fiddle contests in Tennessee.  There is also a separate link to a new listing of current Tennessee contests.

download Fiddle and Old-Time Music Contests

download current Tennesssee fiddle contest listing


Dixie Frets:  Luthiers of the Southeast  was an exhibit on the region’s makers of fretted stringed instrument (guitars, banjos, and mandolins), staged at Chattanooga’s Hunter Museum of Art in conjunction with the 1994 National Folk Festival.  The exhibit was a joint project of the TAC Folk Arts Program and the National Council for the Traditional Arts.  The printed catalog, which won an award from the Tennessee Association of Museums, supplemented the exhibit content with an introductory essay by Joe Wilson and a series of artist biographies and photos of the featured makers, contributed by state folklorists of the region.  Nine Tennessee luthiers are represented, although some contact information in the catalog is now out-of-date.

download Dixie Frets catalog