Barry Bergey recently retired as Director of Folk and Traditional Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Education and Accomplishments: Prior to Bergey's 30-year career at the NEA, he served as state folk arts coordinator in Missouri. As a fieldworker, researcher, festival producer, tour organizer and exhibition curator, he produced documentary recordings of Ozark music, radio programs, and a variety of publications, including a chapter on public policy for the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. He has advised the Center for US-China Arts Exchange on its Joint Plan on Yunnan Cultures Project, and consulted for UNESCO, the Organization of American States, the World Bank, the US Information Agency, and the Department of State. He participated as a member of the US delegation drafting UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
Question:What is the greatest challenge or opportunity facing the field of folklore studies and how, as an Executive Board member, would you respond to it?
Response: As is so often the case, our challenges in a sense mirror our opportunities. The field of folklore studies has much to offer those engaged in the formation and application of cultural policy, but at this point the promise of that synergy has not been fully realized. As a result, the opportunities for programmatic support and individual employment in both the public and academic sectors constitute the greatest challenge and the brightest opportunity for our field. I have had the distinct privilege to serve the field at the National Endowment for the Arts over the course of my career and that experience has brought me into contact with the many educational and community-based programs that make our field a rich and diverse, yet insufficiently tapped, resource. Work with international and inter-governmental organizations has also made me aware of the prospects that we have to inform initiatives in the areas of intangible cultural heritage, cultural diversity, and sustainable development. As a member of the Executive Board, I would be an advocate for our society’s engagement in public policy at the domestic and international levels. Consistent with that, I would hope to collaborate with fellow Board members in encouraging initiatives that might bring about a broader public awareness of the value of our work as a field and a discipline.