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American Folklife Center Announces Recipients of Fellowships and Awards

Friday, June 22, 2012   (0 Comments)
The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (AFC) has awarded its awards and fellowships for 2012.

Receiving Archie Green Fellowships, which are designed to stimulate innovative research projects documenting occupational culture in contemporary America, are Deborah Fant of Northwest Folklife, Hannah Harvester of Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY), Ellen McHale, Murl Riedel of the Kansas Humanities Council and Candacy Taylor.

Fant is a folklorist with the organization Northwest Folklife. Working in cooperation with the Washington State Labor Council, she will document approximately 50 Washingtonians who work in diverse occupations throughout the state. Resulting interviews about occupational experiences will be used as the basis for radio programs, website enrichment and public programming at the organization's Northwest Folklife Festivals, which annually draw more than 250,000 visitors. In addition to augmenting the AFC Archive's collection of Washington state materials, copies of the documentary materials will be deposited at the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Harvester, staff folklorist at TAUNY, will lead a team that includes several eminent regional folklorists and renowned ethnographic photographer Martha Cooper. They will document the lives and changing relationships of dairy farmers and farmworkers in New York's North Country. Interviews will be conducted with both longtime residents and more recently arrived workers, who are primarily Hispanic, and explore changing work culture and relationships. In addition to obtaining documentary material for AFC and TAUNY, Harvester anticipates sharing her findings with the public through educational websites and public programming produced in cooperation with North Country Public Radio (NPR) and Mountain Lake PBS.

McHale, a folklorist based in Esperance, N.Y., will document the culture and traditions of "backstretch workers" - trainers, grooms, exercise riders, boot and "silk" makers, saddlers and hot walkers - who work largely unseen at America's racetracks and horse farms. The fellowship will enable McHale to document a complete year-long cycle with members of this unique occupational community. The study will document the changing makeup of the backstretch workforce, once dominated by African-American men, as it is becoming increasingly Latino and female. Documentation will be deposited at the folklife center and will result in a minimum of two museum exhibitions in upstate New York. The research will also form the basis of a book for the University of Mississippi Press.

Riedel, an ethnographer at the Kansas Humanities Council, will study the occupational culture of Boeing aircraft manufacture, a keystone of Kansas industry, which this year will be closing its Wichita plant. The Archie Green Fellowship will enable the Kansas Humanities Council, in cooperation with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, to document the voices of Boeing workers and community members about their experiences at Boeing and its impact on urban Kansas. The resulting documentation will be deposited at the center and in regional archives. Interviews will also supplement and inform a Kansas Humanities Council-supported initiative exploring the "nature of work" through public lectures, exhibits and programming; the initiative is currently underway throughout the state.

Author and ethnographer Candacy Taylor will document hairdressers and beauty-shop workers in approximately 20 salons in five United States regions. Taylor will document a primarily female occupational community, whose work can often be dangerous and physically challenging. She will explore both the nature of the work and the role many shops play as a nexus for community interaction. The resulting documentation will be used as the basis of a multimedia exhibition that will travel to various museums, galleries and cultural centers; a smaller exhibition that will travel to hair salons; and a book, which will be published by Cornell University Press.

The Gerald E. and Corinne L. Parsons Fund Award, which was established to make the collections of primary ethnographic materials housed anywhere at the Library of Congress available to the needs and uses of those in the private sector, goes to Nancy Yunhwa Rao and Danille Elise Christensen.

Rao is chair of the Division of Composition and Music Theory in the Music Department of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Her project is a study of Chinese opera in the U.S., focusing on Chinatown opera theaters, which have been important institutions in several American cities. She has already published several articles on the topic, and her visit to the Library of Congress will enable her to publish an academic book.

Christensen is a recent graduate of the doctoratal program in folklore at Indiana University and a visiting lecturer in the Department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her project is a book-length cultural history of home canning and food preservation in the U.S., focusing specifically on how and why this practice was promoted in the 20th century.

The Henry Reed Fund Award, which is awarded in alternate years to provide support for activities directly involving folk artists, especially when the activities reflect, draw upon, or strengthen the collections of the American Folklife Center, has been awarded to Shawn Pitts of Arts in McNairy and the team of Otobaji Stewart and Van Nguyen-Stone.

Pitts, based in McNairy County, Tenn., received a fellowship to develop several projects based on an archive of folk-music recordings amassed by community scholar Stanton Littlejohn, who documented the musicians who came to his home between 1947 and 1957. Littlejohn preserved a unique snapshot of traditional old-time string band repertoire, square-dance calls and early rockabilly in the mid-south during that decade. The organization plans to produce a concert of Littlejohn's surviving informants and their descendants, to interview the concert participants, and to create a documentary film based on the interviews, the concert and the original recordings. Copies of the entire archive, including the 1947-1957 recordings and the newly collected materials, will be donated to the American Folklife Center.

Stewart and Nguyen-Stone plan to create a documentary film on the making of ritual drums in the African-based spiritual tradition of Lucumi. Stewart is a recognized master drummer, drum-maker and "olu bata" (keeper of the sacred drums) within the Lucumi community of Oakland, Calif. Nguyen-Stone is an accomplished independent filmmaker and photographer. Copies of the documentary materials will be donated to the folklife center.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to "preserve and present American Folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of folk culture, which was established in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. For more information, visit

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library's rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library's website,

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