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Jon Kay
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Jon Kay, Professor of Practice, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University; Director of Traditional Arts Indiana; Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Education: PhD, Folklore, Indiana University (2014); MA, Folk Studies, Western Kentucky University (1997); BGS, General Studies, Indiana University (1995). Folk Art and Aging: Life-story Objects and their Makers (2016) is my first book, but I have produced more than sixty exhibitions, and documentary videos. I direct Traditional Arts Indiana (2004-present), which received a 2013 Governor’s Arts Award. Since 2014, I have served as a Professor of Practice in Indiana’s Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, where I teach courses on public and applied folklore. I also serve as the Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage for the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. 

There are many pressing issues in our world that need the work of a folklorist; and it would be easy to spin into a list of ambitious calls to action for the Society. However, I want to draw attention to two threats to our discipline that affect folklorists in both the public sector and the academy.

First, threats to the funding of the National Endowments could erode the important programs that have supported much of our work over the past half-century. AFS must intensify its lobbying efforts for folklore. In addition, we must amplify the successes of our programs. The Society has created tools to promote our field; we now need to collectively embrace those tools.

Second, just as the public sector is concerned with shrinking infrastructure, positions in many university folklore programs are declining. As universities cut tenure lines in the arts and humanities, how will we train the next generation of folklorists? Furthermore, where will they find jobs?  As a board member, my response to these challenges is to increase the visibility of our folklore work. We have to get better at promoting our successes and our discipline. As noted, AFS has tools for doing this, but we have to collectively adopt them and learn to use them effectively.  

Finally, the current board has the daunting task of hiring a new director. Timothy Lloyd will leave enormous shoes to fill. As a new board, we will need to shepherd this critical transition. I believe that my experience directing a public folklore program at a university will allow me to help during this time of transition.

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