Folk & Traditional Arts Director
Mississippi Arts Commission, Jackson, MS
Where do you currently work?
As the Director of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program at the Mississippi Arts Commission, I work to find concrete ways to support and help sustain cultural creativity throughout the state.
The Folk and Traditional Arts Program at the MAC provides grants to individual artists, communities, and organizations working within a dynamic range of folklife and folk arts in Mississippi. These include individual artist fellowships, folk arts apprenticeships, project grants to support cultural programs like regional blues festivals, community quilting projects, or fieldwork projects, as well as operating grants which offer additional financial infrastructure to museums and non-profits in the areas of traditional arts and culture.
The other half of my job involves special initiatives, partnerships, and projects with other cultural workers, artists, and communities. In many of these projects, I utilize my folklore training in fieldwork by documenting artists, communities, and cultural events, and then making that research available and accessible to the public through initiatives like the Mississippi Folklife and Folk Artist Directory, or Mississippi Folklife Online, the newly re-established multimedia version of a former print journal published by the MAC and the University of Mississippi's Center for the Study of Southern Culture. The Folk and Traditional Arts program also serves Mississippians and the public by functioning as a resource regarding folklife in the state, maintaining and building an accessible archive of fieldwork research (both digital and analog), and by providing resources for best practices in working with folk and traditional arts—and for working within the field of public-sector folklore.
How has folklore prepared you for your career?
Since my days as an undergraduate folklore major at Indiana, I knew I wanted to work as a public folklorist. I was lucky to have great mentors and internship opportunities in the field during that time, but knew I needed to continue to fine-tune my skills in fieldwork and documentation, cultural interpretation, museum archives and collections, public programming, and the more technical details of arts administration. My time at WKU allowed for me to build on these skills, while further training me to think critically about the work that I do as a folklorist and cultural worker. This training continues to not only inform my career, but who I am as a person, and how I view and connect with the world around me.
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