What is Folklife?

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Pat Courtney Gold
Wasco Sally Bag Weaving Demonstration
Art in the Parks 2013

Folklife, also referred to as folklore or traditional art, encompasses the everyday knowledge, art, and lore that are passed within communities through imitation, conversation, and practice. These are arts rooted in the cultural life of a community whose members share a common language, ethnic heritage, religion, occupation or geographic region. Our folklife changes as people change, as our environment changes, and as new and established groups interact. Folklife includes forms as new as hip hop and as old as Native American basket weaving.

Folk and traditional arts do not include folk-inspired art, which is produced by individuals and groups who are not part of the cultural community that originally produced/created/developed the art form, even if the quality of the art is excellent.

What is a Tradition Keeper?

A tradition keeper, sometimes referred to as a folk and traditional artist, actively practices, passes on, and preserves the living cultural traditions of the cultural community to which s/he belongs and is recognized and acknowledged as a tradition keeper by that group.

What is Oregon Folklife?

Folklife in Oregon is incredibly varied. Traditional art forms such as Halloween jokes and playground games, fish tales and auctioneering, old-time fiddle music and saddle making, Palestinian embroidery and Czech egg decorating, Mexican folklorico dance and charro roping skills, Sengalese drumming and Somali Bantu henna, Chinese puppeteers and Vietnamese foodways, Umatilla dentalium piecework and Bosnian crocheted lace reflect the shared aesthetic of their cultural communities.

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