What is the Oregon Folklife Network?

Dentalium hair ornaments2_TAAP project work_Minthorn

Umatilla Dentallium Hair Ornaments
Modesta Minthorn, 2012 TAAP Apprentice

The Oregon Folklife Network (OFN) offices at the University of Oregon serve as a hub for statewide folklife activities in partnership with our operational partners and community partners, along with Oregon Tribes, and including community partners such as community-based cultural organizations, museums, regional cultural alliances, local arts agencies, K12 schools, universities and colleges, and public libraries.

The OFN, Oregon’s Folk and Traditional Arts Program, represents a network of statewide culture and heritage partners that operate on state, regional, county, and community levels to document, support, preserve, and celebrate Oregon’s cultural traditions.

The OFN conducts folklife fieldwork and collaborates with communities, organizations, and Tribes to sponsor activities that increase public awareness of the significance of Oregon’s living cultural heritage.

OFN creates public programming and exhibits, enhances public collections, and connects resources across the state. This Network facilitates interactions among all partners, from culture keepers, Tribes, and communities to statewide supporters such as the University of Oregon to the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Heritage Commission, State Library, and Oregon Humanities.

The OFN…

  • …invests in traditional artists and empowers culture keepers to maintain, develop, and pass on their living heritage.
  • …creates new opportunities for folk artists to present their works to the public.
  • …provides a wide variety of accessible folklife programs for Oregonians.
  • …delivers technical assistance and professional development to organizations and communities interested in preserving, presenting, or promoting their cultural traditions.
  • …prepares the next generation of public folklorists through experiential learning and career opportunities.
  • …conducts folklife fieldwork and multicultural outreach.
  • …makes presentations.
  • …provides consultations, technical assistance, and professional development services for tradition keepers.
  • …shares expertise in preservation of heritage materials, and festival/event management.
  • …designs folk arts in education programming.

Headquartered at the University of Oregon, the OFN is located in the Knight Library and administered by UO Academic Extension. The University also provides financial and collaborative support from the Folklore Program, Knight Library Special Collections & University Archives, Arts and Administration Program, the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate School, Knight Library, Academic Affairs, and Academic Extension.

What Is Folklife?

Folklife, also referred to as folklore, traditional art, or living heritage, encompasses the everyday knowledge, art, and lore passed within communities through imitation, conversation, and practice. Such arts, knowledge, and skills are rooted in the cultural life of a community whose members share a common language, ethnic heritage, religion, occupation, or geographic region. Folklife includes forms as new as hip hop and as old as Native American basket weaving.

Folklife in Oregon is incredibly varied. Traditional art forms in our state include fish tales and auctioneering, Palestinian embroidery and Czech egg decorating, old-time fiddle music and saddle making, Mexican folklorico dance and charro roping skills, Senegalese drumming and Somali Bantu henna, Chinese puppeteering and Vietnamese foodways, Umatilla dentalium piecework and Bosnian crocheted lace. The range of folklife reflects the diversity among Oregonians today, and each particular form reflects the shared aesthetics of these unique cultural communities.

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.

Assistance and Consultations

In addition to the resources on this site, Oregon Folklife Network staff is ready and willing to consult with you or your organization about folk and traditional arts ideas, plans, and opportunities.

Assistance can range from a simple e-mail or phone conversation, to more in-depth consulting. Reimbursement for travel (at state rates) or staff time (at $25/hour) may be requested for consultations that require substantial time; however we make every effort to keep such costs to a minimum. Contact us now to see how we can help.

For assistance with folk & traditional arts, contact:

Riki Saltzman, Executive Director

Emily Afanador, Program Manager