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University on lookout for artists of traditions.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

The University of Oregon is looking for a few good folk artists.

More specifically, the UO has taken over the Oregon Folklife Network, which under its previous name - the Oregon Folklife Program - bounced around from one agency to another over the years while it tried to help preserve and maintain traditional folk arts practiced in the state, from Irish fiddle playing to maritime storytelling on the coast.

Most recently it was run by the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, which cut the program because of budget issues in 2009.

The network oversees the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, which has grant money available to pay accomplished practitioners of traditional folk arts so that they can mentor apprentices who want to learn those skills.

The grants, which generally range from $1,000 to $3,000, are designed to help preserve art forms that might otherwise be lost, says Emily Afanador, the network's interim program manager.

"We are really eager to help traditional artists become aware that this opportunity is available to them," she said. "The program has been closed for the last couple of years, and there has been a kind of disconnect."

The program began in the 1970s under the administration of the Oregon Arts Commission, she said. It was later operated by Lewis and Clark College before being taken over by the Historical Society.

"It's a program that is difficult to fund," she said. "Folk arts are considered low art, not fine art. It's hard for people to see immediately the value in making sure that we keep the things that are part of traditional culture or what might look like everyday life, and to make sure that those kinds of practices are maintained."

Though it's housed at the UO, the program is fully funded by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust.

And TAAP is just the beginning, Afanador said.

"We want to be a bit of a clearinghouse for opportunities, events, grants and funding for the folk arts," she said.

"Folk art" includes traditional art forms practiced not only by ethnic groups, such as Native American tribes or immigrant groups in Oregon, but also by groups that form around specific occupations.

"Oregon has maritime culture, ... cowboy poetry culture," Afanador says. "There are other occupational folk groups. There are religious folk groups. Given those various ways of defining folk groups it is fairly wide and inclusive."

Afanador wants to get the word out that the program is back in business. She also wants to get in touch with artists who may have worked with the program before.

"Our records are somewhat incomplete at this point," she said. "Transferring of files has left some gaps here and there. We're trying to make sure that people who look at this opportunity and say, 'Oh yeah, I know how to paint Ukrainian eggs. I know something of storytelling of maritime stories,' or something like that, and look at this opportunity and see themselves and know that they can come to our website and apply for the money that is there waiting for people to apply to take it."

Oregon, Afanador points out, is home to six living artists who have been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as National Heritage Fellows: Obbo Addy (1996, Ghanaian master drummer); Pat Courtney Gold (2007, Wasco basket weaver); Eva Castellanoz (1987, Mexican corona maker); Kevin Burke (2002, Irish fiddle); Duff Severe (1982, leather worker and saddle maker) and Bua Xou Mua (1985, Hmong musician).

To learn more about the folklife network, call 541-346-3820 or e-mail eafanado@uoregon.edu.
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Title Annotation:Arts and Literature; The Oregon Folklife Network has been taken over by the UO
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9OR
Date:Aug 25, 2011
Words:603
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