Wyoming Arts Council

Folk and Traditional Arts

Folk arts and traditions happen when you:

  • Make the time to be together and
  • Take the time to create together.

To Achieve the current WAC Strategic Plan (2016-2020) Goal 8 – ‘Grow and Support Folk and Traditional Arts in Wyoming,’ the WAC will:

  • Conduct fieldwork to identify and document Wyoming’s contemporary folk arts and traditions and develop products using the gathered information.  See the Wyoming Folklife Collection at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center.
  • Foster public awareness and appreciation of the state’s finest traditional arts and artists through publications, documentary films, exhibits and lectures. See Art of the Hunt.
  • Encourage organizations to apply for a Community Support Grant for folk and traditional arts programs.
  • Provide supplemental Community Support Grant funds ($1,000) for arts organizations to include folk art and artists in their schedule including:
    • identifying and documenting contemporary folk art and tradition bearers,
    • celebrating cultural heritage or share local traditional arts, or
    • bringing traditions from around the world to Wyoming.
  • Award mentoring grants to master tradition bearers who want to pass on their talents. See Mentoring Project Grants.
  • Build a structure to bring the Mentoring Project Grant recipients to local communities.

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What are folk and traditional arts?

Folk arts and traditions surround us. We must look carefully for them because they may be labeled common, ordinary or trivial. But, once identified, we can then see the ‘extraordinary nature of ordinary life’ and how these skills and activities enrich the lives of Wyoming citizens and illuminate our shared values, histories and heritages.

Everyone practices folk and traditional arts skills that are passed from one person to another and shaped out of common experiences. We sing hymns at church, cook a special meal for a birthday, give a bride ‘something blue,’ carve a pumpkin at Halloween, fiddle a waltz at a dance, recite a poem at the grange hall, or share a joke at the local cafe.  No matter where we are, if we look closely, we find folk arts happening.

For more visit the Library of Congress American Folklife Center to read “American Folklife: A Commonwealth of Cultures” by Mary Hufford.

Wyoming Folklife Collection

The Wyoming Folklife Collection consists of fieldwork documentation and administrative files from the Folklife Program of the University of Wyoming American Studies Program and the Folk & Traditional Arts Program of the Wyoming Arts Council. Both programs began in the 1980s and then were dormant from the mid-1990s until being revived in mid-2000s. The ultimate home for materials from both programs is the American Heritage Center at UW, and materials from the early years of both programs is already at the AHC; the collection description can be seen at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah545018.xml

Current field materials from both programs are all born digital and are in the process of being identified, cataloged, and organized into a common database. They have not yet been sent to the AHC, but a schedule of regular transfers will be established in the near future.