Nationally recognized folk arts program seeks new life
Two years after suffering near-fatal budget cuts, the state-funded Folk Arts Program hopes its future will be made secure through a "hybrid" private-public partnership although exactly what that will look like has yet to be worked out.
A private entity would manage the 35-year-old Folk Arts Program, based at the Chase Home Museum, but the program would remain accountable to the state's Division of Arts and Museums, with the Utah Arts Council in an advisory role. The new plan was proposed by a report recently issued by an Arts Council study committee.
Exactly who that "cooperative partner" will be should be worked out this spring, with the restructured Folk Arts Program to be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts by July, says program manager Carol Edison. The partner could be a university program, a private nonprofit or a foundation.
State budget cuts in 2009 eliminated the program's only two positions. But the program, which has a $200,000 annual budget, was kept barely afloat for two years with federal stimulus money and one-time state funds.
Utah's folk arts program, one of the oldest in the nation, received national recognition when Edison won the American Folklore Society's Benjamin A. Botkin Prize. Under her leadership, the program has preserved and promoted the folk arts and music of cultural groups ranging from cowboys to Mormons, Latinos, Navajos, Japanese and Southeast Asian refugees, among others.
Utah's program is one of the finest in the country, said American Folklore Society Executive Director Timothy Lloyd in presenting the national prize. "I often have occasion to note it as a national model," he said.
The folk arts museum in the restored Chase Home in Salt Lake's Liberty Park preserves the traditional arts of the state's increasingly diverse culture.
"It's a snapshot of Utah," Edison says. "You see who lives here and what kinds of traditions and values they care about."
The program focuses on helping "tradition bearers" pass their skills on. A room devoted to cowboy craft, including saddle and spur making, is an example of the program's success. "We have saddle makers making a living all over the state," Edison said.
O Watch • View videos of Utah folk artists, including one on blacksmith Dennis Manning, on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=kQWxPn0ShZU.
Info • To learn more about the Utah Folk Arts Program, visit utahfolkartsmuseum.org/