Josh Chrysler, Four Rivers Cultural Center Staff Folklorist
I had a busy winter and spring as the contract staff folklorist for the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Oregon. Through funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, I have been able to continue my work to develop programs celebrating and supporting folklife and traditional culture in eastern Oregon. This past year, I developed both an exhibit on regional folklife and a day-long folklife festival.
The exhibit, Buckaroo and Ranching Folklife of the Four Rivers Region, features traditional arts and skills associated with buckaroos and the ranching world. Crafts such as silversmithing, rawhide braiding, and saddle making each have qualities specific to this corner of the world. This exhibit was based on my own fieldwork, previous OFN fieldwork, and a smaller Buckaroo exhibit that Adrienne Decker developed during her Summer Folklife Fellowship at OFN. At this writing, the exhibit is on view at the Four Rivers Cultural Center. In the future, Four Rivers plans to travel the exhibit to other local and regional museums, libraries, and schools.
Following the theme of regional culture, I also developed a day-long Tradition Keeper’s Folklife Festival, held Saturday, June 23rdat the Four Rivers Cultural Center. This extremely rural region nourishes an incredible diversity of folklife, which we worked to represent in our programming. The festival brought in many of the buckaroo artists featured in the exhibit to demonstrate their various traditions, which ranged from Western saddle making and Paiute basketry to foodways from Japanese mochi and to Basque paella. Meanwhile, multiple performance areas featured traditional artists and their verbal or musical traditions including cowboy poetry, Mexican dance, Japanese Taiko drumming, and Paiute storytelling. Thanks to these culture keepers, the Four Rivers staff, OFN staff, and folklorist Steven Hatcher of the Idaho Commission on the Arts—
all of whom helped facilitate the event—400-500 visitors interacted with and learned from community members and neighbors who practice traditional arts and skills.
Fortunately, we have secured funding from the NEA to continue this project, and planning for a Tradition Keepers Folklife Festival (Saturday, June 29, 2019) is underway. I am heading back to eastern Oregon to continue fieldwork and to identify additional traditional artists to feature at next year’s Festival. Stay tuned for more information as this project continues to develop!