Honoring a Folklife Hero: Celebrating the work of folklorist Riki Saltzman 

by Kristin Strommer, Director of Communications at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Riki Saltzman, then Folklife Coordinator for the Bureau of Florida Folklife Programs, with master artist, Tom Walton, and apprentice, James Watson, in St. Petersburg, FL. Walton mentored Watson in the art of traditional musical street cries, which have been used to sell anything from produce to foods at baseball games (Walton’s long-time job at the time). Courtesy of the State Library and Archives of Florida, 1989.

Please join us in extending our warmest wishes to Riki Saltzman, whose position as executive director of Oregon Folklife Network comes to a close at the end of June. A folklorist, anthropologist, and tireless advocate for traditional arts and artists, Riki has directed OFN since 2012, overseeing a multifaceted operation devoted to increasing public awareness about Oregon’s living cultural heritages. From Native American basket weavers to Hip Hop emcees, from fisher poets to buckaroo gear makers, there is a world of culture in Oregon, and Riki has dedicated much of her career to helping it thrive.

OFN, which was adopted by the Museum of Natural and Cultural History in 2018, will continue on as the State of Oregon’s folk and traditional arts program under the leadership of Associate Director Emily Hartlerode. Riki looks forward to continuing to teach in UO’s Folklore and Public Culture program and to work with OFN to conduct fieldwork and mentor public folklore interns; she’ll also serve as staff folklorist at Oregon’s High Desert Museum.

We are sad to see Riki leave her leadership position but are grateful to have worked with her for part of her distinguished 40-year career. We wish her the very best and congratulate her on the publication of her new book, Pussy Hats, Politics, and Public Protest (forthcoming Fall 2020, University Press of Mississippi), which analyzes the 2017 Women’s March through a folkloric lens.

Riki Saltzman stands with public folklore students before a fireplace and paintings.

Riki Saltzman at the 2019 FisherPoets Gathering with public folklore students (l to r) Sarah Geddry, Riki Saltzman, Elizabeth Kallenbach, Prince Lamba, Matthew Schroder.