OFN Welcomes New Staff

Prince F.M. Lamba is a Folklore and Public Culture graduate student at the University of Oregon. He is an ethnomusicologist with scholarly interests in urban ethnography, African musical arts, creative industries, arts and culture management and issues related to arts and culture in development. He holds a master’s degree in arts and culture management from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Prince has worked for both public and private institutions including the Zambian Department of Arts and Culture, American Embassy in Zambia, University of Zambia and the Zambian Open University. He is also the founder and artistic director of the Pamodzi Dance Troupe in Zambia.

Benton- Linn Co. Fieldwork Essay

Thomas Grant Richardson

In the Spring of 2018 I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Benton and Linn Counties in the Willamette Valley. Folklorists focus on the everyday traditions of people in communities and at how people define creativity, tradition, and community in their own lives. It is therefore a great joy to work as a folklorist, to be invited into the creative spaces of people often quite different from myself, and to have conversations that usually include phrases like “this is the most important thing in the world to me.”

While in Benton and Linn Counties I encountered numerous wonderful and generous people connected to many vibrant traditions, including fly-fishing, boat building, instrument building, quilting, fiddle music, and various foodways. I was particularly struck by the area’s social dance traditions. During the three weeks I spent traversing the two counties, I attended three different social dances, although I could have attended one nearly every single night.

The Jefferson Jammers is mostly two-step, waltz, and line dancing, and happens every single Wednesday

The Jefferson Jammers perform on Wednesday nights at the Morning Star Grange Hall in Millersburg. This dance started as a country music jam among retired musicians who still wanted to play. Bruce and Joann Hamilton held the first few jams in their home, but it quickly outgrew their capacity, and they moved to the Grange Hall. Today it serves as a place for musicians to gather to play country music together; anyone interested can also sing along in a kind of live-backed karaoke. The audience is busy dancing with the floor usually occupied by at least 30-40 dancers. Mostly attended by local residents above the age of 50, the dance also brings in younger participants. Most attendees told me it’s the highlight of their week.

The Albany Timber Twirlers Modern Western Square Dance club’s membership is diminishing in number but not in dedication.

In nearby Albany, the Albany Timber Twirlers are a Modern Western Swing Dance Club (one of four clubs in the area) that focus on the highly precise and intricate moves of choreographed square dances. These patterns are so complicated that dancers need to take four months of lessons before they’re up to speed to participate. Club President, Bev Swearengen, told me they’re more about fun than formality.

The Corvallis Contradance was by far the biggest dance I attended, with a regular attendance of around 100 people, twice a month.

In Corvallis, a twice-monthly Contra dance has a regular attendance of over 100 people. Contra dance is somewhere in between the loose nature of traditional square dancing and the highly stylized patterns of Modern Western Square Dancing; like traditional square dancing, it’s led by a caller who gives instructions in a rhythmic and stylized fashion. But contra dancers form lines with each member of a couple opposite each other instead of side by side like square dancers. The Corvallis Contra dance also includes a live band and brings in a huge number of dancers under 40. Dance Chair, Jennifer Carlin, notes that it’s the music that makes this dance so special.

The Corvallis Contradance goes out of its way to make sure the dance is inclusive for all.

But greater numbers do not always equal a more successful event or a more important folk tradition. Social dance is alive and well in this area. And next time someone in the central Willamette Valley suggests the Internet, television, or whatever latest scapegoat is killing social life, drive them to Benton and Linn County and find a dance!

Folk Artists in Marion, Polk, and Lane Counties and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

Amy Howard

During  the spring and summer of 2018, OFN hired me to conduct folklife fieldwork in Marion and Polk counties and at the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. The geographical area I covered was large and diverse. The sheer length of each county encompasses a landscape in transition—mountain to valley to coast. Each day brought new surprises: green fields and grasses in wine and sheep country; bustling city streets; pine-encompassed mountain lakes, and winding, sparkling rivers. The landscape reflects the local agricultural and industrial economies.

The people are equally diverse, each a wonder in their own way. Their identities and folk arts and practices also reflect the topography and economy. Whether loggers creating art from the medium they know inside and out (wood), transplants from foreign countries carrying on traditional skills, Native artists connecting to roots that were once taken away, or farmers keeping their multi-generational farms relevant and operational, the people of the Willamette Valley adapt to their surroundings. They preserve the identity that is most important to them while being rooted in traditions they cherish. I felt honored to document a snapshot of Oregon’s ever-changing, rich cultural landscape.

Chainsaw carver James Lukinich (Willamina) lived in Oregon until age 14, when he traveled to Alaska to join his brother and learn the logging business. For James, wood carving was a natural art form to pursue during long stretches of isolation in the Alaskan wilderness. While he worked as an arborist in San Diego, chainsaw carving went from hobby to career as he completed an increasing amount of custom jobs to repurpose tree stumps. He began participating in chainsaw carving competitions in 2009 and finished in the top 10 at the national competition in Reedsport last year. He and his wife, Marilyn, returned to his Oregon home, where he has continued to practice his craft professionally.

Jeremy Mitchell (Salem) is an advocate for bees. As one of the few young beekeepers with a mid-sized operation in the area, he and his bees fill an important role in the Willamette Valley, pollinating berries and other produce at small farms. Schooled in beekeeping by his great-uncle, Wayne Porter, and through the OSU Extension Master Beekeeper course, Jeremy took over Flying Bee Ranch from his relatives in 2017 after Wayne’s passing. At that time, Jeremy transformed from hobbyist to full-time, professional beekeeper, helping his great-aunt, Kathy Porter, keep the business a family operation. They are known for their mono-source honeys, captured after the bees pollinate specific crops. Jeremy also works to educate the public about bees’ role in agriculture and strategies for keeping them safe.

Connie Graves (Sheridan) is a traditional basket weaver of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. She’s been instrumental in revitalizing and teaching the art of basket weaving for her Tribe. Born in McMinnville, she has lived her entire life in the Grand Ronde area. Connie has always possessed a love of craft and creativity and an ability to create by simply looking at an example. With her masterful basketry skills, she makes hats, baskets of all dimensions, doll clothes, baby rattles, or whatever she is inspired to do. She collects and works with many varieties of reeds, grasses, barks, and roots. Connie is currently battling cancer but still exudes positive energy and strength in all she does. Her help in the project was enormous.

As an addendum to my fieldwork in Polk and Marion Counties and with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, I was privileged to conduct some further documentation in Lane County. Juana Cortez (Eugene) owns and operates Juanita’s Pupusería, a food truck specializing in food from El Salvador. A pupusa, the national dish of El Salvador, is a thick flatbread made of masa—corn flour and water—stuffed with one or more ingredients such as cheese, squash, refried beans, or meat, then cooked on a griddle. The versatile flatbread comes from the Maya/Pipil culture of El Salvador. Cortez, a restauranteur in her native country, came to the US in 1987 as a refugee of war and natural disaster. A single mother, she worked and saved for years before returning to her dream of owning and running a restaurant. What began as a pupusería has expanded into a celebration of Salvadoran and Mexican foods.   If someone asks for it, she can make it, she says. Cortez’s food traditions connect her to homeland and, more importantly, allow her to enjoy peace and stability after a life of hardship and perseverance.

These individuals represent a few of the many hard-working, diligent bearers of folk traditions I documented for this project. Like Oregon’s beautiful landscapes, these people deserve to be celebrated and supported as part of the cultural landscape.

Celebrating Lane County’s Artists and Traditions

Alina Mansfield

In the Winter and Spring of 2018, I attended many of Lane County’s regional cultural events, festivals, and fairs to scout out tradition keepers for the Willamette Valley Folklife Survey.

The Willamette Valley is homeland to the Kalapuya Tribes, with the Molalla calling the foothills of the Cascades home. More recently, a significant Scandinavian population settled Junction City, where the annual Scandinavian Festival attracts attendees from far and wide to try a taste of Danish aebelskiver (apple pastry), participate in Swedish folk dancing, or watch a Norwegian artist demonstrate Hardanger embroidery (usually white on white embroidery with cutwork to create a lacy effect). Eugene’s Sons of Norway Sonja Lodge (Lane County) participate in the festival, and I had the pleasure of getting to know many of their members at their annual Lutefisk dinner in January. Before the dinner, I watched lodge members peel potatoes for the lefse (potato flatbread) and bake traditional Norwegian desserts and cookies. And I got to have my first taste ever of lutefisk (cod preserved in lye, rinsed and boiled, then served hot with butter). As someone of Norwegian descent myself, this notorious cultural delicacy was on my bucket list, and I was not disappointed. Lodge members did assure me, however, that their lutefisk used to be much stronger!

I also attended a lodge-sponsored Norwegian Sweater Night for which members donned their Norwegian-style knitted sweaters and shared stories about the talented needlewomen who made them. I discovered that Norwegian knitters make their purl stitches without moving the yarn to the front of the needle. There was a palpable celebration of their heritage in such stories, and a sense of humor and pride in the discussion that detailed how this unique style differs from standard knitting.

Through these activities, I was able to meet and interview some very special traditional artists, including PattiJo Meshnick, a Norwegian Rosemåler. Rosemåling is a traditional Norwegian decorative art that involves painting objects with stylized flower motifs. With a focus on symmetry, brightness, and depth of color, Meshnik decorates pots, clocks, hangers, cards, and more. Meshnik’s eye for design is key for her rosemåling; she uses a combination of traditional design elements, techniques and materials to achieve the right effect. She always starts with a root at the center; loading brushes with various thicknesses, she paints S strokes and C strokes, adding color, shading, and then fine lines for depth. According to Meshnik, regional styles developed as a result of the distance between the deep Norwegian valleys; traveling artists would stay with a family all winter, cheering up their houses and soot-covered furniture with brightly colored designs. Like others who learned the techniques of rosemåling from master artists, Meshnik also continues to study with master teachers to learn various regional styles. She notes that traditional rosemåling became an endangered art form in Norway; teaching is essential for its survival. “Folk art is a hard thing to keep alive in modern days; you need to find someone who wants to teach, and someone who wants to learn.”

In February, I celebrated the Asian Lunar New Year of the Dog in Eugene at the “Bark to the New Year” festival. There I met Kathy Hoy, a traditional Chinese ink brush painter. Before moving to Eugene to attend college, Kathy learned to paint by apprenticing with Huang Jun Pin, a famous traditional Chinese brush painter in Taipei, Taiwan. She creates traditional Chinese ink wash and watercolor on rice paper. Many of her paintings have traditional symbols of nature such as water, fish, birds, and mountain landscapes as well as Chinese characters.

In April, I headed out to Vida, Oregon, for the McKenzie Drift Boat Festival, where I met river guides and a conch mushroom artist, learned about wooden drift boats, and watched fly fishers demonstrate how to make fly ties. Along the way, I marveled at the chainsaw art along the McKenzie Highway, which celebrates these roadside sculptures each year in July at the McKenzie River Chainsaw & Arts Festival in Blue River.

Lane County also hosted the Evergreen Tattoo Invitational in March, which prompted me to speak with local tattoo artist, Suzen Tattoozen, co-owner of Whiteaker Tattoo Collective in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood. She is known for her unique custom designs, and ornate, embellished, illustrative watercolor styles. Tattoozen has high standards and is very passionate about representing the industry with the highest of integrity. She says no to tattoos she believes will not be good art, and she asks a lot of questions before agreeing to do a tattoo. But she also believes in never judging a client’s ideas. She thinks of tattoos and body art as the “freedom of owning yourself.” She is slow to start when she begins her work because she wants to get to know her client’s skin. Tattoozen also runs Transformation Ink, a tattoo-based charity; she believes that tattoos are empowering and transformative and that receiving a good tattoo is treating one’s self to self-care and self-love.

Tattoos, rosemåling, and fly fishing may seem very different from each other, but these culture keepers all share a love for detail in artistry, symmetry, design; an attention to story and heritage; and a commitment to passing on their skills and knowledge to others. Folk and traditional artists like these continue to enrich Lane County’s diverse cultural and regional heritage.

 

 

22nd Annual FisherPoets Gathering

OFN staff also took part in the 22nd annual FisherPoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon on Feb 22-24. Riki Saltzman and 5 of her Public Folklore students volunteered at FPG and interviewed 5 fisherpoets/commercial fishermen. This brings the number of interviews in OFN’s FPG collection up to 40 (2012-2019).

Thanks to UO’s Folklore and Public Culture Program for funding the students’ and OFN’s fieldwork. And special thanks to fisherpoets Elma Burnham, Clem Stark, Buck Meloy, Phil Lansing, and Maggie Bursch as well as UO students Matthew Schroder, Elizabeth Kallenbach, Sarah Geddry, Prince Lambda, and Iris Teeuwen.

OREGON TRADITIONAL ARTS APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM (TAAP) – APPLICATIONS DUE APRIL 1st, 2019

The Oregon Folklife Network (OFN) is now accepting applications for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (TAAP) for 2019-20. This cornerstone program offers traditional/folk master artists and culture keepers a $4,000 stipend to teach their art form to apprentices from their own communities—cultural, religious, or occupational groups, or tribes. The stipend supports master artists to pass on their knowledge, skills, and expertise to an apprentice of great promise, who is empowered through these lessons to continue carrying on and strengthening Oregon’s diverse cultural traditions.

We are thrilled to announce the 2018-19 TAAP awardees: traditional Irish singer, Brian Hart of Portland; hip-hop emcee, Michael “Mic” Crenshaw of Portland; traditional saddle-maker, Steve McKay of Burns; West African drummer and dancer, Alseny Yansane of Eugene; Zapotec Weaver, Francisco Bautista-Lopez of Sandy; Classical Bharatha Natyam Indian dancer, Jayanthi Raman of Portland; Indian Carnatic musician, Sreevidhya Chandramouli of Portland; and Cayuse/Nez Perce applique beadworker, Marjorie Kalama of Warm Springs.

Other examples of Oregon’s many traditional/folk arts include McKenzie River Drift Boat building, Southeast Asian dance, Norwegian cooking and baking, Northwest logger poetry, Native American basket weaving, Middle Eastern embroidery, Irish or old time fiddling, African-American gospel singing, rawhide braiding, Iranian storytelling, Andean instrument building, and more.

OFN encourages applications from Oregonians engaged in living cultural traditions emerging from their heritage or tribes. This program does not fund historic re-enactments, DIY revival crafts, or those who practice traditions that are not part of their own cultural heritage or community.   CONTACT US: Please contact us if you interested in applying or know someone that you want to recommend. Visit our website, ofn.uoregon.edu, or contact Latham Wood (ofn@uoregon.edu, 541-346-3820) for more information about your eligibility in the program. APPLICATIONS: TAAP guidelines and the TAAP application can be downloaded at the OFN website. Staff members are available to advise applicants about the application process. If you send us your draft application 2 weeks before the deadline, we can provide helpful feedback before your final submission.

DEADLINE: Applications are due at the OFN office by 5 pm, APRIL 1, 2019. Send your complete application package to Oregon Folklife Network, 242 Knight Library, 6204 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-6204.

This program is funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Oregon Arts Commission.  OFN is administered by the Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) and is supported in part by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Cultural Trust, and the NEA. The Oregon Folklife Network works to increase public investment in cultural traditions and those who practice them.

About Oregon Folklife Network

Oregon Folklife Network (OFN) is administered by the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon and is the state’s designated Folk and Traditional Arts Program. OFN is supported in part by grants from the Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Cultural Trust, and National Endowment for the Arts. OFN works to increase public investment in cultural traditions and those who practice them.

About the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History enhances knowledge of Earth’s environments and cultures, inspiring stewardship of our collective past, present, and future. With collections representing millions of years and all of Earth’s continents, the museum is a center for international research on topics in natural history and anthropology. Museum exhibitions are open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for youths and seniors, and $10 for families (two adults and up to four youths). Reduced admission is available for visitors presenting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. Admission is free to members and UO ID card holders. For general information call 541-346-3024.

Media Contact:

Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History, kstromme@uoregon.edu, 541-346-5083

Links:

Oregon Folklife Network: https://ofn.uoregon.edu/

TAAP Program: https://ofn.uoregon.edu/programs/traditional_arts_apprenticeship_program.php

Museum of Natural and Cultural History: http://natural-history.uoregon.edu

Museum on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/oregonnaturalhistory

OFN is now part of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History!

The Oregon Folklife Network is delighted to announce that we are now officially part of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon. For more than eighty years, the museum has been a center of scholarship, interpretation, and stewardship of Oregon’s cultural life, making it the ideal new home for OFN. We are delighted to become the museum’s newest division and look forward to collaborating with its faculty and staff.

 

Our physical office remains in the Knight Library at the University of Oregon.

Oregon Folklife Network awarded $55,000 by the National Endowment for the Arts

EUGENE, Ore. – (Dec. 28, 2018) – The University of Oregon’s Oregon Folklife Network is set to receive a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Announced as part of the endowment’s $27 million funding package for fiscal year 2019, the Oregon grant will support a folklife survey on Oregon’s north and central coast.

“OFN is so pleased to have another year of NEA support for our documentation of Oregon’s living cultural heritage,” said Riki Saltzman, Oregon Folklife Networks’s executive director.

Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking and will award 972 grants in this category.

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

With support from the grant, the Oregon Folklife Network will work with veteran folklorist Douglas Manger to identify folk and traditional artists in the Northwest and Central Oregon Coast counties of Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln, as well as the coastal sections of Lane and Douglas counties. Manger will also mentor emerging folklorists as they document regional and ethnic folklore from a range of heritage groups including but not limited to Asian and Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Latinos, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Europeans as well as occupational folklife such as chainsaw carving, hunting, dairy farming, commercial fishing, clamming, oystering, shrimping, and other waterways traditions. Folklorists will also document foodways, music, storytelling, and other relevant folk expressions.

OFN’s statewide survey has so far identified over 355 folk and traditional artists in 28 counties as well as at the Klamath Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, the Burns Paiute, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. OFN partners with local and state organizations and Tribes to refer tradition bearers and folk artists for programs in parks, arts organizations, libraries, or festivals. We also preserve this documentation in our archives.

OFN invites recommendations for individuals who should be documented as part of the project. Recommendations can be submitted to by email to Riki Saltzman, riki@uoregon.edu, or Emily West, eafanado@uoregon.edu, or by phone to 541-346-3820.

For more information on the National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

OFN Staff Updates

Former Staff Updates

Brad McMullen

It is with great excitement that we announce that Brad McMullen, a recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s Folklore and Arts Administration graduate programs and three-year Graduate Employee at the Oregon Folklife Network, has accepted the position of Programs Manager with the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada.

McMullen’s primary responsibility at the Western Folklife Center will be to organize and manage their premier event, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, held annually in Elko (January 28 to February 2, 2019). Located in the historic Pioneer Building in downtown Elko, Nevada, the Western Folklife Center is both a local and a regional nonprofit cultural center whose exhibitions, educational programs, national radio and television programs, research and preservation projects, and cultural events explore and give voice to traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West. Meg Glaser, Western Folklife Center Artistic Director says, “We are so pleased to welcome Brad to our staff. His grounding in folklore, skills in arts administration, interest in folk poetry, and good sense of humor are a great fit for the Programs Manager position and the Western Folklife Center.”

McMullen has a bachelor’s degree in Folklore & Mythology (Harvard University), a master’s degree in Welsh (University of Cardiff), and two master’s degrees in Folklore and Arts Management (University of Oregon). During his time with the Oregon Folklife Network, McMullen conducted fieldwork, managed the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, coordinated public programs, assisted on grants, documented the FisherPoets Gathering, and did extensive community outreach.

McMullen credits the faculty, staff, and students at the Oregon Folklife Network and the University of Oregon for his success. “I couldn’t have asked for a better springboard to a career than the time I spent at the OFN and the University of Oregon. I was incredibly lucky to work with an array of wonderful faculty, staff, contractors, and fellow students to develop the skills I needed to get a fantastic job like this.”

As the Program Manager for the Western Folklife Center, McMullen will oversee year-round programming as well as manage the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The 2019 Gathering is a celebration of the Gathering’s 35th anniversary and has a great line-up of new and classic performers, already posted online. He hopes to see some familiar faces there!

Jennie Flinspach

With much sadness, OFN says farewell to Jennie Flinspach, OFN’s 2018 Summer Folklife Fellow. With a BA in English (Simpson College), Flinspach completed dual Master’s degrees in Folklore and Arts Management (University of Oregon). During her time with OFN, Flinspach helped to launch and later manage the Oregon Culture Keepers’ Roster; she also interned with the 2017 Warm Springs Folklife Fieldschool, which put her years of experience teaching English and Theatre to good use. Flinspach fearlessly braved new software programs that enhanced OFN’s visuals on social media. This past summer she ably coordinated several public programs with artists in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. For her final project, she made it possible for OFN to realize a long-time goal of a full-color, picture-rich annual report. With further experience as an archivist for the Randall V. Mills Archive of Northwest Folklore (where she designed and edited Cooking with Folklore: Recipes from the Archives), Flinspach aided OFN by building robust organizational management systems. Prior to moving to Oregon, Flinspach was a high school English and drama teacher in the Iowa public school system. We are sorry to lose Jennie Flinspach in the OFN office, and eager to see what unfolds in her professional career.

2018-2019 New Staff

OFN welcomes Latham Wood, a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at UO; as OFN’s new Graduate Employee for the academic year, he’ll be coordinating the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Wood’s doctoral research explores the politics of culture in Vanuatu, and focuses specifically on a traditionalist movement on the island of Aneityum that aims to revive an ancestral system of socio-political organization. His interests also include kinship, personhood, and human-environment relationships. Along with his more theoretical work, he has authored three publications and produced numerous films in collaboration with the Vanuatu Cultural Centre—created specifically for indigenous ni-Vanuatu audiences. He is married to a ni-Vanuatu woman, and they have two children.

OFN also welcomes Iris Teeuwen, a first-year master’s student in the Folklore program who is working with OFN as a Graduate Employee for Fall and Winter terms. She earned a B.S. in Anthropology with a minor in Philosophy from Portland State University. Teeuwen is the first member of her family to graduate from college and is looking forward to furthering her education. Her research on holiday myths draws on her Dutch upbringing and considers how Sinterklaasis celebrated in the Netherlands; in doing so, she is focusing on the current debates over the traditional black-faced holiday figure Zwarte Piet(Black Piet). Her work at OFN includes coordinating the newsletter, drafting folk arts award nominations, and logging ethnographic documentation.

OFN is pleased to welcome back Jacob Armas, an undergraduate in International Studies and the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, where he focuses on Diplomacy and International Relations in Europe. He is also pursuing a minor in Creative Writing with a focus in poetry. Jacob studied in Prague, Czech Republic in Fall 2017, where he studied how Czech art historians view Czech art history of the 1970s and early 80s; he is currently researching performance art in Central Europe under communist regimes. Armas plans to apply to graduate school and pursue a career in museums. At OFN, Jacob will continue the work he started last winter on the Culture Keepers roster.

OFN welcomes new intern Andrew Ferry, an undergraduate transfer student majoring in Folklore at UO. At OFN, he is updating the operations and communications manuals, analyzing social media practices, and editing videos from the field. Ferry’s main research interests concern how folk belief and folk religion inform folk medicine and healing practices.

Oregon artist awarded highest national honor in Folk and Traditional Arts

Emily West Hartlerode, OFN associate director

Palestinian embroiderer, Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim (middle), received one of only nine 2018 National Heritage Fellowship Awards. From left to right, NEA Chairman, Mary Anne Carter; Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim; NEA Folk & Traditional Arts director, Cliff Murphy.

September 26, 2018 marked an important event for OFN and for the state of Oregon, as one of our most talented culture keepers, Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, received her National Heritage Fellowshipaward at our nation’s Capital. The NEA awarded Abbasi-Ghnaim the highest award the U.S. bestows upon traditional artists for her dedication to Palestinian Embroidery. Beyond being a master of this art form, Abbasi-Ghnaim is also dedicated to teaching and mentoring younger generations, including her own daughters, passing along not only the artistic knowledge but also the stories and history behind the patterns, colors, and designs. Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, has received many Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Master artist awards from OFN and the former Oregon Folklife Program at the Oregon Historical Society.

Abbasi-Ghnaim’s nomination represents a massive OFN team effort that Hillary Tully, last year’s talented Folklore graduate intern, coordinated, and OFN’s executive director, Riki Saltzman guided. We pulled in letters of support from as far away as Paris and London, and engaged the invaluable assistance of Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim’s daughter Wafa Ghnaim; her photos and stories of her mother’s workwere critical to this effort.

Accompanied by her sister, three daughters (one from Germany), and three grandchildren, Abbasi-Ghnaim accepted her medal from NEA Chairman, Mary Anne Carter, and Folk & Traditional Arts director, Cliff Murphy. To watch her heartfelt acceptance speech, click here.

A reception and banquet followed in the ornate Great Hall of the Library of Congress where one of Governor Kate Brown’s staff was in attendance to personally congratulate Abbasi-Ghnaim. Two nights later, the nine awardees took their turns on stage. Abbasi-Ghnaim explained her tradition art, showed examples, and described how Palestinian embroidery employs traditional designs to convey cultural meaning and messages among women.

It was an honor to witness Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim share her tradition and thank the American people for valuing the diversity of cultures that make us unique as individuals and bring us together as a rich nation of people from around the world. We are proud of Oregon’s NHF awardee, grateful for the opportunity to nominate her for this recognition and overjoyed by the outpouring of support that rained down upon Abbasi-Ghnaim from so many elected government officials, friends, and family.

Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim’s family celebrating the honor with her.

Letter of congratulations from Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown.