Virginia Folklife Program

Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Mission & History

The Virginia Folklife Program (VFP), a public program of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, is dedicated to the documentation, presentation, and support of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage.

Whether sung or told, hand-crafted or performed, Virginia’s rich Folklife refers to those “arts of everyday life” that reflect a sense of traditional knowledge and connection to community.

History

The Virginia Folklife Program was established in 1989 as part of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, with support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and major funding from the NEA Folk Arts Program & the Virginia Commission for the Arts — a collaborative effort initiated by the Virginia Folklore Society.

Mission

Due largely to funding made available by the National Endowment for the Arts, most U.S. states and territories have folklife or folk arts programs, typically based with state arts councils or historical societies. The basic mission of the Virginia Folklife Program is much like that of other state programs:

  • to document the diverse folk traditions of Virginia;
  • to advance understanding and appreciation of traditional culture through the development of public programs;
  • to reinforce folk traditions by
    • honoring and providing support services for traditional artists and performers, and
    • helping communities develop plans and projects to strengthen their own cultural traditions.

The Virginia Folklife Program, however, is the only folklife program in the nation based with a state humanities council, and this has given us several unique and important opportunities:

  • emphasizing fieldwork as the basis for program development;
  • documenting & presenting Folklife as well as Folk Arts
  • responding to critical, ethical, ethnographic and political issues concerning the representation of culture.

These opportunities have allowed the VFP to:

  • explore alternative formats for public presentation of folklife in order to maximize interpretive content;
  • emphasize media technology to:
    • document cultural traditions in the natural context of the social life of the communities in which they thrive;
    • more effectively present and more accurately represent and interpret traditional culture through documentary media products; and
    • enhance the interpretive content of public folklife programs by innovative use of contextualizing media;
  • experiment with new approaches to program implementation so as to:
    • promote community participation in researching, documenting, presenting, and interpreting;
    • develop local expertise in and advocacy for folklife;
    • plan initiatives with long-range benefits for traditional artists, other indigenous cultural specialists, and their communities.