Frostburg State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Maryland Traditions officially announced a new initiative to celebrate the folk arts and folklife of Western Maryland.
This past summer, FSU began a three-year partnership with Maryland Traditions with a start up grant of $40,000. Maryland Traditions is a collaboration of two state agencies, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Maryland Historical Trust, and receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Dr. Rory Turner of MSAC and Dr. Elaine Eff of MHT co-direct Maryland Traditions, a program that supports communities to discover, share, preserve and sustain traditional arts and culture.
“We’re particularly thrilled to have an opportunity to contribute to the Western Maryland region,” says Turner. Maryland Traditions supports partnerships in Southern Maryland, the upper and lower Eastern Shore, the Catoctin region and Baltimore city. “Folklore has traditionally had two faces – the public program and the academic program. By working with Frostburg State University, it’s a very exciting way to combine these worlds. We’re breaking new ground.”
“This area is ripe with opportunities,” adds Eff, commending the past and present efforts of area folklorists including the late educator and folklife advocate Alta Schrock of Penn Alps and the “Journal of the Alleghenies” publication. “We hope to reveal layers of living traditions hidden in plain sight and help people see and value traditions that might be unappreciated.”
Dr. Kara Rogers Thomas, formerly of University of North Carolina-Asheville and Indiana University, has been appointed as the new resident folklorist for Western Maryland. In addition to conducting research and documenting communities and living traditions, Thomas is teaching “Folklore in Appalachia,” a new course offered through the FSU Sociology Department. This course, and others in the future, will offer FSU students the opportunity to learn about Maryland’s folk heritage through hands-on fieldwork. Thomas’ other duties will include developing publications, audio features for radio broadcast, CDs, videos, Web sites and showcasing traditional artists in association with FSU’s Cultural Events Series.
Thomas’ work will complement a number of disciplines in FSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, particularly its growing Ethnobotany program, by educating students and the community about folk medicine and herbs and helping local cultures preserve their environment and living traditions.
“The program will build upon a synergy between ethnobotany and cultural documentation,” says Turner.
With the help of future grants and other revenue sources, the program in Western Maryland has the goal to be self-sustaining by the end of 2007.
Folklorist Thomas invites individuals and groups to contact her with leads on local traditions. She can be reached at 301-687-3124 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Maryland State Arts Council is a division of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. The Maryland Historical Trust is a division of The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.