Gathering Directory

Featured Speakers

Judy Sizemore with Bob Gates

Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Judy Sizemore worked with the Kentucky Folklife Program to develop the Community Scholars program and is certified as a community scholar and a community scholar trainer. She has served as lead cultural researcher for multiple projects for Partners for Education at Berea College and has served as community scholar for development of driving tours and public art tours funded by the Kentucky Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is an arts education artist in both literary arts and folk arts with the Kentucky Arts Council and Partners for Education at Berea College.

Presentation Title: Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
When I began my journey as a community scholar, I had a fairly narrow vision of what my new skills would allow – and inspire – me to do. I wanted school kids to learn about the folk artists in their own community and to take pride in local traditions. That is still a passion of mine, but not the only one. I have come to appreciate the power of inclusion, of interviewing folks in nursing homes, detention centers, and skate parks, of using narrative to explore questions like the impact of COVID-19 on grandparents struggling to raise their grandchildren or the role of art in addiction recovery. Bringing folklorists and community scholars together in this virtual gathering shows that there are always new avenues to explore.

Bob Gates, founder and former director of the Kentucky Folklife Program (KFP, 1989), began his career as a photographer and oral historian for an African-American Museum Program in Cincinnati.  Realizing that folk art and cultural expressions of the community were the window into the everyday lives of the people he documented, he enrolled in Western Kentucky University, receiving his master’s in Folklife Studies in 1983. From there he served as a Folklorist-in-the-Schools in New York, a Scholar-in-residence in Tennessee, and the State Folklorist for Louisiana.  During his tenure at KFP, he instituted a granting program through the KY Arts Council; developed the KY Folklife Festival, and created the Community Scholars Program.  He is an adjunct professor within the Community College system teaching Intro to Folk Studies and Cultural Diversity courses.

Since retirement in 2013, he has served on the Board of Kentucky Craft History and Education Association, is currently Director of Gates Cultural Contractors and a Commissioner on the KY Oral History Commission. Bob spends time sailing, playing tennis, hiking, camping, kayaking, exploring nature, and visiting his two children in New Jersey and Maine. 

Jon Kay

Folklife and Resilience in Later Life

Jon Kay is an Associate Professor of Folklore at Indiana University. He holds an M.A. from Western Kentucky (1997) and a Ph.D. from Indiana University (2014). He directs Indiana University’s Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI), a statewide folk and traditional arts research and service unit. His research specializations are arts and aging, public humanities, material culture, and Indiana folklife. He is the author of Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers (2016) and the edited volume The Expressive Lives of Elders: Folklore, Art, and Aging (2018) both published by Indiana University Press. He recently released TAI’s  Memory, Art, and Aging: Resource and Activity Guide (2020), a free publication about the role of traditional arts in the well-being of older adults.

Presentation Title: Folklife and Resilience in Later Life
Often folklorists celebrate the traditional arts of older adults, but rarely do we consider how these expressive practices work to support the wellbeing of these elders. In this presentation, folklorist Jon Kay explores how older adults cultivate personal resilience through everyday cultural practices and how these everyday expressive acts help elders combat feelings of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom in later life. He will also describe public program models that leverage folklife resources to improve the wellbeing of older adults.

Rae Garringer

Documenting Rural Queer Histories & Presents

Rae Garringer (they/them) is a writer, oral historian, and audio producer who was raised on a sheep farm in southeastern West Virginia and still calls central Appalachia home. Rae is the founder and director of Country Queers – an ongoing, multimedia, community-based oral history project documenting rural and small town LGBTQIA+ experiences across the United States since 2013.  Rae completed a BA from Hampshire College in 2007 and an MA in Folklore from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2017. They gained audio production chops as the Public Affairs Director at Appalshop’s WMMT 88.7fm in the mountains of eastern Kentucky from 2017-2020. Rae is white, queer, and non-binary.

Presentation Title: Documenting Rural Queer Histories & Presents
Country Queers is an ongoing multimedia oral history project that has been documenting rural and smalltown LGBTQIA+ experiences in the U.S. across intersecting layers of identity since 2013. Rae Garringer, founder and director, will talk about their motivation for starting the project, how the project has evolved since its beginning, and future plans for this work. They will also share audio clips and photos from the archive of interviews gathered since 2013. 

Todd Lawrence & Heather Shirey

In the Streets; On the Walls: Community Voices, Vernacular Narratives, and the George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art Database

David Todd Lawrence is Associate Professor of English and American Culture and Difference at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He teaches African American literature and expressive culture, folklore studies, and cultural studies. His writing has appeared in Journal of American Folklore, Southern Folklore, The Griot, Open Rivers, and The New Territory. His book, When They Blew the Levee: Race, Politics and Community in Pinhook, Mo (2018), co-authored with Elaine Lawless, is an ethnographic project done in collaboration with residents of Pinhook, Missouri, an African American town destroyed during the Mississippi River Flood of 2011. He also co-directs the Urban Art Mapping Project with Heather Shirey and Paul Lorah.

Dr. Heather Shirey is a Professor of Art History at the University of St. Thomas. Her teaching and research focus on race and identity, migrations and diasporas, and street art and its communities. Together with Dr. David Todd Lawrence and Dr. Paul Lorah, Dr. Shirey directs the Urban Art Mapping research team.

Presentation Title: In the Streets; On the Walls: Community Voices, Vernacular Narratives, and the George Floyd and Anti-Racist Street Art Database
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and cities around the country were transformed by a massive proliferation of graffiti and street art, including words and images expressing a wide range of emotions, demands, and visions for the future. Whether in the form of commissioned murals or a hastily-scrolled pieces of graffiti, art in the streets serves to represent the voices of the community, providing a counter-institutional narrative, and one that is ongoing and complex. Examining street art from around the world responding to the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, this presentation focuses on the ways that artists have used walls, posts, streets, and boards as sites for vernacular communicative acts – to claim space, tell their stories, express their anger, and articulate their vision for the future.

Discussion Panels

Day 1: March 5th

11:00 AM – 12:45 PM CST
Successful Projects and How to Fund Them:

Cultural workers from around Kentucky and the US share their innovative work, from oral history projects with incarcerated people to commemorating African American culture in the South, to using agricultural knowledge to connect with heritage. Discussion will center on how each project defines success, what challenges they have faced, and what solutions they developed. 

Langston Collin Wilkins is the Director of the Center for Washington Cultural Traditions, a collaboration between Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission. He received his PhD in Folklore & Ethnomusicology from Indiana University in 2016. Prior to joining Humanities Washington, Langston worked as the traditional arts specialist for the Tennessee Arts Commission and a program officer for Humanities Tennessee.

Katy Clune is director of communications for Duke Arts, Duke University’s arts initiative. She has more than ten years of experience in designing strategic communications and audience engagement for cultural institutions. She is currently vice-chair of the City of Durham’s Cultural Advisory Board and is a 20-21 recipient of an Archie Green Fellowship with the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. She has a BA in art history from the University of California-Berkeley (2008) and a MA in folklore from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Photo by Mark Mahan

William Isom II is a native of Eastern Tennessee and the director of the Black in Appalachia project, a collaboration between residents, public media, and universities to document and make available the narratives of Black communities in the Mountain South.

A native of Lexington, KY, Ashley C. Smith graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She is the Co-founder and COO of Black Soil: Our Better Nature, a statewide agritourism company with a mission of reconnecting Black Kentuckians to their legacy and heritage in agriculture.
Smith’s other professional involvement, leadership, and accolades include Ethical Redevelopment Salon member under the leadership of Theaster Gates, Secretary for Kentucky State University’s Extension and Research Advisory Council, and serving on the Steering Committee member for the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange.
Smith and Trevor Claiborn are the proud parents of Caroline and Trevor, Jr.

March 5th
3:00 – 4:00 PM CST
A Conversation with Kentucky Folklife Contributors

Published contributors to the Kentucky Folklife digital magazine join Managing Editor Delainey Bowers to talk about their articles and the magazine’s editorial process. If you’ve ever considered submitting to Kentucky Folklife, this panel will help you understand what to expect and how the magazine can represent you.

Delainey Bowers is an independent folklorist living in southeastern Kentucky. She graduated with her Master of Library Science from Indiana University in 2015 and earned her MA in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University in 2019. She is the current Managing Editor for Kentucky Folklife, a multimedia digital publication that explores the diversity of expressive cultures throughout the Commonwealth.

Emily Jones Hudson is a freelance writer, poet, and Story Catcher. A native of Hazard, Kentucky, Emily has conducted several oral history projects. She is the author of three books, Water-Walking Faith, Touch the Hem, and Soul Miner. She is the founder and Executive Director of the newly created Southeast Kentucky African-American Museum and Cultural Center located in Hazard.

As a full-time mother, co-owner of Need More Acres Farm, and community organizer, Michelle Howell collaborates with local and state partners to increase opportunities for farmers that are equitable and just. She utilizes her expertise in nutrition, relationships, and consumer trends to encourage common sense and profitable approaches to expand food systems.  Off the farm, Michelle has partnered with public health organizations, universities, non-profits, and others to write over 1.5 million dollars in awarded grants to benefit food access, women’s life courses, and urban-rural development.

Alexander Udis is a musician, SquareDance caller, and aspiring auctioneer currently living in the Hudson River Valley, New York. He is inspired by social dance, from SquareDancing to LineDancing to TwoStepping, and increasingly sure that dancing together hand in hand makes a community wealthy. Alexander was fortunate enough to study with and film the work of Randy Wilson, Folk Arts Director at Hindman Settlement School during Randy’s last year in that position where he taught a generation of students to dance and sing together.

Day 2: March 6th


11:00 AM – 12:45 PM CST
Folklife Programming with Media

This panel will help you envision ways to incorporate podcasting, documentary video, and innovative publishing techniques into your projects, by hearing from experts working throughout Kentucky. It will be inspiring for those who already have multimedia skills and are looking for ways to use them, or for those who want to learn but aren’t sure where to start. 
Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee

Dr. El-Amin is a researcher, cultural worker & lecturer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she earned a PhD in sociology. Her work explores the link between race, place and Black practices in defining contesting & re-imagining of place. Enkeshi is one of the creators of the Black in Appalachia Podcast, which she co-hosts.

Tammy Clemons is a PhD Candidate in cultural anthropology at the University of Kentucky. Her dissertation research focuses on the cultural productions of young media makers in Central Appalachia and how they envision, construct, and act upon possibilities for young people in the region. Tammy is also a media artist/teacher with a critical interest in digital humanities and archives.

Joe Manning is the Deputy Director of the Louisville Story Program. He was editor and lead interviewer for Better Lucky Than Good, an anthology of first-voice narratives authored by racetrack professionals, and the winner of the 2019 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. Joe holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University, and has written for Fjords, theRS500.com, and Oxford American among others. Joe’s collection of single-topic essays, Certain Relevant Passages, was published in 2017 by Dock Street Press, and in 2018 he was awarded the Kentucky Arts Council’s Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship.

Mark Brown, the Kentucky Arts Council’s folk and traditional arts director, has worked with folk artists and communities in the Commonwealth since 2001 when he earned a master’s degree in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University. He manages the Kentucky Community Scholars program, the Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program, and folk arts traveling exhibits. Mark’s interests in music, writing, audio, and working with diverse traditional artists are at the heart of his efforts with arts council goals and programs.

Michael Morrow has spent his entire life gathering and archiving the local oral histories and documents concerning Russellville and the Black Bottom Historic District. Born and raised in Russellville, Michael Morrow has a unique connection to the area that has granted him unparalleled access to the current community as well as its past. Morrow has served on several boards within the community such as the Logan County NAACP, 8th of August Committee, Historic Russellville, the Shaker Museum of South Union Kentucky, and was a founding member of the Concerned Citizens of Logan County, established in 1994. He was a 2005 graduate of the Kentucky Scholars Program where he conducted a project recreating the Black Bottom community using tax records, photos, deeds, and other sources and documents from 1870 to 2005. His work continued as he helped to create the Black Bottom Historic District, placing it on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

Josh Niedwick has been a producer/director with WKU PBS for the past thirteen years focusing on public affairs programs and short-form documentaries and is currently working on his master’s degree in Folklore from WKU.

Day 2: March 6th

3:00 – 4:30 PM
Taking Your Projects to the Next Level:
Partners, Sustainability, Ethics

When designing a new community cultural initiative, there are many considerations that can seem daunting, but are essential for the project to be effective, ethical, and self-sustaining. Hear from experts around the country as they share tips for building collaborative partnerships, long-term planning, and considering the social impact of your work. 

Judy Sizemore worked with the Kentucky Folklife Program to develop the Community Scholars program and is certified as a community scholar and a community scholar trainer. She has served as lead cultural researcher for multiple projects for Partners for Education at Berea College and has served as community scholar for development of driving tours and public art tours funded by the Kentucky Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is an arts education artist in both literary arts and folk arts with the Kentucky Arts Council and Partners for Education at Berea College.

Nicole Musgrave earned her MA in Folk Studies with a concentration in Public Folklore at Western Kentucky University and is an independent folklorist based in Whitesburg, Kentucky. She currently serves as a folkways reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia radio program. This year she has also worked with Appalshop and Partners for Education at Berea College to document eastern Kentuckians’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcus Cederström earned his B.A. from the University of Oregon in Sports Business, History, and Scandinavian Studies and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he works in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic as the community curator of Nordic-American folklore for the “Sustaining Scandinavian Folk Arts in the Upper Midwest” project. His research focuses on Scandinavian-American folklife, the intersections of immigration, labor, and creative expression and he works with Indigenous communities on issues of sustainability, cultural revitalization, and pedagogy. Cederström teaches folklore courses, conducts fieldwork with Nordic-Americans throughout the Upper Midwest, and works with folklorists and artists throughout the region to create public programming supporting traditional folk arts. 

Eric César Morales, Ph.D. oversees the Philadelphia Folklore Project’s Folk Arts and Social Change Residency program and supports their educational partnerships. A graduate of the Folklore Program at Indiana University, Bloomington, Eric has worked in arts organizations across the country, including Alliance for California Traditional Arts, City Lore, and the Nevada Arts Council, and he has served as a grant panelist for the Indiana Arts Commission, the Pennsylvania Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Eric has also spent years training as a dancer, having performed in local, national, and international festivals with Polynesian groups out of California, Indiana, and French Polynesia.

Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe leads PFP’s day-to-day operations and works collaboratively with the board and staff to advance the organization’s social justice mission and impact through innovative programming. A folklorist and ethnomusicologist by training, Naomi specializes in themes of urban and immigrant folklife, indigenous and mestizo traditions of the Americas, Sri Lankan folk arts and waterlore. Her deeply held belief that local knowledge both sustains communities and advances the quality of urban life, is central to PFP’s approach to folklife in service of social change. 

Savannah Barrett is the Exchange Director for Art of the Rural and Co-founder of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange. She has served as an advisor or director for the Bush Foundation, the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, the Robert Gard Foundation, the Art of Community: Rural S.C., and “Freedom Maps: Activating Legacies of Culture, Art, and Organizing in the U.S. South”. She has widely published essays and interviews and presented her work at conferences internationally. She holds a Masters of Arts Management from the University of Oregon, and previously guided community programs in Oregon and Kentucky. Savannah was raised in Grayson Springs, Kentucky, where she co-founded a local arts agency in high school and now stewards six acres of her homeplace. She is a twelfth-generation Kentuckian and lives in South Louisville.

Michael Morrow has spent his entire life gathering and archiving the local oral histories and documents concerning Russellville and the Black Bottom Historic District. Born and raised in Russellville, Michael Morrow has a unique connection to the area that has granted him unparalleled access to the current community as well as its past. Morrow has served on several boards within the community such as the Logan County NAACP, 8th of August Committee, Historic Russellville, the Shaker Museum of South Union Kentucky, and was a founding member of the Concerned Citizens of Logan County, established in 1994. He was a 2005 graduate of the Kentucky Scholars Program where he conducted a project recreating the Black Bottom community using tax records, photos, deeds, and other sources and documents from 1870 to 2005. His work continued as he helped to create the Black Bottom Historic District, placing it on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

Lunch Visit Day 1: March 5th
Meet and Greet, hosted by WKU Folk Studies Faculty

1:00 – 2:00 PM

Grab your lunch and hop on the ZOOM to meet some of the people you’re conferencing with! Hosted by Western Kentucky Folk Studies Faculty, this session will feature a rotation of breakout rooms so you can acquaint yourself with other people in the Folklife Network.
WKU Folk Studies Faculty

Ph.D., English/Folklore, The Ohio State University
M.A., Folk Studies, Western Kentucky University
B.A., Women’s Studies, State University of New York at New Paltz

My research interests include narrative, rhetorics of tradition and heritage, gendered knowledge, and land-based occupations, as well as history of the field. My recent and ongoing fieldwork has been with Kentucky burley tobacco farmers and members of the organization Kentucky Women in Agriculture. In addition to my academic work, I have experience in public folklore and with non-profit and governmental women’s organizations.

Ph.D., Scandinavian Studies/Folklore, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., Scandinavian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A., English, Washington State University
B.A., English, Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point 

My research interests include public and applied folklore, environmental and medical humanities, museum studies, worldview and knowledge traditions, cultural sustainability and revitalization, and resistance and decolonization movements. While working with diverse peoples in the Western Great Lakes region and the Nordic countries, I’ve collaborated with subsistence traditions, reindeer herders, traditional artists and storytellers, activists, musicians, traditional healers, and Indigenous cultural revitalization.

Ph.D., English/Folklore, The Ohio State University
M.A., English, Tulane University
B.A., English, Tulane University 

My research focuses on expressive culture in communities affected by conflict and disaster. My areas of interest and expertise include narrative, memory and commemoration, ethnography of communication, and critical trauma theory. My book Consuming Katrina: Public Disaster and Personal Narrative (UP Mississippi, 2018) describes how personal narratives and other forms of folk commemoration of Hurricane Katrina have been adapted for and received by public audiences. My current research explores memory and narration of war and genocide in Bosnia (1992-1995), especially among Bosnian refugees in Bowling Green, KY. 

Ph.D., Folklore/American Studies, Indiana University
M.A., Folklore, Indiana University
B.A., Anthropology, Colorado State University

I grew up in Colorado. In my 38 years as a folklorist, I have worked extensively in both academic and public folklore, including eight years as Wyoming State Folklorist. I have worked as a folklorist in Indiana, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska and Kentucky. I have been at Western Kentucky University since 1999.
Specialties/interests include public/applied folklore, folklore and education, material culture, folk art and architecture, American architectural history, the history of Folk Studies, the politics of culture, the American West, folklore and literature, the folkloresque, fan cultures, new media, and fantasy/science fiction.

Lunch Visit Day 2: March 6th
Funding Opportunities in Kentucky

1:00 – 2:00 PM

Grab your lunch and come listen to Mark Brown of Kentucky Arts Commission, Sarah Schmitt of Kentucky Oral History Commission and Judy Sizemore, esteemed community scholar, talk about possible avenues of funding for your next project.

Mark Brown, the Kentucky Arts Council’s folk and traditional arts director, has worked with folk artists and communities in the Commonwealth since 2001, when he earned a master’s degree in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University. He manages the Kentucky Community Scholars program, the Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program, and folk arts traveling exhibits. Mark’s interests in music, writing, audio and working with diverse traditional artists are at the heart of his efforts with arts council goals and programs.

Sarah is the oral history administrator for the Kentucky Oral History Commission, a program dedicated to reaching across the state to record and preserve the diverse stories that are a part of Kentucky’s rich and colorful history. In addition to administering oral history grant programs, Sarah can provide methodology workshops, help access interviews in collections across the state, consult about community documentation projects, discuss recording equipment options, and more.

Previously she served as the community arts and access director for the Kentucky Arts Council and as a Folklife Specialist for the Kentucky Folklife Program. She is a founding steering committee member of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and history and a master’s degree in folk studies, both from Western Kentucky University. She is a Cub Scout Den Leader, merit badge counselor, and avid camper – usually a happy one.

Judy Sizemore worked with the Kentucky Folklife Program to develop the Community Scholars program and is certified as a community scholar and a community scholar trainer. She has served as lead cultural researcher for multiple projects for Partners for Education at Berea College and has served as community scholar for development of driving tours and public art tours funded by the Kentucky Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is an arts education artist in both literary arts and folk arts with the Kentucky Arts Council and Partners for Education at Berea College.

Kentucky Folklife Program Staff

These are the folks who have worked hard to put this event together.

Brent Björkman  is Director of the Kentucky Folklife Program and Kentucky Museum and Clinical Assistant Professor with the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at WKU. Throughout his career as a folklorist, Björkman has worked on many diverse projects throughout the US. As Folklife Specialist for the KFP (1999-2004) Björkman produced exhibits, folklife festivals/narrative stage events, and created web content based on his fieldwork that highlighted the lives and traditions of the state’s diverse populations. Under his leadership as Executive Director of the Vermont Folklife Center (2007-2012), the organization developed its Vision and Voice Documentary Workspace, a multi-media community exhibit space dedicated to both teaching the ethnographic process and presenting fieldwork by local communities. Two major collaborative folklife projects he led with the KFP and the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology that resulted in exhibits at the Kentucky Museum include Standing the Test of Time: Kentucky’s White Oak Basketmaking Tradition and A Culture Carried: Bosnians in Bowling Green.  In 2013, the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress named him an Archie Green Fellow enabling him to document the occupational folklore of park rangers at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Folklife Specialist for the Kentucky Folklife Program, Joel Chapman has a BA in Folklore and Telecommunications from Indiana University and an MA in Public Folklore from Western Kentucky University.  He oversees the daily operations and outreach of the Kentucky Folklife Program, as well as the supervision of fieldwork and archiving. He is also interested in more theoretical corners of the Folklore discipline as an avid researcher of belief, material culture, and folklore as resistance. Active in the American Folklore Society, Chapman has served as co-convener of the Graduate Students and Young Professionals Section. In his free time, he is usually fantasizing about custom bicycle builds, baking bread, gardening, or petting his beloved animals.

Ellie Dassler is a graduate student in the Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology at Western Kentucky University. She is a former Editorial Assistant for the Journal of American Folklore, the 2020 Summer Folklife Intern at the North Carolina Arts Council, and the current Graduate Assistant for the Kentucky Folklife Program.