American Folklore Society (Columbus, OH)

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Photo of Bess Hawes from the side at an event

Bess Lomax Hawes, one of the featured subjects of a new documentary by the American Folklore Society on the early years of public sector folklorists. Photo by Lisa Berg, NEA file

The American Folklore Society (AFS) is an association of more than 2,200 members involved in the folk and traditional arts that encourages interest and research in folklore in all its aspects. AFS publishes the quarterly Journal of American Folklore, one of the oldest and most respected folklore journals in the world, and the bimonthly AFSNews. An annual conference each October draws more than 700 folklorists from around the world to exchange ideas and create collaborations. Former NEA Chairman Bill Ivey is the current president of AFS.

In FY 2005, AFS received an Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $15,000 to support a DVD documentary on the early years of public sector folklorists, focusing on Archie Green, Bess Lomax Hawes, Alan Jabbour, and the late Ralph Rinzler. Rinzler established the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, held every summer in Washington, DC, creating a prominent venue for the presentation of a wide range of American folk arts and traditions. Green helped establish the Folk Arts Program at the NEA and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. Jabbour was the first director of the Folk Arts Program at the NEA and the first director of the American Folklife Center. Hawes succeeded him at the NEA as director of Folk Arts, where she championed the creation of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships in 1982.

The DVD, scheduled to be completed in fall 2006, includes interviews conducted in 2003 with Green, Hawes, and Jabbour about their efforts. A 1994 interview with Rinzler also is included. These first-hand accounts present different perspectives on the contexts and climate in which these federal folklife-oriented institutions were organized. An initial run of 1,000 of the DVDs were produced and distributed to AFS members and university libraries.

(From the NEA 2005 Annual Report)