Folklife Program Publications

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Different Hairs on the Same Dog: The Work of a Public Folklorist. 1999.

As Blanton Owen so colorfully put it with his “hairs on the dog” metaphor, a folklorist looks at the world through the lens of human creativity in all its manifestations and contexts. This publication and its accompanying exhibit seek to show what a folklorist does in his or her work, to share the sense of discovery and beauty as a folklorist experiences them, and to convey the importance of folk culture in all our lives. The work of folklorists in general will be explored through the words and photographs of one in particular. Blanton Owen was raised in Tennessee, received his MA in folklore from Indiana University in 1977, and worked for eight years in various parts of the south before moving to Nevada in 1985 to become the first Folk Arts Program Coordinator for the Nevada Arts Council. After five years in that job, he left to work as a freelance and consulting folklorist, oral historian, archaeological technician, and commercial pilot. Those jobs took him all over the west, but his deepest work lay in Nevada and the Great Basin. Blanton died in June of 1998 at the age of 53 when his plane crashed while he was working on an archaeological project in Washington State. He left a great legacy of field documentation, writing, and public presentation of the folk cultures of the region.

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Enduring Traditions: The Culture and Heritage of Lake Tahoe Driving and Walking Tour. 2nd edition, 2012.

This 72-page guidebook points the way to the area’s unique sites of natural, cultural and artistic interest. Go off the beaten path—learn about the prehistory, history, and contemporary cultures of American’s largest alpine lake! Researched and written by cultural anthropologist Penny Rucks and folklorist Jeanne Harrah Johnson, this guidebook is a great resource for anyone planning a visit to Lake Tahoe. The tour is divided into ten thematic segments and features three driving and walking routes, a timeline, map, and calendar of events, suggested reference materials, and listings for local museums, organizations, festivals and attractions.

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Handbook for Nevada Folk and Traditional Artists. 2011.

This 120-page full-color publication provides information on business, marketing, performance, and teaching topics to assist artists who are interested in professional development and entrepreneurial skills. While focusing on folk and traditional arts, the Handbook contains information useful to any working artist.

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Handed Down: Nevada’s Living Folk Arts 1988-1998.

This booklet chronicles the first ten years of the Nevada Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. Folk arts are part of a community’s heritage. They have been shared within a group, whether it is ethnic, tribal, religious, familial, occupational, or regional, and they express important values, beliefs, and esthetics of that group. But folk arts forms aren’t perpetuated automatically or unthinkingly, and it takes work, time and understanding to keep them alive and vital. That dedication comes from individuals who choose to learn, perfect, develop, and pass on an art form as part of their culture.

GALLERY NOTES

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Family Flowers|Flores Familiares in English & Spanish

Family Flowers presents the embroidery and beadwork of folk artist Romeo Sigüenza. Born on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, Romeo brought these traditions to Las Vegas where he continues to practice and share them with his family and the community. His insight into the meaning and significance captured in the vibrant colors, evocative symbols, and signature designs of regionally distinctive outfits is presented in his own words, in Spanish with English translations.

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Mountain Picassos: Basque Artborglyphs of the Great Basin

Basque tree carvings, or “arborglyphs,” have long been of interest to historians, Basque scholars, foresters, and hikers. These carvings have been extensively documented in Nevada and California with photographs and through cultural asset mapping. For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures, along with names, dates, and sayings, were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century. The Earls evolved a unique method of preserving the carvings using canvas and artists’ wax to create rubbings, two-dimensional representations of the carvings that are works of art themselves. The exhibit presents 26 of the over 130 wax-on-muslin rubbings made directly from the carvings.

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One Is Silver, the Other Is Gold

This exhibit presented original art and crafts that capture the vibrant spirit of the contemporary powwow in Nevada. While the focus is on Nevada tribes and artists, the intertribal Powwow represents the blending and mixing of traditions from the many different tribes and cultures present in North America throughout its history. Powwow is an expression of contemporary communities, not historical ones. As such, it reflects intricate and complex relationships between and among people who honor and celebrate their own tribal culture, heritage and identity.

 

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What Continues the Dream: Contemporary Arts and Crafts from the Powwow Tradition

This exhibit presented original art and crafts that capture the vibrant spirit of the contemporary powwow in Nevada. While the focus of this exhibition is on Nevada tribes and artists, the intertribal Powwow represents the blending and mixing of traditions from the many different tribes and cultures present in North America throughout its history. Powwow is an expression of contemporary communities, not historical ones. As such, it reflects intricate and complex relationships between and among people who honor and celebrate their own tribal culture, heritage and identity.

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FIELD SURVEY PROJECTS in Digital Format

In a High and Glorious Place: A Survey of Folklife in Lincoln County, Nevada, 1987

Blanton Owen worked with contract folklorist Mike Luster and photographer Debbie Nolan to identify, document, and present folk traditions discovered in Lincoln County, Nevada. Their words and pictures trace the contours of a rich folk heritage. The original publication, long out of print, has been revised, expanded, and reformatted to produce a digital edition – a snapshot of Lincoln County, Nevada as the folklorists found it in 1987.

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Lander County Line: Folklife in Central Nevada, 1988

This essay in words and pictures by Andrea Graham and Blanton Owen was the second survey project conducted by the Folklife Program of the Nevada State Council on the Arts. Andrea Graham spent 25 days and nights documenting Lander County’s traditional life. The publication is a condensed and edited version of her field diary, illustrated with photographs of folk cultural artifacts including houses, horse gear and braided rugs, and activities such as McCarty or mecarty making (from the Spanish “mecate”) and cow-doctoring.

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Songs for Asking: Perspectives on Traditional Culture among Nevada Indians. 1997

Folklorist Nicholas Vrooman visited every reservation and Native American community in Nevada to gather information about cultural activities, programs, and services, and to identify and document artists and culture bearers he encountered. Along the way he discussed the need to protect and encourage the cultural health of Native communities with tribal members, artists, and leaders in the communities he visited. Conversations took place in tribal offices, private homes, public houses, on the streets, and in the fields. Many serious, insightful, and profound perceptions that were shared with Vrooman as he made his way around the state are incorporated into this report.

FIELD SURVEY PROJECTS in Print (available in limited numbers)

  • Nevada Folklife: A Guide. Andrea Graham, 1990.
  • Neon Quilt: Folk Arts in Las Vegas. Edited by Andrea Graham; essays by Russell Frank, Andrea Graham and Lesley Williams, 1994.
  • The World in the Biggest Little City: Folk Arts in Reno and Western Nevada. Essays by Andrea Graham and Eliza Buck, 1996.