Telling their story: Folklorists to gather at the UO

The UO’s Oregon Folklife Network will host the 2016 Association of Western States Folklorist Conference this year from Wednesday, April 6, through Friday, April 8.

The gathering will take place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, with most of the events at the UO’s Baker Downtown Center. “The Graze,” the conference’s annual field trip, will take place in Eugene’s Whiteaker neighborhood on Friday, April 8.

The 35th annual gathering brings folklorists from 13 Western states, many of whom work in state arts agencies, humanities councils or the nonprofit sector. The registration fee is $80 for regular attendees, but is free for UO students.

That fee includes all conference workshops, as well as lunch on Wednesday, April 6. Participants who wish to attend “The Graze” field trip pay an additional $25.

The Association of Western States Folklorists is a group of public folklorists who meet annually to collaborate on projects, share new practices in the field and provide professional development workshops on topics such as field photography, video recording, radio production, writing, website development and other subjects relevant to the field.

The UO has committed to hosting the conference in 2016 and in 2017. While there is no specific theme for these gatherings, a core group of folklorists vote each year on workshop and discussion topics that are of interest and benefit to members.

This year, there will be four workshops that will focus on areas of innovative funding, launching projects and keeping them on track, creating effective, professional mentorships and designing digital public products.

As the host site, the UO has invited three featured keynote speakers: Cliff Murphy, the National Endowment for the Arts’ new director of folk and traditional arts; Savannah Barrett, the program director for the Art of the Rural organization; and Matthew Fluharty, the Art of the Rural’s executive director.

“We look forward to welcoming our colleagues to Eugene,” said Emily West Hartlerode, associate director of the Oregon Folklife Network. “Many people come to Oregon (for the) mild climate, stunning natural environment and incredible food and drink, but campus brings the added attraction of scholars and students from diverse fields and backgrounds whose participation promises to broaden our discussion and add to our collective tool belts.”

“The Graze” in the Whiteaker neighborhood will include several stops at local stores, venues and restaurants to learn about food fermentation, pinball culture, glassblowing festivals and beer- and wine-making and tasting. The trip will include stops at Falling Sky Brewery, Ninkasi and Territorial Winery as well as an opportunity to speak with residents about how their neighborhood has grown and changed over the years.

West Hartlerode believes the conference will not only benefit students, who can attend for free, but also the seasoned folklorists — who can learn from the next generation about topics like new media or online collaboration and digital exhibiting tools.

“I know this will be a great opportunity for UO faculty and students and for our colleagues around the West,” West Hartlerode said. “I think attendees will benefit from the diversity of perspectives that comes with holding our discussions at University of Oregon.”

The conference is open to all, and registration is open through April 8. For questions about the conference, including meals and hotel options, email Oregon Folklife Network assistant folklorist Josh Ehlers at

—By Nathaniel Brown, University Communications intern