The Ohio Arts Council Collection is a collection in the Ohio State University Folklore Archives, containing fieldwork conducted from 1977-1982. That era saw increases in federal and state funding for arts and culture, which allowed the Ohio Arts Council (then called the Ohio Foundation on the Arts) to support research and programming on vernacular culture in Ohio.
The collection is made up of several fieldwork projects, each on a particular topic. Fieldworkers were hired to travel to regions, make connections, and document folklife in field notes, photographs, interviews, recorded performances, and material culture. These primary source materials make up the bulk of the collection; however, the fieldworkers also produced reports summarizing their findings, which provide valuable context for each project.
Several of these collecting projects were translated in to public displays, events, and texts, in keeping with the public mission of the Ohio Arts Council. The Cleveland Russians project became the exhibition Cleveland’s Russians: Expressions of Ethnicity in 1979. That same year, The Western Ohio Folklife Festival showcased farming practices, crafts, music, and foodways from five western Ohio counties. Other fieldworkers turned their research into newspaper articles: Alan Govenar published a story on the Second Regiment Marching Band in Columbus Musicians’ Monthly in 1978, which is also part of the collection.
Taken as a whole, the Ohio Arts Council collection offers glimpses into both a variety of Ohio folkways and different approaches to collecting and presenting folklife in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Researchers will find valuable materials in multiple formats that document the lives, work, and art of Ohioans 35 years ago.
For more information about fieldwork projects sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council, visit their Ohio Traditions website. You can also view profiles of the OAC's master traditional artists and a full list of festivals throughout the state of Ohio on their website.