On October 29, 2015, the Center for Folklore Studies held a special reception to showcase their display of the Ohio Arts Council Collection at OSU's Thompson Library. Thanks to a generous donation by the Columbus Foundation for the 2014-2015 year, Graduate Archivist Cristina Benedetti was able to revisit fieldwork conducted by folklore fieldworkers in Ohio from 1977-1982. Throughout the year, she created detailed finding aids and digitized numerous items within the collection. Cristina’s work culminated in a digital gallery on the CFS website. The Thompson Showcase - which remains in place until the end of 2015 - features two boxes from the collection, the Ohio Bluegrass Musicians and the Western Ohio Folklife Festival.
The special invited guest speaker for the occasion was musician and broadcaster, Katie Laur. Laur was also the fieldworker for the Ohio Bluegrass Musicians portion of the Ohio Arts Council Projects. Her collection offers a unique snapshot of the Southwestern Ohio bluegrass scene in the 1970s. “The Bluegrass Triangle” was the area bounded by Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati, Ohio; a hotbed for various kinds of revivals and innovations in string band music at the time of collection in 1977. Laur was a member of the scene herself, and the leader of the Katie Laur Band. Her collection offers extensive musings—in recorded interviews and in various print media—on a genre of music that seems to exist in a constant state of revival. The collected print materials suggest ways that dispersed and mobile "scenes" are sustained in part through the circulation of texts (articles, photos, advertisements, notices, etc.).
Katie Laur is the host of Music From the Hills of Home, a bluegrass radio program on WKNU 105.9, 89.7, and 104.1. Laur was born into a singing family in Paris, Tennessee that, like numerous other Appalachian families, moved to work in the automobile plants in Detroit after World War II. She moved to Cincinnati in 1966 and played bluegrass at Aunt Maudie’s in the early 1970s before heading out to play on the road. In 1989, Laur launched her radio program on WNKU. She now authors a column for Cincinnati Magazine and is compiling her monthly column for City Beat into a book. Laur lives in lower Clifton, Cincinnati. Tune in to Music From the Hills of Home Sundays from 6PM-9PM. Visit her blog at http://www.katielaurblog.com/.
Katie Laur's Lecture
Over a period of an hour, Laur talked about her experiences as a musician herself and her recollections of her colleagues. Here are some excerpts from the presentation:
Katie begins by speaking about bluegrass music as a genre:
Some thoughts from Katie regarding women performing bluegrass music:
Katie remembers her own early bluegrass days - at Aunt Maudie's bar in Cincinnati:
How the Katie Laur Band got started:
Katie Laur's Music Selection:
Laur also played a selection of music and her playlist for the occasion featured the following tracks:
Little Annie – performed by Kathy Kallick and Laurie Lewis
West Virginia, My Home – performed by Hazel Dickens
Teardrops Falling in the Snow - performed by the Hot Mud Family
Gone Home – performed by the Katie Laur Band
I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart – performed by Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
Scepters of Gold – performed by Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
Is My Blue Moon Still Shining? - performed by Kathy Kallick and Laurie Lewis
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.