What has happened to folk art in the past two decades? Has its meaning changed as far as the general public concerned? What we consider to be folk art has definitely changed over time, and will continue to evolve as does our culture.
Let’s start with the definition of folk art, According to a page on the website for the Museum of National Folk Art, it is “the art of the everyday…rooted in traditions that come from community and culture.” The page also defines this type of art with the following statement:
“Folk Art encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms.”
It, in my opinion, is art by the people for the people, made from local and regional materials.
Folk art tells a story. It represents the culture of its creator. But, in the past two decades, folk art has shifted from being that entity to having a different meaning. After the industrial revolution when we learned that we could copy and mass produce something, art lost some of its essence. Especially regional and folk art. I feel that in the past few decades that circle has started to close, with people feeling the need to get back to unique, individual, hand made items. We are so distracted by all the bells and whistles of today’s technology, though, the original intent, reason, and meaning of folk art has not been fully restored.
Another form of folk art, and possibly the most recognizable, is folk music, which has changed and taken on many new forms and influences over the past few decades. Author Lindsay Abrams writes about the changing face of The Newport Folk Festival, held in Rhode Island, in her 2013 article posted on theatlantic.com. Abrams states
“Susannah Bay, a long-haired former folk icon, is left behind as the times go a-changing, abandoning the peace and love themes of her heyday to try to keep up with the changing trends of the next decades.”
She goes on to discuss the evolution of the festival and its participants”
“Like the aging Bay, who scarcely resembles “the winsome hippie girl in the poncho” in her later years, little of the legendary Newport Folk Festival any longer looks like those early days of folk. Appreciation for the type of music it champions hasn’t diminished, but it has changed. The bands and singer-songwriters who took to the festival’s three stages last weekend in Newport, Rhode Island, were “folk,” though they rarely played anything the fictional Bay would recognize from her own time…Still, the festival has remained true to the genre’s spirit in the ways that count: I caught the occasional whiff of pot in the air, and booths hawked beaded jewelry, vegan purses, and peasant skirts.”
In another article written for The Atlantic, author Sarah Boxer writes about our hunger to return to art created for the people, and our want for outsider artists – those creating modern folk art. She writes:
“At this moment, the universe of outsider art is huge. And it’s being enthusiastically embraced—one might say swallowed whole—by the contemporary-art world. Art fairs, biographies, retrospectives, and collections are springing up in the name of outsider art. Insiders are borrowing outsider art for their installations.”
Now, how would such a modern, independent artist spread the word about their work and gain a following? I would recommend employing every facet of social media as a vehicle to spread awareness and samples of whatever it is that you produce. I would network, use connections, and make an appearance at any and every event with an audience, Tweeting, Posting, and Instagramming are the communication paths of the future, and the fortunate.