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A sampling of folklife and cultural tourism projects in the U.S.
Case Study: South Carolina Heritage Corridor Tourism Projects
South Carolina Arts Commission
Craig Stinson, the folklorist at the South Carolina Arts Commission, has been building on the creative work which his predecessor, folklorist Lesley Williams, has done in imbedding folk arts projects within a heritage corridor now being developed in the state. Williams established a collaborative relationship for these tourism projects with the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) and with the McKissick Museum. She also established a steering committee of people working within the corridor, which included academics, traditional artists, PRT staff, and individuals from the heritage corridor regional boards.
The heritage corridor starts in the South Carolina Piedmont area near Clemson, goes down to the Georgia Coast, then up to Charleston. The corridor is divided into four regions, each of which has a local board. PRT has been working with these local boards to assess cultural resources. Williams received a National Endowment for the Arts infrastructure initiative grant to assist in this process by identifying and developing folklife tourism resources in regions 1 and 2 of the corridor. These funds allowed her to hire folklorist Sally Council to conduct primary research in these two areas. A local South Carolina group, the Piedmont Harmony Project, worked collaboratively with Council in the documentation of area musical traditions.
Plans include a discovery center in each region of the corridor that will explore nature, history, and contemporary culture through thematic interpretive frameworks. Darlene Roth, who holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization, has been hired to develop the thematic frameworks for the centers, working collaboratively with different local communities and organizations. Partners are now in the process of coming up with the interpretive themes for region 1 and are finding it to be a quite challenging process. An Atlanta firm has been hired to design the discovery centers, and they hired Janice Morrill, a folklorist and museum exhibit developer, to coordinate this process.
Stinson notes that Williams had embarked on this cultural tourism project because she saw it as a great opportunity to fund in-depth field research. Her original vision has been more than realized in that not only have traditions been identified, but organizations from eight of the counties that were surveyed have applied for funding through the South Carolina Arts Commission Folklife and Traditional Arts grant program.
An example of one application is the Greenwood Museum, which received funding for a documentary on local food traditions, in particular a locale in the region that serves hash. Stinson notes that often product-oriented grant proposals are not strong in their marketing plans, and he adds that knowing that the discovery centers will be in place as outlets for these projects has eased much of the apprehension about marketability.
The folklife grant program is new to the Arts Commission, and because of the work carried out through the infrastructure initiative, the grant requests have far exceeded the amounts available. This dilemma has enabled Stinson to ask for and receive an increase in the annual folklife grant budget for next year from $16,000 to $40,000.
Folklorist Douglas Day has been hired to do the field research in region 2 and is currently in the process of completing it. Day and Stinson are currently working to install an internet exhibit featuring this work under the domain name www.traditionalarts.org. The internet site, which is already up and running, also includes publications and grant deadlines. The site will also serve as a place where individuals or organizations can post event dates and the like. To involve as large a constituency as possible in the process of planning these various initiatives, Stinson has also created an internet listserv for those in folklife and related pursuits; the list began with 12 people and has now grown to 120.
The www.traditionalarts.org website will be up and running in Fall 2000 and will soon be managed under the auspices of a private non-profit folk arts state advocacy agency which is currently being established. Stinson is now developing a statewide organization named the South Carolina Traditional Arts Network; the group is now in the process of filing for 501(c)(3) status.
Stinson also convinced the South Carolina and North Carolina Folklore Societies to publish their newsletters jointly under the title "Folklore in the Carolinas." PRT has seen the newsletter and is very excited about the great potential involved in the possibility of working collaboratively on cultural tourism programs with their colleagues in North Carolina.
Stinson's idea since coming to the Arts Commission has been to build on Williams' work to develop an infrastructure around cultural tourism so that all aspects of the Arts Commission's Folklife and Traditional Arts Program, whether for tourists or for local communities, are working to reinforce and strengthen one another. For instance, the above-mentioned increase in the folklife grant budget was made possible by the Arts Commission's Institute for Community Scholars (ICS). Stinson notes that "our funds got increased because ICS participants at the grassroots working in the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor got in the applications. My theory, and I believe this is correct for Lesley [Williams] as well, is that it all has to work together or there's no point."
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