Folk Arts Program - Fieldwork
Justin Higner is a Wheatfield folk artist who creates model ships from recycled and repurposed materials, in part based on historically significant ships – including lake boats – but largely of his own creation. The fleet – which exists in its own mythological world – is collectively referred to as the Higner Maritime Collection.
Fieldwork refers to the first-hand documentation and observation of cultural knowledge, expressive traditions, and community life through audio interviews, photographs, and video recordings. As a Folk Arts Program we conduct folklife fieldwork in the greater Buffalo-Niagara region, with a special focus on folk art.
Folklife refers to the informally learned and shared traditional expressive culture of a community, including familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, and regional groups. Folklife consists of:
- Folk art such as painting, calligraphy, paper-cuts, assemblages, and beadwork
- Handicrafts such as carvings and basketweaving,
- Textiles and needlework such as knitting, weaving, quilting, and embroidery
- Foodways such as traditional food preparation, recipes, attitudes, and symbolic meanings of food
- Folk and traditional songs, music, and dance
- Oral narratives including legends
- Folk beliefs and practices
- Vernacular buildings such as houses, barns, mills, and outbuildings
- Calendar customs and seasonal traditions such as festivals, pageants, and annual holidays
- Rites of passage such as birth celebrations, coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and funerals
- Clothing such as formal regalia and ethnic and traditional dress
- Technical skills and knowledge related to traditional occupations
- Traditional use of land and space
(American Folklife Center, Library of Congress)
Conducting fieldwork helps preserve and celebrate the diverse expressive cultural traditions practiced in the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Region. Working directly with traditional artists, community members, and other bearers of traditional knowledge to develop our exhibits, programs, and projects helps connect visitors with cultural practitioners in their region.
Fieldwork covers both one-on-one interviews or photos with individual artists and attendance at larger community events, including the Myanmar New Year celebration at the West Side Bazaar, where a dou:ba’ drum, cymbal, and bamboo clapper group performed the U Shwe Yoe comedic folk dance.