As one of the official folklorists of Utah’s Living Traditions Festival, Adrienne Decker has spent countless hours to help build and nurture relationships with local folk artists in Utah since 2015. It’s not always easy to define ‘folklore’ or what it means to be a folklorist, but for Decker, a lot of it comes down to working with a variety of groups to spearhead grassroots initiatives and programming opportunities based on cultural traditions.
While there are just a select universities with folklore-related programs, Decker obtained her master’s degree in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon. Other schools along the west coast that have similar departments include Idaho State University as well as Utah State University.
After spending time as an Assistant Folklorist with the Oregon Folklife Network, Decker later moved to Utah where she became a co-director at the Chase Museum for Folk Arts in Liberty Park. The one-of-a-kind museum has three permanent exhibits and a rotating exhibit featuring sculptures, paintings, traditional instruments, and unique representations of folk art pieces; many of which have been in the Living Traditions Festival at one point in time. Currently, Decker is putting together an exhibit called Play On! which gives children and adults the opportunity to learn about traditional toys and games of folk artists from the State of Utah Art Collection. The exhibit opens in late April and runs through June 29, 2018.
By working alongside cultural leaders from many different countries, she can connect with the people and help them share their stories in a way that’s easy to understand. Many of those visual stories and artistic creations are on display in the craft market area on the during the Living Traditions Festival. Attendees can see the craft artists on the Salt Lake City and County Building’s south lawn, directly across from Library Square and the Leonardo Museum.
Decker’s day-to-day responsibilities including working closely with refugees as well as immigrants who routinely attend the Living Traditions Festival. Some of the participants have attended every year since the festival’s inception back in 1986. She enjoys working with the familiar festival artists not only during the festival weekend, but also year-round.
While Decker acknowledges the Living Traditions Festival is held in the heart of Salt Lake City, many artists come from close-knit communities in all corners of the state from Logan to St. George and everywhere in-between.
“In my work with these different cultures, I help develop these reciprocal relationships with students, libraries, senior care centers and more.” said Decker. “There’s an academic side of folk arts, but I am more like a social worker for contemporary folk arts.”
In the months leading up to the Living Traditions Festival, Decker helps the craft artists get their booth spaces confirmed and demonstrations scheduled. She also works to help educate festival attendees about the many unique cultures represented and can often clear up misconceptions some people may have about cultural traditions.
To learn more about the Living Traditions Festival craft artists, please visit http://livingtraditionsfestival.com/craft-artists/ for artist links and information about the many featured individuals and groups. Additional profiles and spotlights will also be posted on the Utah Living Traditions Festival’s social media sites in the weeks leading up to the festival.