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New Jersey Folk Festival to Receive Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Programming returns to Woodlawn in April 2022

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The New Jersey Folk Festival has been approved for a $20,000 National Endowment for the Arts Grants for Arts Projects award to support its 2022 in-person programming “On the Move: Transportation and Migration” on April 30, 2022, at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

This public humanities project brings together students, community members, and faculty to feature collaborative research, storytelling, and performances that highlight the contributions of diverse arts and cultures of New Jersey. The New Jersey Folk Festival project is among 1,248 projects across America totaling $28,840,000 that were selected to receive this first round of fiscal year 2022 funding in the Grants for Arts Projects category.

The NJFF is a special program with a rich history and an exciting future.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects like this one from The New Jersey Folk Festival that help support the community’s creative economy,” said NEA Acting Chair Ann Eilers. “The New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers University is among the arts organizations nationwide that are using the arts as a source of strength, a path to well-being, and providing access and opportunity for people to connect and find joy through the arts.”

The New Jersey Folk Festival has brought students, community members, and faculty together to collaborate on public events and research projects since 1975. Based in the Rutgers Department of American Studies, the festival is part of the curriculum through the Festival Management Class and the certificate in Curation and Cultural Programming.

Gabriel Broad njff 2008“The NJFF was a highlight of my undergraduate career,” says Garrett Broad RC’08, an intern for three years and now a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University and a member of the NJFF board, who is looking forward to attending the in-person event on April 30.

"It gave me a unique chance to cultivate a set of highly transferable skills, collaborate with people from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, and learn valuable lessons about community engagement through the arts.”

The signature festival on Rutgers Day draws thousands of people, and new projects developed during the pandemic to reach audiences in their homes, across the state, and throughout the year like the New Jersey Folk Podcast feature the collaborative research and storytelling of students and community members. 

“The festival went from a 10,000 person outdoor event to intimate videos of artists speaking about their craft and their stories,” says Gillian Dauer, an SAS senior majoring in American studies, and public relations coordinator in March of 2020. “In my mind, that's the origin of the podcast project.”

It became my job to let someone else tell their story in their own words and on their own terms,” reflects Dauer. It was about empowering someone else and giving them the space to share. And for the listener, my job was to create a safe learning space.”

The New Jersey Folk Podcast brings the research and presentational work of the festival to a new medium, emphasizing intimate interviews and conversations with the artists and community members encouraging a diversity of editorial voices as the student team researches, interviews, writes, and records stories that reflect the diversity of artistic traditions and community experiences in the state. GillianDauer 2

“We are all thinking very quickly on our feet these days and evolving new mediums with podcasts and remote feeds of dances, lectures, and performances. As we go forward it is going to increase accessibility to a greater audience,” said Board President Elena Anastasiou Rossi DC’78, who was a student intern the first year of the festival.

"Now that we have the capability to reach out to anybody, it’s our mission to do so—to share New Jersey history and cultures and the various people who have and continue to contribute so that with more exposure, people will understand each other better.”

In 2022, the in-person festival and the year-round podcasts and performances will focus on the theme “On the Move: Transportation and Migration.” Past festival themes have highlighted cultural communities such as “Oaxaca” (2020-21), “Native Americans of New Jersey” (2018), and “Turkish Traditions” (2017) as well as occupational themes like “Maritime Traditions” (2015).

“I’ve returned to help strengthen NJFF's capacity to celebrate the Indigenous cultures that make New Jersey such a vibrant place to live,” says current board member and four-year intern Gabrielle Rossi SAS’14 who has also returned to Rutgers to pursue a Ph.D. at the School of Public Affairs and Administration.

CarlaCevasco MariaKennedy“The festival, our podcast, and our curriculum provide a laboratory where students, artists, faculty, and community members come together and find ways to amplify that cultural knowledge and creativity for a greater public audience,” says Maria Kennedy, co-director of the New Jersey Folk Festival with Carla Cevasco, a professor of American Studies.

"Working with students and community members to bring the festival to life is my favorite part of the job. We work from a place of recognizing that deep knowledge about cultural traditions and innovative expressions of community identity are held by the people themselves.”

Notes Broad: “The NJFF is a special program with a rich history and an exciting future.”