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Community Scholars

The Community Scholars Program at the Idaho Commission on the Arts is a training opportunity for Idahoans to learn how to identify, document, and present representations of their community’s traditional arts, folklife, and worldviews.

With the idea that nobody knows a community better than its own members, the Community Scholars Program engages populations directly by teaching its members to document themselves. A short workshop is offered to teach both the basics of oral documentation as well as an overview on the fundamentals of folklife studies. Participants learn how to collect, interpret, archive, and present their subjects.

Interested participants might include:

  • Those who work in heritage and cultural tourism.
  • Cultural organizations (museums, arts councils, historical societies, and genealogists).
  • Students, educators, and librarians.
  • Artists, actors, and musicians.
  • Anyone with an interest in community development and documentation.

A community quilt made by the Deary Funeral Dinner Ladies, a multigenerational tradition of the women of Deary to provide a full funeral dinner to Deary families and the larger community when a family member passes. Between funerals, the ladies quilt. Photo by Luke Sprague for the Lewiston/Palouse Community Scholars Program.

Following the workshop, the scholars are let loose to interview, photograph, uncover, and discover the people, places, and things they decide form the foundation of their community’s identity. After a determined time the group will reform, compare documentation, and decide how the collected material will be presented. Results of the fieldwork, then, are available for local, regional, or statewide exhibits, publications, educational programs, or whatever the community sees fit.

Examples of potential projects might include:

  • A traveling photo exhibit of local ranching and farming customs and practices.
  • A driving tour of the region focused on cultural heritage tourism.
  • The development of educational curriculum for local schools.
  • A regional heritage festival.
  • A website devoted to the traditional cultural expressions of a particular place, a specific community, or a geographic area.

Training serves as an investment and the work accomplished through the investment adds value to the historic and living traditions of the community. By nurturing appreciation, Community Scholars help to preserve, perpetuate, and celebrate a community’s diversity and cultural legacy.

Interested in documenting the cultural traditions of your community? Let us know!

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