Interview: Vermont Folklife Center | Jobs In ME
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Interview: Vermont Folklife Center

By: Margaret Hansen

Celebrating 10 years of connecting Vermont job seekers and employers, JobsInVT.com recently selected the next two quarterly winners, who each selected a nonprofit to receive a $500 donation from JobsInVT.com. One of the Live Work Give contest winners was Bob Hooker, who chose Vermont Folklife Center (VFC). I recently caught up with VFC's Development Director, Ned Castle, to learn more about this interesting organization that is dedicated to preserving and presenting the cultural traditions of Vermont.

What does term "folklife" encompass at your center?

Ned Castle, Vermont Folklife Center: The term "folklife" is synonymous with "folklore" and essentially, for us, encompasses the exploration and documentation of traditional culture in Vermont - in the past and present. Founded in 1984, the Vermont Folklife Center (VFC) is a nationally known folklife education organization that uses ethnography (study of cultural experience through interviewing, participation and observation) to strengthen the understanding of the cultural and social fabric of Vermont's diverse communities. The VFC's mission is to broaden, strengthen, and deepen our understanding of Vermont; to assure a repository for our collective cultural memory; and to strengthen communities by building connections among the diverse peoples of Vermont.

How would you describe the typical patron that uses your center?

NC: Visitors to the center come from all socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. People find their way to us by wandering in off of the street in Middlebury, or through promotion for exhibits and/or events that we are hosting at our physical location in Middlebury, VT. Similarly, our programs target a diverse array of Vermonters from traditional fiddlers to New American weavers.

How large is your staff? How many interns do you employ?

NC: Our staff consists of four full-time employees and two part-time employees. This summer we have four interns from various educational institutions - each working in a different aspect of our programming outreach.

Do you utilize volunteers? And if so, what kinds of projects/activities can people volunteer for?

NC: We do utilize volunteers, though unfortunately we have not been very systematic about it in the past. We are always looking for administrative support, though if someone is interested in a specific area of program outreach, we are open to crafting a unique volunteer opportunity that works for that person, and us.

What have you discovered about Vermont that has surprised you?

NC: One thing that we've discovered that has turned out to be a bit of fun is an oral history recording by a Vermonter named Edgar Dodge, who talks about how to make sap beer. Our archivist took the recording to Fiddlehead Brewery and played it for their head brewer, who then said: "Let's make some!" So for the past two years, Fiddlehead has brewed the "Frog Run Sap Beer," which was inspired by the recording.

How does the Vermont Folklife Center continue to offer such a rich and varied selection of materials, information and projects? Do you have any major fundraisers?

NC: The VFC is funded through diverse revenue sources, including individual contributions, federal grants, private foundation grants and earned income. We have a small annual fundraising that's tied into our Sap Beer partnership with Fiddlehead Brewery, as well as running an annual appeal drive and a membership drive annually. Periodically, we will have a benefit that is oriented around some aspect of our programming (i.e. music, traditional arts). If someone wants to support the VFC, the simplest thing they can do is become a member!

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Margaret Hansen has been writing professionally since receiving a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maine. She has worked for multiple organizations as a weekly newspaper reporter, a weekly newspaper editor, and in a variety of internal/external marketing communications roles. Her freelance career has focused on writing and editing for print, email and web publications in the employment industry, as well as manuscript editing and resume writing.