As part of its overall focus on promoting the arts – folk dance being our own specialty – Folkmoot is engaging regional art organizations.
Folkmoot Executive Director Angie Schwab joined other art organization leaders March 17 at Western Carolina University for the LEAD: Arts Conference on Regional Art, “Beginning the Conversation.”
WCU, long recognized for its outstanding arts, culture and creative arts programs, is the catalyst for the formation of a regional arts coalition.
“Our region is known for music and arts, so that piece is in place,” Schwab told the Smoky Mountain News. “I think there is an opportunity for our industry to focus our resources on building a culture that understands the economic impact of arts and cultures, and that welcomes and nurtures arts organizations, arts and music education, and that focuses on arts entrepreneurships.”
George Brown, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts, said the effort can only enhance the regional art community and forge a wider effort to promote the arts in all its many forms found all over Western Carolina.
“The arts and artists are essential elements for a healthy community,” Brown said. “Art improves the quality of life. Artists make good neighbors. This conference will go beyond discussion of the role of arts in the community. Western Carolina University and Western North Carolina will come together through art to take action and foster a better tomorrow for the region.”
A regional arts coalition fits in well with Folkmoot’s Mission Statement:
Folkmoot…fosters the vibrancy of many cultures into one community. Folkmoot programs are based on cultural exchange and designed to build global relationships, foster cultural understanding and develop community prosperity.
Our origins trace back to 1973 when Dr. Clinton Border, a Waynesville surgeon, accompanied a local square dance team – the Soco Gap Dance Team – to a folk festival in Sidmouth, England. There began the dream that would, 11 years later, become Folkmoot USA.
Border was convinced that Western North Carolina, which was already steeped in tradition and dedicated to the preservation of its own heritage, was the perfect location for an international folk festival in the United States. During the next few years, Border traveled to other festivals in Poland and France and began gathering information and developing contacts. He also started contacting local government and community leaders back home.
By 1983, Border was ready to present his vision to Haywood County’s community leaders. Despite language barriers and the inherent scheduling difficulties involved in getting foreign performers from their homes to Haywood County, Border believed something invaluable occurs when cultures so rich in tradition come together to share their lives.
One month after Border’s presentation to community leaders, a board of directors met to launch Folkmoot USA, the North Carolina International Folk Festival.