Harnett County, North Carolina is a cultural crossroads. The county straddles Eastern NC and the Piedmont, acting as bridge between rural North Carolina and the more urban landscape of the Triangle. What else makes Harnett County special? What are the cultures, arts, and historical foundations of Harnett that make the county a unique landscape? Who are the musicians, and singers? Who are the painters and potters? The leaders of Harnett County citizens wanted to know. They knew NC Folk specialized in fieldwork and could answer these questions.
What is fieldwork? Fieldwork is conducted by collecting archival research, personal recorded interviews, photography, film and music that represents the people, history and art of an area. It offers insights into a community’s character and helps reveal their experiences, tastes, and cultural resources. This information is a valuable tool when planning events, festivals, and celebrations. So what’s important to the people of a community and how do we encourage people to celebrate it?
DISCOVER & IDENTIFY NEEDS
Harnett has a great central location, and boasts manufacturing and thriving small towns and communities. But what is all of that built upon? NC Folk worked with the North Carolina Arts Council and Harnett County leaders to document the one-of-a-kind artists, musicians, and tradition bearers that make the cultural landscape so special. Harnett County wanted to know about these folks, and they wanted to hear the stories. They wanted to hear the stories of the former workers in America’s last operating denim manufacturing plant. They wanted to know about the unique foodways that help define their culture. They wanted to know about their expert furniture makers and craftsmen? They wanted to know about Link Wray, one of the most influential guitarists of all time. And we were determined to find answers!
CREATE PROJECT TIMELINE
In March, 2016, NC Folk began our fieldwork with Harnett County which would span six months. We worked with researchers, an amazing photographer and two fieldworkers to document the artists in Harnett County. We held bi-monthly meetings where we presented our findings to the county arts council.
IMPLEMENT & ENERGIZE
Over the six months our team drove the back roads and implemented our in-depth summer fieldwork. Every interview brought us some piece of new information and more people to talk with. We collected photographs, music and other recordings; we identified metal sculptors, community picking parlors, story tellers, Coharie tribal dancers, wood carvers and scratch-home bakers. We discovered an amazing gospel singer, a memory painter and a ministry that makes and distributes prayer quilts to folks in need. In this short six-month time frame, NC Folk interviewed and documented 50+ artists, musicians, cooks and wisdom keepers, most of whom had been living in Harnett County all their lives.
NC Folk held community meetings and presented on-going information to the Harnett County arts council. At the project’s end, we presented a final 60-page research document, 50 hours of recordings, logs, photographs and recommendations for programming allowed them to bring their county into focus and start building their communities’ arts infrastructure.
Photographs by Indaia Whitcomb
EVALUATE & IMPROVE
We learned that even with the enormous amount of work we did North Carolina communities are always evolving. North Carolina has a rapidly changing landscape, with new arrivals of people from countries all around the world, which in turn means new languages, new food and music. This just means there is more opportunity to continue to capture your unique story, wherever you may be! Let NC Folk help discover your cultural roots.
In 2016, the North Carolina Arts Council hired the North Carolina Folklife Institute to conduct a folklife survey for Harnett County, North Carolina. Their research was thorough and uncovered an often unseen network of artisans from across the county. NC Folk exceeded our expectations with well-curated content, solid community leads, and a greater understanding of the state of traditional and folk arts in Harnett County. A folklife survey is a strong foundation on which to build a community’s arts infrastructure, and I heartily recommend NC Folk as a trusted partner to help discover the traditional arts of your county.”
~ Leigh Ann Wilder, Arts in Communities Director, NC Arts Council