The North Carolina Folklife Institute (NC Folk), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was incorporated in 1974 with a mission to promote the preservation and understanding of folklife in North Carolina. NC Folk supported the production of the North Carolina Folklife Festival in 1976, one of the state’s most successful bicentennial celebrations. That success led to the creation of the North Carolina Office of Folklife Programs, one of the first state-supported public folklore programs in the nation. With the creation of this office, NC Folk became an organization that worked behind the scenes to support programs initiated by the new folklife office. That support continued when the folklife office became part of the North Carolina Arts Council (NCAC) in the early 1980s.
Over the years, NC Folk has worked with the NCAC on many programs, ranging from production of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award ceremonies, development of the North Carolina Pottery Center, and presentation of the “Sounds of the South” national conference for the opening of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill, to production of documentary sound recordings and films, and development of award-winning heritage tourism trails. NC Folk has received and tracked numerous grants and contracts that enabled NCAC folklife staff to produce these and other special projects and events.
In 2002, NC Folk hired a staff person on contract for the first time. This position, supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the NCAC, enabled NC Folk, NCAC Folklife Program staff, and the North Carolina Folklore Society to organize statewide planning meetings for the field of public folklore and publish a report of those meetings. Donation of office space from Garden View Realty in Durham and a grant from the NEA in 2004 made it possible to hire an executive director by September 2004, and begin to expand our services and programs.
Past projects include development of interpretive Cherokee Heritage Trails’ exhibits at four locations in western North Carolina, production of a CD featuring archival recordings of western North Carolina musician Marcus Martin, and production of a series of traditional-artist-and-community profiles for broadcast on National Public Radio. More recent projects include support of the development of heritage tourism trails in rural areas across North Carolina, and of a traditional artist directory for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, and development of the Institute’s website as a resource for information about the state’s folk and traditional arts and artists and their communities.