Baton Rouge Folklife Survey

The Baton Rouge Folklife Survey is an initiative of the Louisiana Division of the Arts Folklife Program, a state agency. Since 1979, we have initiated projects to identify and document Louisiana's traditional cultures and art forms and share information about their traditions and art forms with the general public. Very little research has focused on Baton Rouge, so it is our current project.

Baton Rouge is a diverse metropolitan community and East Baton Rouge Parish includes the towns of Baker, Central, and Zachary in addition to rural areas. The greater Baton Rouge area is a microcosm of the entire state and southern Mississippi. Every traditional culture group is here along with many immigrant groups. Much of Baton Rouge is relatively young as a community. A multicultural city where the local, native-born population is in the minority, Baton Rouge boomed since the 1960s and has a dispersed settlement pattern. With a few exceptions, our neighborhoods are economically stratified rather than by cultural or ethnic groups. This makes many cultural groups here less apparent. But hidden in suburban homes and inner city cottages are home altars and kitchens cabinets that feature hand carved saints. Back yards have fig trees, satsuma trees, and medicinal herbs. This is where groups gather for barbeques, crawfish boils, and fish fries. Beyond the back yard, tailgaters mingle in stadium parking lots and pilgrims visit church altars. In backyard workshops, duck decoys are carved and mandolins made. Living rooms host jam sessions for bluegrass, blues, Cajun, zydeco, and since Hurricane Katrina, Mardi Gras Indian practice. Hunters and fishermen arrive with the bounty of our state which becomes feasts for family and friends. In bedrooms, quilts and handmade dolls are created and shared.

In 2014, two professional folklorists will document community traditions, art forms, and events in Baton Rouge. Douglas Manger of Canyon Lake, Texas, will be in Baton Rouge in February. Laura Marcus Green of Santa Fe, New Mexico, will come in April. Both have extensive experience documenting traditions in communities throughout the country. They will provide essays and photographs to be added to the Folklife in Louisiana website ( They will also help us identify the following:

Tradition-bearers - people who are maintaining traditions that have been in their community or family for many years, such as music, crafts, sacred traditions, occupational traditions, foodways, celebrations, or holidays.

Organizations - groups that may want to apply for a grant to support arts activities or other cultural endeavors.

Community spokespeople - people who might like to participate in the statewide arts network or receive information about resources and opportunities.

Artifacts - items or displays that could be featured in a temporary museum exhibit in the future. The item might be loaned or recreated, such as an altar or handmade crafts.

The documentation will support the Baton Rouge Traditions Project of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. See the EBR Library's Baton Rouge Traditions Info Guide for more details. All documentation will be deposited in the East Baton Rouge Parish Library's Baton Rouge Room Archive.


What Could Be Documented?

Any traditional art form or genre can be documented and be part of the survey: crafts, music, dance, ritual/religious, customs/holidays, foodways, occupational, oral traditions, cultural landscapes, and play/games/recreation.

See Traditions in Baton Rouge for details about essays about Baton Rouge traditions on the Folklife in Louisiana website, traditions already documented, and traditions probably in Baton Rouge and not yet documented.

If you would like to suggest a tradition to be documented, please contact Maida Owens,, 225-342-8178.


Participation by College Students

College faculty members are invited to participate by offering service learning opportunities for their students. Student could participate in a number of ways:

- write about a Baton Rouge tradition

- document a tradition either by personal observation or interviews

- term paper

- service learning class

- honors thesis

Students documenting a tradition through interviews would use the Louisiana Folklife Survey materials and would submit an essay and field materials (survey form, audio recording, photos) that would be submitted to the Folklife Program and archived. Signed Louisiana Folklife Survey forms are required for the work to be used in the larger project. See Folklife Surveys and the Survey Form. Materials will be deposited in the East Baton Rouge Library Baton Rouge Collection and Act of Donation forms are required. See The Baton Rouge Digital Archive.

Students doing a larger project, such as an honors thesis, could also submit a field report detailing their strategies and reporting on other details not included in the essay. A template for the field report can be provided.

Students can use the following folklife resources on the Folklife in Louisiana website (

Scholarship on Louisiana Folklife. These include essays about many genres and cultural groups in Louisiana.

Fieldwork Basics Overview. While this is written for K-12 educators, it can equally be used by community groups and college students. It links to all of the survey forms and resources to develop questions.