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 and the surrounding parishes, so it is our current project.
See Traditions in Baton Rouge for photos of traditions already documented or identified in addition to traditions probably in Baton Rouge..
Baton Rouge is a diverse metropolitan community and 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, neighborhoods are economically stratified rather than by cultural or ethnic groups. This makes many cultural groups 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.
Funders and Partners
The project is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Library of Congress. The National Endowment for the Arts supports documentation of folk and traditional arts through a grant to the Louisiana Division of the Arts. The Library of Congress supports documentation of occupational traditions through an Archie Green Fellowship to Maida Owens and the Louisiana Folklore Society. The focus of the occupational traditions will be workers in small businesses with specialized skills.
All documentation will be deposited in the Folklife Program's Special Collection at Louisiana State University Library. Documentation of occupational traditions will also be deposited in the Library of Congress's Occupational Folklife Project.
Completed Essays and Projects in Process
The following projects are either completed or in process.
- Boudin, Teacakes, and Specialty Grocery Stores: Small Food Businesses in Baton Rouge - Maria Zeringue
- Folk and Traditional Arts in the Capitol Region: Sustaining Community Values Through Handcraft - Douglas Manger
- The Folk Artistry of Sac-a-lait Fisherman Glenn Davis - Douglas Manger
- Stitching Memories: Judith Braggs' Black Folk Art Quilts - Laura Marcus Green
- Fiber arts for a cause (quilting, sewing, knitting, crochet) - Laura Marcus Green
- Cakes and bakeries - Laura Marcus Green
- African American church dress - Laura Marcus Green
- A Master's Touch: Wirt Bellue's Inventions and Reinventions in the Workplace - Douglas Manger
- Generational Small Businesses in Baton Rouge: Creative Pragmatism at Work - Douglas Manger
- Body Adornment (hairstylists, barbers, tattoo artist, nail salon) - Kelley Fisher
- African American Preaching Styles - Joyce Jackson
- Bluesman Larry Garner - Joyce Jackson
- Skilled workers in repair shops (furniture, watch, locksmith, etc.) - Jocelyn and Jon Donlon
- Mardi Gras costume makers - Jocelyn and Jon Donlon
- African American traditions photo essay - James Terry
- Real Doctors: Folk Traditions of LSU Vet School - Carolyn Ware
- In Noah's Footsteps: Traditions of Animal Rescue Groups in Baton Rouge - Carolyn Ware
- Baton Rouge Blues - Joyce Jackson
- Sacred music - Liz Williams
- Legends of the State Capitol - David Kunian
Essays about Baton Rouge from Previous Projects and Other Sources
The following essays on the Folklife in Louisiana website are from previous projects, including the New Populations Project (2005-2011), the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, and the Folklife in the Florida Parishes Project (1984).
- East Baton Rouge and Livingston Parishes
- Moon Cakes, Knotting, and Feng Shui: A Peek of Chinese Culture in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Places Called Home: Folk Traditions among Muslim Immigrants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- The Difference Between a House and a Home: Latino Experiences in Baton Rouge
- The Moon Festival and Other Vietnamese Traditions in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- The Origami of Baton Rouge Schoolgirls: Games and Notes on Looseleaf Paper
- Sample Fieldnotes: Teen Memories of Grade School Traditions
- People of the Florida Parishes: Their Arts, Crafts, and Traditions (includes split oak basket weaving, quilting, St. Joseph Altars)
- Balance of Grace and Strength: Chinese Folk Dancing in South Louisiana
- Dancing in the Light: The Nine-Day Festival of Navaratri in South Louisiana
Folk Theater/Street Performance
- It's a Very Pink Day in My Neighborhood - the Spanish Town Mardi Gras
- From Country to City: The Blues and Gospel in the Florida Parishes and Baton Rouge
- From Rural to Urban, From Acoustic to Amplified: the Blues in Louisiana
- Music of the Black Churches
- My Way To Show Baton Rouge I'm Here: Latino Music and Dance in Baton Rouge
- Songs of Spirit and Continuity of Consciousness: African American Gospel Music in Louisiana
- The Gospel Train: The Zion Travelers Spiritual Singers
- An Urban Legend: Workers Buried in a Concrete Piling of the U.S. 190 Mississippi River Bridge
- Preserving Vietnamese Culture and Language in Southern Louisiana: Altars as Symbols of Identity
- Satyanarayana Puja: A Hindu Prayer Service in South Louisiana
- He Can Have his Cake and We Will Eat It Too: The Role of the Groom's Cake in Southeastern Louisiana Wedding Receptions - Cherry Levin (Digest: a journal of foodways & culture. Volume 3, Summer 2013)
Participation by College Students
College faculty members are invited to participate by offering service learning opportunities for their students. Students 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.