Baton Rouge Folklife Survey

Baton Rouge Folklife Survey documented the traditions and art forms of Louisiana's capital city. Between 2013 and 2017, folklorists were contracted to document different types of traditions throughout the capital region. The survey produced the online book, Baton Rouge Traditions, which includes 39 multimedia essays by 21 folklorists and writers. Most were prepared from 2014 and 2017. Others were prepared as part of the New Populations Project, the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany, or earlier projects. Most feature audio clips from 144 recorded interviews. Following an introduction and photo essay by me, the essays are organized into six chapters: Baton Rouge Gives, Baton Rouge Makes, Plays, Worships, Works, and Diversifies. These are all public documents that will be deposited at LSU library. Most essays have field reports that provide additional details that would be of interest to those wanting to present these traditions to the public. The project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and an Archie Green Fellowship to Maida Owens and the Louisiana Folklore Society from the Library of Congress. That documentation is also deposited in the Library of Congress.

On June 30, 2017, Maida Owens participated in a Pecha Kucha night of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge. The presentation is available online here.

See the virtual book, Baton Rouge Traditions. The research project is described in detail in the essay, Baton Rouge: A Cultural Microcosm of Louisiana.

See the Baton Rouge Traditions exhibit, exhibit kit, and guide to making a quilt for your community.

Public Events

A series of four panel discussions were held in September and October, 2017, to highlight the seven chapters of the online book.

Wednesday, September 13 - How We Worship and Diversify

Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris (right) led the discussion with (left to right) Rabbi Jordan Goldson, Reverend Robin McCullough-Bade, Clarence Jones, and Dandina Rao. Photo: Gaye Hamilton.

At the Mid-City Ballroom, a panel discussion about the diverse worship traditions in the city was held. Assistant Secretary of the Office of Cultural Development Kristin Sanders gave an opening welcome. Dr. Dereck J. Rovaris, Chief Diversity Officer at Louisiana State University, led the discussion by the panel. The panel included: Rabbi Jordan Goldson of Congregation B'Nai Israel, Reverend Robin McCullough-Bade with Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, Clarence Jones with Heritage, and Dandina Rao with Datta Hindu Temple.

Participants of Baton Rouge Traditions: How We Worship and Diversify

The event also featured Rabbi Jordan Goldson giving an introduction to Jewish worship and music, Francis Williams Slack with Heritage singing a solo, and Sri Santosh Kumar Acharya Samudrala with Datta Temple giving a Hindu worship puja demonstration followed by bhajan singing led by Ramnik Modha with Dr. William Bertolette on harmonium and Dandina Rao on tabla. The event ended with a performance of Negro spirituals by Heritage led by Rev. Clarence Jones. The Giving Quilt helped the public make quilt squares for the Baton Rouge Traditions quilt.

Quilters help people make quilt squares for the Baton Rouge Traditions quilt

Saturday, September 16 - How We Make and Play

As part of the Perkins Rowe Arts Festival, tradition bearers shared about making their crafts. Maida Owens moderated the panel about family and cultural traditions with three Baton Rouge crafts people. Judith Braggs' quilts illustrate her childhood memories. Joubert Harris is the only split oak basket maker in the state. And John Hu does Chinese paper folding. Each craft reflects their traditional culture.

Participants of Baton Rouge Traditions: How We Make and Play

Quilters from The Giving Quilt helped the public make quilt squares for the Baton Rouge Traditions quilt. They made 111 quilt squares at the first two events.

Making more quilt squares

Tuesday, October 10 - How We Give and Work

This evening was a pre-event fundraiser to the Capital Area United Way's Jambalaya Jam.

Judy Holley, Sharon Coleman, Carolyn Musso, and Maida Owens participated in the panel. Photo: Danny Belanger.

Carolyn Musso with the Grandsons of Italy St Joseph altar, Judy Holley with The Giving Quilt and Wasted Women Bee, and Sharon Coleman with Friends of the Animals shared about their traditions with Maida Owens moderating the discussion. The Giving Quilt again helped the public make quilt squares for the Baton Rouge Traditions quilt.

Making quilt squares.

Saturday, October 28 - Who We Are

Maida Owens, Judy Holley, Karron Alford, and Renee Chatelain participated in the Who We Are panel at the Louisiana Book Festival. Photo: Gaye Hamilton.

At the Louisiana Book Festival, we explored the online book, Baton Rouge Traditions, what was learned, and how the documentation can be used to help the city. After documenting tradition bearers in the greater Baton Rouge area, it is clear that Baton Rouge is a microcosm of the state and that the city has much more than most people realize. Panelists include Renee Chatelain with the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, Karron Alford with Visit Baton Rouge, Judy Holley with The Giving Quilt/Wasted Women Bee, and Maida Owens with the Louisiana Folklife Program.

At the quilting tent, quilters from The Giving Quilt helped the public make more quilt squares and finished piecing the quilt top.

The Baton Rouge Traditions quilt at the Louisiana Book Festival

Making the Baton Rouge Traditions Quilt

Baton Rouge Traditions quilt

The Giving Quilt, Wasted Women's Bee, and other quilting bees in the greater Baton Rouge area collaborated to create a commemorative quilt to reflect what Baton Rouge means to the community. The public participated by creating quilt squares at each event. They chose a quilt square kit and background material or they designed their own. The kits required varying levels of skill so that both adults and youth could participate. Kits included iconic locations in Baton Rouge (the old and new state capitols, churches, the Baton Rouge dock, riverboats, houses) in addition to common landscape features (magnolias, cypress trees), animals (alligators, egrets), cultural activities (choirs, LSU tigers and Southern jaguars, cooking ingredients and foods), and vehicles (school bus, police car, EMS). After assembling the kit, the pieces were ironed onto the backing and the maker's name ironed onto the back so that those who made the selected squares could be notified.

Making quilt squares

The quilters selected squares for the final quilt, which will travel with the exhibit.

Baton Rouge Traditions quilt in progress