Folklore Works: Bayou Culture Collaborative

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Small, colorful, flower head sculptures made from garfish scales.
Decorative flowers made from garfish scales in Houma, LA.

Maida Owens is a folklorist who serves as director of the Louisiana Folklife Program, an important partner in the Bayou Culture Collaborative, along with the Louisiana Folklore Society, university centers and other non-profits. She researched efforts to address Louisiana’s coastal land loss and climate migration and realized that the arts and culture network is not involved in policymaking or the community resilience conversation. Further, that increasing migration away from the coast and its impact on the traditional cultures have not been addressed.

In response, they created the Bayou Culture Collaborative (, which offers strategies to help sustain traditional culture, primarily workshops that she administers or produces. “Passing It On” workshops help tradition bearers pass on a tradition. The “Sense of Place and Loss” workshops bring together the arts, culture, and science to inspire advocacy and creativity in addressing this aspect of the human dimension.

Folklorists have a unique set of skills and expertise to help communities retain their traditional cultures while coping with cultural disruption due to climate change.  Folklorists can help communities deal with changes within stressed communities whether they stay and adapt, move to the nearest safer environment, or move across country. Louisiana is dealing with this now, but this issue will eventually impact the entire United States.  If folklorists become engaged with policymakers and participate in community resilience conversations, they will not only be able to help communities, but develop new strategies for the field of folklore. This work can increase folklore’s relevancy and significantly broaden folklore’s constituency by increasing the network to include environmentalists and state agencies that were unaware of our work.

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