The Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College has been awarded a $30,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant for its Folk Arts Program.
Augusta is one of 832 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive a portion of $23.3 million in funding.
The Art Works grant will support Augusta's Dance Trail project, documentary recording projects, Augusta Heritage Productions, Augusta workshop scholarships and master artist presentations.
Augusta's Folk Art Coordinator Gerry Milnes said, "We are fortunate that the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College is considered by the Endowment to be the leading folk and traditional arts advocacy group in the state. Through the years the Endowment has supported numerous projects carried out under Augusta's commitment to public-sector programming."
The Dance Trail project is the first of its kind to promote traditional square dancing by connecting old-time dance venues throughout West Virginia. The 2012 season, which ran from April through November, highlighted 10 communities: Franklin, Henderson, Helvetia, Elkins, Harman, Riverton, Dunmore, Ireland, Sutton and Glenville.
The 2013 season will add three new communities to the trail: the town of Upper Tract in Pendleton County, and the towns of Bluegrass and Monterey, just across the state line in Highland County, Va. Milnes said community leaders there expressed an interest in being a part of the project in order to revive a long-standing dance tradition in that rural area. A new Mountain Dance Trail brochure, which lists all of the dances, is available in print and online at www.mountaindancetrail.org.
Milnes said all of the community dances "feature live old-time string music and local dance callers who maintain traditional square dance figures and 'patter.'"
"The dance figures are not hard," he said. "New dancers are welcomed and guided through the figures by more experienced dancers. Some folks come just to watch the dancing and enjoy the music."
Milnes and Becky Hill, an AmeriCorps VISTA worker with the Augusta Heritage Center, document musicians, callers and dancers at each specific dance site to ensure the traditions of each community are maintained.
Milnes says other current Augusta outreach projects include a documentary film, supported by the Endowment grant and the West Virginia Humanities Council, which will document the various community dancing traditions found on the Dance Trail. Other projects are an initiative to bring all of Augusta's older documentary programs into digital formats - that is, analog tapes to audio CDs and VHS video productions to DVD.
In making the grant award announcement, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman said, "I'm proud to announce these 832 grants to the American public including the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College. These projects offer extraordinary examples of creativity in our country, including the creation of new work, innovative ways of engaging audiences, and exemplary education programs."
In March 2012, the NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for Art Works requesting more than $74 million in funding. The 832 recommended NEA grants total $22.3 million, span 13 artistic disciplines and fields, and focus primarily on the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing works for the benefit of American audiences. Applications were reviewed by panels of outside experts convened by NEA staff and each project was judged on its artistic excellence and merit.
A Center of Excellence for more than 40 years, the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College offers several week-long programs featuring instruction in many traditions of music, dance, craft and folklore. Concerts, dances, a summer festival and other heritage arts events are also part of the Augusta experience.
For more information, visit the D&E website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.