Moab Folk Festival finds arts vital during pandemic | Go out and go

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The Friends of the Moab Folk Festival have found themselves thinking outside the box to continue spreading a happy noise in the community despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-profit organization sponsors the Moab Folk Festival, as well as a free concert series and educational outreach for schools in Grand County.

By combining federal funding and dedication, Assistant Director Cassie Paup has helped the festival continue to serve its community throughout the pandemic. The 2021 Moab Folk Festival is slated for the weekend of November 5, public health guidelines permitting.

“Arts and culture are the glue that unites our community. Especially when we are going through something so new and uncertain, especially for children, with so much change and so much fear, ”said Paup. “We are always committed to serving the community and providing our entertainment and arts education. “

During the pandemic, Paup coordinated a virtual Moab folk festival that aired over two nights and can be viewed on YouTube. MFF was also able to host a singing and songwriting workshop on its Facebook page; generally, these events are free to the public and take place at the Star Hall. In a typical year, the Moab Folk Festival is the largest revenue generating event for the nonprofit organization and funds free arts programming for the community.

Last year’s free summer concert series was canceled due to the pandemic, but with more of the population vaccinated and health officials rolling back restrictions, Paup plans to host the free concert series. at Swanny Park this summer.

“It’s an adaptation that fascinates me. We come back to face-to-face events, and it looks like the city and state are okay with us in producing this with care, ”said Paup.

What she is most proud of, however, are the nonprofit’s efforts in education during the pandemic. A multi-year tradition, MFF invites skilled Navajo hoop dancers Joseph Secody and Patrick Willie to teach their craft to fourth-grade students at Helen M. Knight Elementary School in Moab.

This year, it didn’t make sense to ask Secody and Willie to provide instructions in person. So the two hoop dancers put together a 20-minute instructional video, which was distributed to all fourth graders. The video featured clips from years past and cultural education on what hoop dancing means to the Navajo people.

“As the teachers were all in a different place in their teaching schedules, they could show the video anytime they liked,” Paup said. Another advantage of the video format was that MFF could also share it with the charter school. While MFF can usually only afford to bring Secody and Willie to one school, the video could be shared with other schools.

“It’s just a little more available and accessible,” added Paup.

Last April, MFF planned to host Minnesota singer and songwriter Ellis Delaney, who previously performed at the Moab Folk Festival. Perpetually a public favorite, Delaney is always voted to return by attendees at folk festivals. Paup had planned for Delaney to teach an in-person songwriting workshop to sixth graders in April 2020, which was then postponed and ultimately canceled. But together, they found a way to virtually present his workshop.

On Zoom, Delaney worked with a grade six class every week, which is a five-week program.

“Her style and personality is so effusive, bubbly and contagious, which translated very well for the school children,” said Paup.

Each class wrote their own song with Delaney, developing lyrics in the Zoom chat feature and on a collaborative document. At the end of the five weeks, each class presented their songs on Zoom, including clips of the students performing their recess work and Delaney singing their lyrics.

“It was so cool to see it all on a screen and the kids on their little laptops; it was really much better than I thought, because you never know what something will look like virtually, ”said Paup. “I feel like everything we’ve done has translated into the audience we were trying to reach. And the students’ words were really real; they were about to go back to normal, and what is even normal? It was really empowering. “

MFF’s emphasis on educational outreach has been “intentionally broadened and developed” in recent years, according to Paup. What started as artist assemblies in schools has evolved into these weeklong sessions where musicians can fully share their craft with students.

“These are times like when you feel the click and the connection have been made and hopefully brightened up an otherwise virtual year on screen for kids,” said Paup. “I think it was necessary this year, more than anything. The songwriting class really gave them a voice.

With the light shining at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Paup is focusing on the possibility of in-person events this summer and fall. But the dexterity and creativity required to adapt music education into a virtual format – and the pros and cons of doing so – have negated MFF’s mission.

“I feel like [the pandemic] distilled our mission and our activities down to the essentials. The feelings really did translate, even though they were in the video, ”said Paup. “Sometimes it conveys, even if it’s on a screen, the feeling and the inspiration that a genuine connection can still happen – with the right people at the right time in the right place. I think now more than ever we need the arts.


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