BCTC students have a unique opportunity this fall: take an in-person class on Folk Studies with Bob Gates, the founder of the Kentucky Folklife Program.
This class is more than just a general education course, its about learning how to see the world and better understand people, Gates said. Everybody belongs to folk groups and has their own culture.
To Gates, folklore is not storytelling. His Introduction to Folk Studies class focuses on anthropology and getting out in the field.
His advice to students is: be prepared to interact with people. One of the class assignments is to observe an event and describe what happens to learn to look at things from a different point of view.
Gates says that students from a variety of disciplines find ways to put what they learn in folk studies to use as it can change their perspectives on how they work with people.
If students aren't able to make it to the Lawrenceburg Campus, two sections of the class will be offered online. The Introduction to Folk Studies course counts towards the Cultural Studies requirement for BCTC students.
Bob Gates has been working in the field of folk studies since he graduated from WKU with a masters degree in Folk Studies and Historic Preservation in 1983.
He has worked on documenting unique cultures and developing programs in places such as upstate New York, northwestern Tennessee, and Louisiana. Gates also served as state folklorist for the Louisiana Arts Council and developed the Louisiana Folklife Festival before moving to Berea, Ky. in 1989.
Upon his return to Kentucky, Gates started the Kentucky Folklife Program through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He instructed Berea students and conducted large regional folklife surveys along the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers, presenting representatives of the documented folk groups at a summer-long series of festivals along the Ohio River.
The program developed ties with the Kentucky Arts Council and Kentucky Historical Society and moved into state government after its first three years. Gates worked for the Kentucky Historical Society for 20 years promoting the rich folklife of Kentucky, including administering grants, developing programs which explore Kentucky's heritage, and helping communities document and present their local traditions at festivals and other events.
Gates was also instrumental in creating the Community Scholars Program, which travels to different communities around the state teaching locals how to document, interpret, preserve, and present their own traditional culture. The program continues today and has over 200 graduates.
Gates began teaching at the community college level six years ago. After six years of teaching at Maysville, this is his first semester teaching with BCTC and his first time teaching an in-person class, which will be held this fall at the Lawrenceburg Campus.
He retired from the Kentucky Historical Society four years ago, but has found a lot to do with his free time in addition to teaching. Gates continues to consult, document, and conduct oral histories on a variety of projects; serves as a board member on the Kentucky Craft History and Education Association; and works as a tour guide at Buffalo Trace Distillery where he introduces visitors to the concept of folklore, specifically the craft of bourbon making as occupational folklore.
Bob Gates has been recognized for his work and dedication to the field of folklore with the Governors Ambassador Award and Governors Award in Art/Folk Heritage Award for his work in building the Kentucky Folklife Program. He was also awarded the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public folklore at the American Folklore Society Meeting in 2012.