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Curatorial ConversationsCultural Representation and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival$
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Olivia Cadaval, Sojin Kim, and Diana Baird N'Diaye

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781496805980

Published to University Press of Mississippi: September 2017

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781496805980.001.0001

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What I Learned from Ralph Rinzler: The Politics and Poetics of Public Presentation

What I Learned from Ralph Rinzler: The Politics and Poetics of Public Presentation

(p.33) What I Learned from Ralph Rinzler: The Politics and Poetics of Public Presentation
Curatorial Conversations

Jack Santino

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter describes the visionary role of Ralph Rinzler, who is considered the primary impresario of the Festival of American Folklife and the individual who orchestrated its establishment as a presence on the National Mall. Although Rinzler never curated a program himself, he modelled the Festival curator’s sensibilities and shaped the Festival’s occupational culture. The author examines how Rinzler would become the personification of the intersections of academic and applied folkloristics, of idealism and pragmatism, of traditional and groundbreaking conceptions of what folklore and folklife were and how–and why–they should be represented in the national museum and presented to the public. It delineates the principles put into presentational practice; his concepts of the “folk,” of democratic populism, and of social justice in the context of the Folklife Programs, 1975–1983.

Keywords:   Applied Folkloristics, Democratic Populism, Festival of American Folklife (Smithsonian), Ralph Rinzler, Occupational Culture

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