Deep Woods project

Hey folks! I thought you might like to see parts of the project grant I submitted to the Regional Arts & Culture Council (RACC) last week. Here’s the summary and closing statement (much is cut out in between). I won’t hear back about funding until December, but I’m recording an animal folk song album regardless. Till then, keep your fingers crossed! –Andy

Project Summary:
Under the name Red Yarn, I collect American folksongs about animals to perform for children. I build puppets and create original interactive shows inspired by the songs’ characters. I envision a place called the Deep Woods where these characters coexist. This imaginary world reflects the history and natural landscape of the USA—diverse, strange and wild. I hope to share my vision of the Deep Woods in three ways. In Fall 2012 I will self-produce an album of animal folksong adaptations, with arrangements and artwork that expand the Deep Woods universe. From January to June 2013, in collaboration with filmmaker Nina Isaacson and local puppeteers, I will produce short puppet films set to the songs. The films, streaming for free online, will entertain young audiences while exploring mature social, ecological and political themes. Finally I will host three public, participatory events at Multnomah County Libraries in August 2013, with live music, puppetry, film screenings, crafts and crowd-sourced art installations.

Closing Statement:
I began my journey into the Deep Woods four years ago. Drawn to American folk songs’ strange narratives, twisted humor, and preoccupation with death, I dug into old anthologies, children’s books, vinyl records, and library databases. The animal characters and tales I found took hold of me, clawing their way into my music, puppetry, and teaching career. I discovered in the Deep Woods potent symbols of racial and class tension, weird American fantasies, the wilderness lurking beneath our civilized surface. But the Deep Woods is threatened from many sides—literally, through the destruction of natural habitats, and in the imagination, as the chaos of pop culture devours our memory of a shared folk heritage. I see this project as an opportunity to culminate a long chapter of my creative and professional life, and to help save the Deep Woods. More than just preserving these old songs, I wish to animatethem—bring them to life—and engage the community in doing the same. While folksingers have always updated older material, I want to rekindle and share the vibrant creative energy I’ve found in folksongs. Working with Nina and a talented team of puppeteers on our music video “Tails”, we tapped into that energy. I want to go deeper and reach more people, inspiring them to take creative ownership of our collective history. Portland strikes me as the perfect place to undertake this project. Here, at the edge of the real woods, we romance the folk, the frontier lifestyle. And we are looked to as a national model of how to build the future with reverence for the past. With RACC’s help, I hope my Deep Woods project will become a model of modern creative folklore.

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