[ Warren County ]
Warren County
Cultural & Heritage Commission
[ Warren County ]

Northwest Jersey Folklife Project

The Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission sponsors The Northwest Jersey Folklife Project with grants from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Dodge Foundation, and with support from other county cultural organizations.

The Northwest Jersey Folklife Project was established in September 1996 to collect and disseminate information about folklife in the rural, northwestern region of New Jersey. The Project supports traditional and community culture through research, resource, and networking activities. At present, the Project is creating an electronic database of traditional artists in our region. Its growing database helps community members and other researchers learn about traditional arts in our region. Many civic organizations have already used the information collected to contact artists to take part in festivals and educational programs. We have helpedthe Sussex County Arts and Heritage Council, Warren County Farmer's Fair, the town of Lincoln Park, Warren County Community College, Union County Parks and Recreation Commission, Garden State Sheep Breeders' Association, and others. The database also helps traditional artists teach people about their traditions, market their arts, and pass on traditional culture. The Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission has also utilized Northwest Jersey Folklife Project resources in an effort to incorporate folk arts into the Teen Arts program and the Heritage Days festival.

Looking ahead, the Northwest Jersey Folklife Project plans a regional archive, a research and resource center, and related dissemination projects like publications and exhibits. The topical scope--folklife--is wide, encompassing many aspects of community, traditional, and everyday culture. Folklorists often describe their field as the study of "expressive culture," or how groups demonstrate their cultural values through various forms including song, music, dance, festival, foodways, architecture, proverb, dress and many others. Folklorists use the term "art" in the broadest sense, such that it includes practices such as the culinary arts and healing arts, as well as visual and performance arts. In studying folk arts, we strive to document the community context(s) which produce and use a specific art form. Communities show their aesthetic, spiritual, and other values through the arts they create and through the arts they support as consumers--purchasing, displaying, attending, enjoying.

The Project concentrates on cultural within the rural, northwestern section of New Jersey, which covers Warren, Hunterdon, and Sussex Counties, the rural western sections of Somerset and Morris Counties, and a small section of northwestern Mercer County. However, cultural patterns do not necessarily stay within political or even natural boundaries, so specific projects may reach further.

Northwestern New Jersey's culture has developed largely from the combination of agricultural, recreational, and industrial occupations. Even in this time of population increase and change, old and new residents often share a personal connection with industrial heritage and an appreciation of the rural landscape. The Northwest Jersey Folklife Project seeks to explore cultural patterns within the region, celebrating both diversity and commonality. It considers many types of communities, groups that share characteristics such as geography, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, artistic interest, and occupation. The Folklife Project will allow residents to explore their own culture(s), as well as introduce visitors to regional culture.

The Northwest Jersey Folklife Project welcomes all leads while we build the information base. If you, or someone you know, practices a traditional art in northwestern New Jersey, please contact Charlie Groth, Folklife Specialist, by calling her Wednesday mornings at the Warren County Cultural and Heritage Commission office (908-453-4381), e-mailing E-mail:wcchc@nac.net, or sending her a note care of the WCC&HC; Shippen Manor; 8 Belvidere Avenue; Oxford NJ 07863.


At Little Lost Arts studio in Newton, Sherri Flannery-Verrilli teaches traditional dance and drama.
Here she and her puppets perform the folktale "Little Red Riding Hood."

[ puppets. ]

Like many other farms, nurseries, and florists in northwest Jersey,
Fisher Farms in Washington makes wreaths and grave blankets
that support customs of mourning and holiday celebration.

[ greenhouse. ]

Lee Daly of Newton makes bobbin and needle lace.
Collector's items themselves, the lace bobbins shown here hold the thread
which is woven and held in place by pins.

[ lace. ]