Published February 7, 2022

Charlottesville—Virginia Humanities announced today that Katy Clune will be serving as the new State Folklorist and director of the Virginia Folklife Program.

As the daughter of a Foreign Service officer, Clune grew up mostly overseas. As a result, she brings a global lens to her work in the cultural sector.

“I am honored to serve the communities of Virginia and to continue raising awareness around the incredible cultural diversity in the changing U.S. South,” said Clune. “In addition to building on the important programs of the Virginia Folklife Program, I hope to create new support structures for cultural expression and opportunities for emerging documentarians.”

Clune earned her BA in art history from the University of California, Berkeley and began her career at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and the Textile Museum in Washington, DC. In 2013, she moved to North Carolina to earn her MA in folklore from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Clune recording audio in Luang Prabang, Laos, in 2018 – photo by Vansana Nolintha

Her thesis research explored how a family of first-generation Laotian-Americans sustained and shared their cultural identity through traditional foodways in the rural community of Morganton, NC. In 2017, she began working for Duke Arts, Duke University’s arts initiative, where she helped to open the Rubenstein Arts Center. In 2020, she received an Archie Green Fellowship from the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center. As part of the Fellowship, Clune and her collaborator Julia Gartrell interviewed twenty-two repair professionals—from silversmiths to horologists to diesel engine mechanics—to explore changes, challenges, and triumphs in the skilled trades.

Acting director of the Virginia Folklife Program, Pat Jarrett, said he’s looking forward to working with Clune. “I am very excited to see what Katy can bring to the Folklife Program,” said Jarrett. “Her passion for living traditions comes through in her work in North Carolina, and I look forward to collaborating with her here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“We’re thrilled to welcome Katy to Virginia and to our team,” said Matthew Gibson, executive director of Virginia Humanities. “Our Folklife Program has a long history of documenting and engaging with Virginia’s diverse traditional folkways through apprenticeships, performances, fieldwork, and cultural exchange. We’re looking forward to the next chapter of the program and seeing where Katy will lead us.”

The Virginia Folklife Program, established in 1989 as a program of Virginia Humanities, is the state’s center for the documentation, presentation, support, and celebration of Virginia’s rich cultural heritage. Past directors include Garry Barrow and Jon Lohman. The program receives financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia General Assembly.

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Virginia Humanities is the state humanities council. We’re headquartered in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia, but we serve the entire state. We aim to share the stories of all Virginians—or, better yet, find ways for people to share their own stories. We want Virginians to connect with their history and culture and, in doing that, we hope we’ll all get to know each other a little better. Founded in 1974, we are one of fifty-six humanities councils created by Congress with money and support from the National Endowment for the Humanities to make the humanities available to all Americans. To learn more, visit

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