• The Missouri River Cultural Conservancy

    Project aims to archive the art and music of the Central Missouri River Region. Noah Earle, a local folk musician, has recorded with the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy and says that it is important to keep a record of the art of our times. He says that he feels most culturally rooted in the Midwest and much of the imagery in his songs describes the nature here.

    The Missouri River Cultural Conservancy project is dedicated to preserving the music and stories of mid-Missouri. This means archiving music, poetry and other artistic performances that tell stories about Mid-Missouri. KBIA’s Erica Zucco tells us more.

    Project works to conserve regional culture, history

    By Tracy Pfeiffer and Erica Zucco

    The Missouri River Cultural Conservancy began filming and recording the works of local and regional artists and performers in 2004.

    Created by Mike Cooper, owner and operator of Cooper’s Landing in Columbia, and Jerome Wheeler, a local musician, the Conservancy aims to archive the art and music of the Central Missouri River Region for both present and future audiences.

    “[Wheeler] had been involved in a lot of community types of projects in the past and we wanted something new,” said Cooper. “We came up with the idea of video recording local musicians and trying to make those videos available to the local public so that everyone could get to know the musicians.”

    Cooper says that Wheeler was concerned with documenting local talent before artists were lost to relocation, a loss of interest in the arts, or death. Wheeler passed away just two months after the Conservancy’s first meeting, a vivid illustration of the project’s time-sensitive nature.

    Scott Wilson began working as a videographer and editor for the Conservancy in 2005.

    In his time with the Conservancy, Wilson has helped film and record about 3,000 gigabytes of digital media stored on seven or eight computer hard drives. To put that into perspective, a 1,000 gigabytes of computer hard drive space is estimated to hold 848 hours of DVD-quality video.

    The project records both known and unknown regional performers, including local folk musicians Bob Runyon, Lee Ruth, David Dean White, Hilary Scott and Noah Earle.

    Almost all of these musicians are classified as folk musicians, a genre of performers that includes Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. Folk music is generally known for being about the life of the everyday people (or “folk”), the culture of a geographic area, or a part of history that teaches a lesson to people today.

    One of the performers, Noah Earle, says that he believes the Midwest tends to be uniquely described in art and writes his songs about the imagery he finds here.

    “I really like to watch birds, so sometimes I mention bird species that I am fond of in songs,” said Earle. “Parts of the natural world that I’m real interested, plant life and bird species.”

    One such song recorded for the Conservancy combines with imagery of the Midwest with a love story.

    The song begins, “Well it’s raining maple leaves and the wild grapes are ripe on the vine./Nobody believes that I will ever make you mine, so I’m asking you please sweet Ruth Virginia, will you take a country walk with me?/Daddy’s gone to the city and I don’t know how long he’ll be.”

    The Conservancy has also recorded dancers, artists and poets, and it hopes to continue recording every type of artist possible.

    “Music provides the best opportunity we have, but we really want to get as many different kinds of art and crafts and original stuff, things that are unique about our area.” said Cooper.

    Wilson said that they are prepared to undertake larger, more complex projects in the near future.

    “There’s a lot of writers, artists, and actors in our community. One of our goals is to get the writers and actors together ‘cause the technology is there, so let’s make a movie,” said Wilson. “Part of that could be finding a local story and recreating that story and using our own people. It’s just a project away.”

    Cooper says that part of what is needed for these projects is more involvement from the local community. Currently, the Conservancy has 20 to 30 volunteers.

    “We really need people to come in and get involved in the projects. We need people to assume all kinds of roles including leadership roles, people to serve on the Board of Directors, people to run a camera, people to run sound and the audio recording and help us with fundraising,” said Cooper.

    Wilson says that this kind of local involvement is part of the project’s importance and relevance.

    “Missouri River Cultural Conservancy isn’t this monolithic thing. It’s our culture and it’s a heck of an opportunity,” said Wilson. “The main purpose is to archive our culture.”

    ----------Posted on October 6, 2009 by in Student Work

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