A blog sponsored by the Michigan State University Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Sharing news and information about the Great Lakes Folk Festival, Quilt Index, the MSU Museum's traditional arts activities, Great Lakes traditional artists and arts resources, and much more. Development of content for this blog supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Check Out the MTAP YouTube Channel!

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program has a wonderful YouTube channel highlighting traditional artists in our state. These videos are a great resource to learn about and experience Michigan's folklife.

Some videos are music performances from past Great Lakes Folk Festival and Festival of Michigan Folklife.  For example, check out this video of Howard Armstrong and Ted Bogan at the 1989 Festival of Michigan Folklife:

Some videos are interviews with Michigan Heritage Award recipients, Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship masters, and tradition-bearers from around the state.  Listen to Patricia Shackleton, 2013 MTAAP master, speak about birch bark cutouts:

There are videos on an array of topics, from quilting to metalworking, that highlight the rich diversity of traditional arts in Michigan.  Subscribe to the MTAP YouTube channel today to keep up-to-date as new videos are posted!

Monday, September 14, 2015

75th National Folk Festival Features Former GLFF Performers

The 75th National Folk Festival was held last weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina. The festival began in 1934 in St. Louis, Missouri, and was the first of its kind "to present the arts of many nations, races, and languages on equal footing." This was the first time the festival was held in North Carolina, a state with a very rich musical history. Among this year's line up were former Great Lakes Folk Festival participants Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Thomas Maupin & Overall Creek.

Giddens paid tribute to Chocolate Drops musical mentor, the late Joe Thompson, who was a resident of Greensboro. Thompson performed at the 2007 Great Lakes Folk Festival. He passed away in 2012 at the age of 93.

From the GLFF website:
"It is not widely known that the fiddle and banjo were commonly played by African-Americans from slavery times to well into this century. The instruments were combined to provide much of the dance music for the balls and "frolics" of both white and black Southerners. And thousands of dance tunes--waltzes, schottisches, and reels--were adapted and composed for the fiddle and banjo. No one knows when or how the instruments were first played together, but it was a marriage of two radically different cultural traditions, giving rise to one of America's first truly indigenous musical forms.
Joe Thompson is perhaps the last surviving African-American "old-time" fiddler. Joe and first cousin Odell (with whom Joe played until Odell died in 1994) made their homes near the Alamance and Orange County line north of Mebane, North Carolina. Born and raised on farms in the area (Odell in 1911; Joe in 1918), they grew up helping their parents tend crops of tobacco, cotton, corn, and wheat. Music-making was much valued in their households, and the sounds of the banjo and fiddle could be heard whenever the work was done. Joe and Odell's fathers, Walter and John Arch Thompson, were constantly sought after by neighbors, black and white, to play for square dances. 
The Thompson boys soon began performing at Saturday-night dances with their dads. Joe recalls taking his position in the doorway between rooms filled with dancing couples. "We were playing [four- and eight-hand square dance] sets--I was only seven years old. We had straight chairs, and my feet couldn't touch the floor." 
As popular tastes in music and dancing changed through the years, there was less call for fiddlers and banjo players. Joe played his fiddle at dances and parties throughout the 1920s and '30s, while Odell took up the guitar and learned the blues. The early 1970s brought a revival of interest in African American folk music traditions. The Thompsons were "discovered" by folklorists who encouraged them to play publicly again, only this time for predominately white audiences at folk festivals and special events. In more recent years, they appeared at the National Folk Festival at Lowell, Massachusetts, the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in the state of Washington, and at New York's Carnegie Hall. Their dynamic instrumental styles and soaring vocals packed plenty of punch and brought attention to the rich tradition of African American string band music in the South."
Read or listen to the NPR story here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Memoriam: Dennis Hale, 1966 Shipwreck Survivor and 2005 GLFF Participant

Shipwreck survivor Dennis Hale lost his battle with cancer September 2, 2015He is survived by his wife, Barbara, children, Cindi Titch and Katherine Scaife, stepchildren Jon C. Robinson and Melissa LaMar, and seven grandchildren. The family is holding a private funeral. A public memorial for Hale will be held at a future date.

Hale was a participant in the Great Lakes Folk Festival in 2005, sharing his story in conjunction with the maritime theme. As you can imagine, the audience was completely captivated by his harrowing tale and unassuming demeanor.

From the 2005 GLFF website:
Dennis Hale
Dennis Hale.  Photo courtesy of Dennis Hale.

In a terrible storm on Lake Huron on November 29, 1966, the ore freighter DANIEL J. MORRELL was in high winds and waves when suddenly, without warning, it broke in half and sank, killing 28 shipmates. Only Dennis Hale, a 26-year-old watchman from Ashtabula, Ohio, survived. After being thrown into the icy lake, wearing only boxer shorts, a pea coat and life jacket, he spent 38 hours on a life raft until he was rescued .The three shipmates on the raft with him perished. In 1996 Hale published Sole Survivor: Dennis Hale's Own Story. Although his sensitive story remains traumatic in each telling, he still speaks about his experience to select, appreciative audiences. Hale now uses the speaking engagement as a way of dealing with the experience and keeping the memory of his shipmates alive. Dennis Hale tells his dramatic story of survival and his role in Great Lakes shipwreck lore at this year's Great Lakes Folk Festival. 

- LuAnne Kozma, field worker

You can find his story as told to Tim Juhl and Pat and Jim Stayer in the book, "Sole Survivor: Dennis Hale's Own Story."

He was also featured in the documentary, "Graveyard of the Great Lakes: A Shipwreck Hunter's Quest to Uncover the Past," which profiles David Trotter and includes information about many Great Lakes shipwrecks, including that of the Daniel J. Morrell. In Trotter's words,"He was one of the most unique people in the history of the Great Lakes with his survival... I admired his ability to tell others his story. He certainly was a survivor and fought with all his energy to beat the cancer. He now belongs to Great Lakes history."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ceremony to Honor Michigan Heritage Awardee Ronald Ahrens

Michigan Heritage Award winner Ronald Ahrens will be honored at a special ceremony at the Region of the Three Oaks Museum, where he has been teaching workshops and classes in lacemaking and fiber arts for many years. 

From the Region of the three Oaks Museum website:
"The Region of Three Oaks Museum is holding a reception for his receiving the state’s highest distinction, on Saturday, October 3, 2015 at the museum.  Ron will be demonstrating his skills from noon to 2pm.  From 2–4pm, there will be a special recognition ceremony in his honor.  Please join us at The Region of Three Oaks Museum to congratulate Ron on his being awarded the Michigan Heritage Award for 2015."
Ron Ahrens at the 2015 Great Lakes Folk Festival

Ronald Ahrens (b. 1941) was born in Wisconsin and moved to Michigan later in life. Ronald first began to learn lacemaking from his grandmother at age five. Several members of his family practiced other fiber art techniques and Ronald was able to learn from them as well. He became proficient in knitting, crocheting, bobbin lacemaking, tatting, broderet, and filet netting.

Ronald has enthusiastically shared his skills and knowledge with his own family, friends, and community members and can often be found teaching fiber art techniques and doing demonstrations at community functions. As Joan Nelson, one of the individuals who nominated Ahrens for the award stated, “Adults and children alike are fascinated by watching and listening to Ron, and though few are willing to take on this intricate craft of lacemaking, they will long remember actually seeing this lace being made and will have a new respect for this craft.”  As his daughter observed, Ronald has cultivated among many individuals a deep appreciation for the handmade, rather than machine made, mass-produced object. He has also stimulated interest among those he has taught to pass on the skills they have learned to others.

In addition to serving his community as a pastor of The Gathering, a Dutch Reformed Church in Three Oaks, Michigan, Ronald also supports his community through teaching his art and even giving gifts of his art to support local causes.  One piece of filet net work he donated to an auction took him over sixty hours to make. 
To watch Ron work and learn more about lacemaking and fiber arts, visit the Region of the Three Oaks Museum on October 3rd from 12-4pm!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dr. Don Yoder: A Remembrance

From C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D. MSU Museum University Outreach & Engagement:

Don Yoder holds an example of printed fraktur from 1848.
Lancaster Newspapers file photo, 1974
Last week we lost a remarkable scholar and friend of folklife. Dr. Don Yoder passed away after a lifetime dedicated to giving voice to the rich traditions that were so often overlooked and rarely valued. I had the good fortune to know Don Yoder and benefit from his passion for learning and his groundbreaking work in creating the internationally recognized, Kutztown Folk Festival in 1950. He influenced and encouraged many of us during his long and productive career. In the 1970s, Marsha MacDowell and I were working on the exhibition, Reflections of Faith: Religious Folk Art in America. We were inspired by his scholarship and he kindly spoke at the opening conference for the exhibition in New York City. A true gentleman scholar, he has a way of encouraging his students and guiding them to be better scholars and educators.

The following is a brief version of his obituary:
 “Dr. Yoder was born on August 27, 1921, in Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, and proudly accounted himself 'an incurable Pennsylvanian.' He received his PhD in 1947 from the University of Chicago in religious studies, and in his early career he taught at Franklin and Marshall College, and later at Muhlenberg College.

Emeritus Professor of Folklife Studies, Religious Studies, and American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he taught for forty years (1956-1996), Dr. Yoder directed over sixty PhD dissertations. He was largely responsible for the introduction of the term “folklife” to its present academic use in the United States, and he helped to found the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In 1949, Dr. Yoder co-founded the Pennsylvania Folklife Center with Dr. Alfred L. Shoemaker and J. William Frey, and together they established the Kutztown Folk Festival in 1950, considered among the first ethnic festivals of its kind. Dr. Yoder has published seventeen books, and countless articles on Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture. He was elected a Fellow in 1972, and served as AFS President 1981-1982. He was widely known in Europe and his work was influenced the important music of composer Paul Hindemith. He continued his distinguished career following his retirement in 1996, with significant contributions in the areas of American ethnic and regional cultures, American immigration history; genealogy, particularly of German and Swiss families in Pennsylvania; folk religion, sectarian cultures, religious folk music, folk medicine, folk costume, folk cookery, foodways, folk arts, and material culture after his formal retirement from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996. The Don Yoder Lecture in Religious Folklife at the AFS annual meeting sponsored by the Folk Belief and Religious Folklife section of the Society honors his central role in these areas of study. He was awarded the AFS Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2006.

He will be remembered as a splendid teacher, an impeccable scholar, and wise and gentle presence on our midst.”
Image courtesy Mainline Today article, "Folklife Tour de Force." 
Don Yoder’s influence on our work at the MSU Museum had a lasting effect as he inspired us to build collections of religious folk and popular art—and regional folklife. For example, the gift of the major Robert Beseda collection religious popular art to our museum (among others) is a valued source for teaching, exhibition, and research.

This fall we will be welcoming a new curatorial colleague to our museum, Dr. John Keune, who is a joint appointment between the Department of Religious Studies and the MSU Museum. John will help us expand our collections, exhibitions, publications, and educational programs exploring the role of religion in society…a topic of ever-greater importance in our diverse world of the 21st century. Scholars like Don Yoder paved the way for man of us as he helped us understand the rich cultural dimensions of religion— as well as the power and persistence of folk traditions in our lives.

C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D.
Michigan State University Museum
Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives, and Senior Fellow for University Outreach & Engagement
Director Emeritus and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Co-Director, Great Lakes Folk Festival
Professor, Department of English

Friday, August 14, 2015

Laurie Sommers Featured by American Council on Historic Preservation

Image courtesy achp.gov

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) recently interviewed Michigan Traditional Arts Program Adjunct Researcher and Independent Consultant Laurie Sommers as part of their "Preservationists in the Neighborhood" series.

Here are a few highlights from an excellent and thorough piece:
"Laurie Kay Sommers, a native of Lansing, Michigan, holds a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University. She currently works as an independent consultant in folklore and historic preservation through her company, Laurie Kay Sommers Cultural Consulting, LLC. She is the Co-Chair, American Folklore Society Working Group in Historic Preservation. Sommers has worked in public folklore, ethnomusicology, and historic preservation for more than 30 years for organizations such as the Michigan State University Museum, the Michigan SHPO, and the South Georgia Folklife Project at Valdosta State University. Her background in historic preservation dates to the late 1970s, when she worked for the Michigan SHPO and then as an independent consultant to the SHPO, Commonwealth Associates (Jackson, MI), and various other clients.
Can you tell us what you are working on right now?One current project is to continue the activities of the Working Group in Folklore and Historic Preservation, a policy initiative of the American Folklore Society. Our goal is to better position folklorists and folklore methodologies as central forces in historic preservation. I authored the white paper, "Integrating Folklore and Historic Preservation Policy: Toward a Richer Sense of Place" and developed the associated Web site that has case studies of projects that involved folklore and historic preservation, as well as a bibliography andwebography. A particular emphasis of the working group has been to develop model Traditional Cultural Places nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, in particular nominations that expand the purview of Traditional Cultural Places to include more than sites associated with American Indian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. Fellow folklorists Beth King (Wyoming) and Tina Bucuvalas (Florida) have worked on successful nominations for the Green River Drift (cattle trail) and Greektown in Tarpon Springs. We also seek to network with like-minded folks in allied fields and to engage young people in our work. 
How does folklore play a role in historic preservation?
Folklorists in the past often did not find their skills valued or welcomed in the world of historic preservation and Section 106 review. This was certainly not always the case, but when I was working for a cultural resources management firm as a "historian" (at the same time I was a graduate student in Folklore), I would have cost the company extra money by including ethnography in my reports: this would have been considered nice but definitely not essential. A colleague who did survey work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was told that he was to focus on buildings only, not people and their stories/memories of place. From a folklorist's point of view, that was a travesty. What are we preserving? If historic preservation is interested in preserving "place" in its broadest and richest sense, then folklore has much to contribute:
  • As placemaking (and the historic preservation community's place within it) gains momentum at local, state, and national levels in both public and private spheres, the folklorist's methodology can lead to a richer sense of place through ethnographic documentation of context and use - the ways story, ritual, and behavior link communities to places and make them meaningful.
  • As Section 106 and environmental review continue to be major activities for CRM firms and SHPOs, some preservationists are realizing that ethnography - long a weak point in environmental review efforts - is important to the process. Folklore methodologies can help engage the local community and elicit their voices.
  • As the National Park Service revisits National Register Bulletin 38 (Traditional Cultural Properties or TCPs) and seeks to clarify its parameters, folklorists are creating model nominations for a range of places, beyond the sacred American Indian, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian places that are typically listed as TCPs.
  • Folklorists are expanding the range of properties and places typically listed in the National Register to include a wider range of cultural communities and a greater diversity of buildings, structures, and places (think a traditional Wyoming cattle trail, Tarpon Springs' sponge fishing docks, an Italian American religious shrine in Staten Island). This in turn is providing a richer and more inclusive documentation of our heritage.
  • As the National Park Service pays increasing attention to cultural landscapes, folklorists can assist in the understanding and documentation of cultural traditions, responses to the natural environment, and land use and activities, all landscape characteristics highlighted in National Register Bulletin 30 (Rural Historic Landscapes).
  • As the historic preservation movement increasingly embraces diversity and the vernacular, folklorists can bring our skills to bear. Model programs like Citylore's ground-breaking Place Matters have integrated folklore, historic preservation, advocacy, documentation, and grass roots participation by focusing on New York City's culturally and historically significant places, not necessarily the architecturally significant sites typically included in the National Register. (http://placematters.net/)
Do you have advice for novice preservationists?
  • Take advantage of existing internships - or try to create new ones with organizations of particular interest. This can provide valuable training and professional contacts prior to formally entering the job market.
  • Consider volunteering to build your resume. I volunteered the summer after I graduated from college, and it opened all sorts of doors. Think broadly and creatively about potential partners in your work.
  • Take a look at the approaches to preservation, landmarking and advocacy by Citylore's Place Matters in New York City where the starting point is the local community's definition of what is significant and worthy of preservation (often buildings not eligible for the National Register). (http://placematters.net/)
  • Don't forget the people, stories, uses, and the meaning of the places you seek to preserve. It's not just about the building.
  • Know that you are doing important work in placemaking, economic development, and sustainability."
Read the full interview here

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Down Hill Struggler Eli Smith on Old Time Music

The Down Hill Strugglers (Photo Courtesy of Eli Smith)
The Down Hill Strugglers, a dynamic Old Time string band from New York City, is joining us this year at the Great Lakes Folk Festival. You can catch them on the City Hall and Dance stages throughout the weekend.

The Down Hill Strugglers (formerly known as the Dust Busters) strive to integrate a wide range of old-time songs, ballads, fiddle tunes, and jug band blues into every performance, infused with the old-time feeling and freewheelin’ high energy that characterized early string bands such as The Skillet Lickers, Dykes Magic City Trio, The Mississippi Sheiks, and J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers among many others. They are influenced and inspired by the direct fusion of Scots-Irish and African music that took place in Appalachia, the Western states and the Deep South from the earliest colonial times through the Second World War.
The band has had the opportunity to learn directly from living tradition bearers, especially Kentucky fiddler Clyde Davenport, North Carolina fiddler Joe Thompson (who was part of the 2007 Great Lakes Folk Festival) and Kentucky banjo player Lee Sexton, as well as from their friend and mentor John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers, who himself learned from tradition bearers including Roscoe Holcomb, Maybelle Carter, George Landers, Frank Proffitt, Wade Ward, and others. 

Eli Smith, Down Hill Struggler, Down Home Radio Show producer, and seasoned folk festival producer, was able to answer a few questions about playing Old Time music in anticipation of the Great Lakes Folk Festival.  

What’s the band’s process for learning a new tune? 
When one of us brings in a new song or tune, sometimes we'll play one or more old source recordings for the tune so that the other bandmates can hear a way or ways that it has been done in the past as we approach making our own arrangement.  Or alternatively, just play the song or tune for the other bandmates without immediately referencing a source recording, so that we won't be immediately influences by the old recording and can have some spontaneous response and go from there.  We experiment with different instrumentation, give each other comments or ask advice on our parts and finally come to our own arrangement.  In it's own way it is simple music but has to be played right! 

What kinds of things do you have to consider when presenting Appalachian music to diverse audiences? 
We do play a lot of Appalachian music, we also play string band music from the Deep South, the West and the North and we incorporate diverse styles of rural American music into our performances.  We want people to know that what we perform and present is our take on the music of the American rural working class, incorporating both Euro and African - American influences.  Most contemporary audiences have never heard our music before because it is not played almost anywhere, the only reference they have for it is a vague idea of Bluegrass music, which has made some inroads into the popular consciousness.  We feel that our music speaks for itself, but we also try to give people some background information about the music and the styles that we play. 

What does ‘tradition’ and ‘creativity’ sound like in Old-Time (or down home) music? 
Thank you for mentioning the term "Down Home Music" which we as a band like very much.  That term describes the kind of rural, minimalist music that we like, music that hasn't been deranged in some unwarranted way.  We carry on a tradition of rural American string band music not simply for the sake of "tradition" itself.  Some traditions are bad and should go away, like slavery or militarism!  We honor the music because it is old and handed down by a long tradition of great musicians, but we continue it out of our own creativity and desire to express ourselves truly and to the best of our own abilities. 

What do you enjoy most about playing this music? 
I enjoy the spirit of it, and its take on the inner emotional life of people.  It speaks to me in a way that feels satisfying and right, not psychologically damaging or absurd like most of the music coming at me from loudspeakers across America.

Check the Down Hill Strugglers out at the Great Lakes Folk Festival at these times: 

Friday, August 7
8:00 pm, Dance Stage 

Saturday, August 8
12:00 pm, City Hall Stage, “Celebrating Alan Lomax” session
8:45 pm, City Hall Stage 

Sunday, August 9
1:30 pm, City Hall Stage, “Celebrating Alan Lomax” session
4:30 pm, Dance Stage

Here's a link to the Great Lakes Folk Festival schedule.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Genticorum’s Yann Falquet Answers a Few Questions for the GLFF

Genticorum (Photo Credit: Catherine Aboumrad) 

This year the Great Lakes Folk Festival offers a superb line up of performers; among them is Québécois band, Genticorum. 

Over the past decade the traditional Québécois group Genticorum has become a fixture in the international, traditional, folk, and Celtic music circuit. Firmly rooted in the soil of their French-Canadian homeland, the trio also incorporates the dynamism of today's North American and European folk cultures in their music. They weave precise and intricate fiddle and flute work, vocal harmonies, energetic foot percussion, and guitar and bass accompaniment into a jubilant musical feast. Genticorum's second album, Malins Plaisirs (2005) won the Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Ensemble and was nominated for Canada’s Juno and the Félix Awards.

Genticorum was formed by Pascal Gemme (fiddle), Yann Falquet (guitar) and Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand, three musicians who found a love for French Canadian fiddle tunes and folk music. Genticorum gained their name from a word which Gemme remembers his grandfather singing, although he is unsure of the meaning. He believes it carries with it an association with the words gentil (gentle or nice) and quorum.

Yann Falquet of Genticorum (Photo Credit: Catherine Aboumrad)
Between festivals and fiddle camps, guitarist Yann Falquet was able to answer a few questions about traditional Québécois music and the band for the Great Folks blog.

How do you craft medleys?  What goes into deciding two tunes go well together?
It depend on the effect we are trying to achieve, sometime we go for continuity, sometime for contrast, sometime for a crescendo of intensity throughout out the set...  The choice of tune allow us to shape in many different ways.

What do you enjoy most about playing Québécois music?
Like many traditional musics, it's music that always often accompanied gathering of people that wanted to have fun together - it's very inclusive, and participative, especially with the "chansons à répondre".

Do you have any particular regional influences on your playing styles?
As an accompanist, I draw my influences from other accompanists from different regions of Québec, and from other cousin traditions (Irish, Scottish, etc...)

What should we expect from Genticorum at the Great Lakes Folk Festival?
A gathering of people that want to have fun together, playing music and singing songs from Québec!

You can catch Genticorum at the Great Lakes Folk Festival at these times:

Friday, August 7
          6:15 pm, MAC Stage

Saturday, August 8
          1:15 pm, MAC Stage
          9:45 pm, Albert Ave Dance Stage

Sunday, August 9
         1:15 pm, MAC Stage

Here's some ear candy in anticipation of the Great Lakes Folk Festival which starts next Friday, August 7 in East Lansing, Michigan:


Monday, July 27, 2015

Dylan Miner Named Director of MSU American Indian Studies Program

Photo courtesy MSU College of Arts and Letters
Dylan Miner, Adjunct Curator of Indigenous Arts at the MSU Museum and Associate Professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, has been named the Director of Michigan State University's American Indian Studies Program. He is known for his work as "a border-crossing artist, activist, historian, curator, and professor." 

Read more about his appointment here.

Check out this video highlighting his work with his project, Anishinaabensag Biimskowebshkigewag (Native Kids Ride Bikes).

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Brighton Woodcarver Donates Collection to DNR

What does a lifetime of woodcarving yield? Perhaps a trained eye for detail and impressive dexterity, but for certain it yields an immense amount of wood items. Such is the case for Walt Gursky of Brighton, Michigan who is seeking to donate his collection of handcarved fish found in Michigan to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.  An article illuminating Gursky's work recently appeared in the Livingston Daily.

Photo Alan Ward/Livingston Daily

Walt learned woodworking from his father who "made wooden barrels for the Tokaj wine region in his home country of Slovakia." Walt has kept the tradition in the family by passing on his knowledge and skills to his four sons. Walt carves not only fish, but anything from whistles and kitchen utensils to models of Michigan birds. His carvings are available to purchase at Wildernest in Brighton.

To read more about Walt Gursky from the Livingston Daily, follow the link:  Brighton man reels in wooden fish with talented hands

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program seeks artists like Walt to participate in our Apprenticeship and Heritage Awards programs. The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program awards a master and their apprentice a $2000 stipend to support one-on-one learning experiences that take place February through August. The Michigan Heritage Awards celebrates tradition bearers and supporters of traditional culture who have made significant contributions to our state's heritage. The deadline to apply for both programs is December 1st but applications are accepted year-round. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Michigan Students Build Traditional Boats

We are always on the look out for interesting stories about traditional arts practitioners in Michigan and beyond. This story from the Lansing State Journal's Kathleen Lavey is a great example!

Students in Cedarville, Michigan, have been constructing boats based on classic designs. They are part of the Great Lakes Boat Building School in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which offers a two-year curriculum and well as shorter classes in the summer.

Check out this video for more information:

Basic Info:

  • 24 student capacity
  • Founded in 2008
  • $12,000/year tuition
  • Summer classes available for <$2000
  • Scholarships and aid packages available

Read the full article from the Lansing State Journal here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

NEA Selects New Director of Folk and Traditional Arts- Clifford Murphy

The National Endowment for the Arts has just announced a new Director of Folk and Traditional Arts. Read the press release from the arts.gov website below!
Photo by Edwin Remsberg, courtesy arts.gov
July 8, 2015
Washington, D.C. –The National Endowment for the Arts has selected Clifford Murphy as its new director of folk and traditional arts, effective August 24, 2015. Murphy will manage NEA grantmaking in folk and traditional arts, oversee the NEA National Heritage Fellowship program, and represent the agency to the field.

“Clifford has an impressive range of experience in the folk and traditional arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The NEA will surely benefit from his skills as an administrator, a university professor, a field folklorist, and his time as a touring musician.”

Murphy is currently director of Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). In 2011, Murphy launched the state’s first Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival, and also manages the Maryland Traditions grant program supporting apprenticeships and projects. Murphy also produces the state’s annual Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Awards. In 2014, Murphy helped to establish a partnership with the University of Maryland Baltimore County to bring MSAC’s 40 years of folklife archives into the university library system, making the collection available to the public. Murphy holds a doctorate in Ethnomusicology from Brown University, has authored numerous publications, including a forthcoming book on country music traditions of the Mason-Dixon Line. An active member of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology, Murphy has also co-produced a recurring radio program on Maryland folk traditions for WYPR Maryland Public Radio in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Working as a state folklorist in Maryland has brought me into close collaboration with remarkable artists, communities, and innovative organizations” said Murphy. “I’m incredibly excited about joining the NEA and being of service to folk and traditional artists, advocates, and programs nationwide.”

Murphy replaces Barry Bergey, who retired in November 2014 after 29 years of service with the NEA.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dan Sheehy Honored with 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship

Photo by Ashlee Duncan, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Earlier this month, the annual National Endowment for the Arts 2015 National Heritage Fellowship awards were announced. These awards were modeled on the Japanese Living Treasures Awards. They are the nation’s highest awards for excellence in the folk and traditional arts. Each year one individual is also honored for their role as the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellow, for an individual who plays an exemplary role as a cultural heritage advocate, dedicated to making the art of diverse artists more recognized and accessible. This year’s Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellow is Dan Sheehy, someone who has helped contribute in many ways to the success of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program while at the NEA as the Director of the Folk and Traditional Arts Program and then at the Smithsonian as Director of Folkways and other programs. He is a most deserving recipient of this high honor. His impact at the NEA and the Smithsonian has been truly remarkable and has expanded the understanding and appreciation of expressive traditional culture of our country.

Here is part of the formal biography and tribute to Dan Sheehy that was included with the announcement of the honor:

"A native of Bakersfield, California and longtime resident of Virginia, Sheehy was recruited by Bess Lomax Hawes in 1974 to do groundbreaking field research among Mexican American musicians in California for the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival marking our nation’s Bicentennial.  He later was a Fulbright-Hays scholar in Veracruz, Mexico, earning his PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles.  He joined the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978, working side-by-side with Lomax Hawes, who became his longtime mentor. He was instrumental in developing and sustaining the infrastructure of the folk and traditional arts field and served as director of folk and traditional arts at the NEA from 1992 to 2000. 
In 2000 Sheehy became director and curator of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution. Under his leadership, Smithsonian Folkways has published more than 200 recordings, earning five Grammy awards, one Latin Grammy, and 17 nominations.  Special initiatives have included the ten-volume Music of Central Asia, the African American Legacy series co-sponsored by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Tradiciones/Traditions series of signature music from Latin America and Latino USA.  Sheehy also launched the ten-year Nuestra Músicaproject with co-curator Olivia Cadaval, producing six "living exhibitions" of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.  He has also served as acting director of the Smithsonian Latino Center and director of the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.” 

For the full citation and a Smithsonian tribute,  click here and here.

The deepening understanding of the rich and diverse living cultural life in our democracy is being fostered by advocates and educators like Dan Sheehy. He is but one of many who have dedicated their lives to building a more inclusive understanding of our nation. His contribution, and those of others like him, deserve our attention and  heartfelt appreciation.

C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D. Curator of Cultural Heritage MSU Museum

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In Memoriam: Michigan Percussive Dancer, Caller, and Master Potter Dan Gorno

Photo courtesy AlgomaTrad
Daniel Paul Gorno, 58, ended his courageous battle with cancer on Sunday, June 21, 2015 at his brother's house in Kewadin. He was born in Wyandotte, MI, and grew up in Grosse Ile and Rondeau Park, Ontario. The seeds of his creative life were sown at Grosse Ile High School and in the Grosse Ile arts community. He attended Thomas Jefferson College at Grand Valley University studying pottery and kiln building. He chose to further his life-long education by seeking masters from all over the world of various arts and trades including pottery, music, dance, construction, homesteading, horses, and husbandry. These became his skills and trades, which he practiced and taught to others in his short lifetime.

Dan the Potter – He held apprenticeships in Courtmacsherry, Ireland, and LaBorne, France. His wood firing and kiln-building experiences have taken him to Canada, Mississippi, California and back to Michigan.

Dan the Musician – Dan played bones and bodhran and has been a member of bands Tanglemere and New Five Cents.

Dan the Dancer – He has performed traditional dance styles from Ireland, France, England, Canada, South Africa and Appalachia. Since 1980 he performed solo and in the dance groups Step In Time and Dance All Night at events and festivals including Wheatland, Blissfest, Hiawatha and Canadian Celtic Celebration. By the 1990's he was recognized as one of the top dancers in the Great Lakes Region, straddling the U.S. and Canadian border. He leaves a legacy of dance with many, young and old, as a teacher of dance in workshops, schools, and camps. Dan's passion for joy and movement is encompassed in the waltz that he gifted to so many.

Dan the Caller – His most recent livelihood and passion was calling dances – contras, squares, circles and other social dance forms. He was revered by both demanding and advanced dancers looking for a challenge, as well as beginners. He was the official caller at the AlgomaTrad Family Music and Dance Camp in Ontario since 2004 and worked school events, weddings and private parties.

Dan the Traveler – His curiosity for people and places led him all over the world. Which came first his knack for languages or his travels?
Dan lived a life of simple means and rich in friendship. He maintained close ties with high school and college friends, so many in the music and dance communities of Michigan and Canada, those he met on his travels and his large extended family of Gornos and Greens. All have memories of his quick wit and kindness.

Dan leaves behind his cherished family including his children Desire (James) Short of Marquette, and Clayton and Marlena of Bellaire; his parents Dominic and Ginger Gorno of Ft. Myers, FL; brothers Don (Karen) of Brownstown, Greg (Patti) of Elk Rapids, Jim (Connie) of Bellaire, Jeff (Colleen) of Gaylord; sisters Mary (Bob) Keedy of Petoskey, Ruth (Michael) Allen of Traverse City and Dee-Dee of Honor; and 22 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by nephew Peter and grandparents Dominic and Ruth (Joly) Gorno and William and Anna (Schultz) Green.

His funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Bellaire on July 3 at 11:00 am. A Memorial party will be held on August 16 at 1:00 pm at the Alden Depot, Alden, MI. The family is very grateful for the outpouring of love and support from his friends and family. Your words, messages, prayers, gestures and music provided incredible comfort to him during his last weeks. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions can be directed to the family to disburse according to Dan's wishes.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

SPACES features Michigan's John Jacob Makinen Sr.

Photo courtesy the Kavela Historical Society

Artist John Jacob Makinen Sr.'s work has been featured by SPACES, a nonprofit dedicated to identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Makinen's work was also featured in the 1978 MSU Museum exhibit "Rainbows in the Sky."

Here is the description of the artist's work from the SPACES website:

Makinen immigrated from his native Finland to Michigan in 1903; his early years in his new country were spent farming and working in a general store. In 1922 he became partners with Alex Ketonen to form the Northwestern Bottling Works. This company specialized in bottling carbonated soft drinks and, in fact, it is claimed that the term “pop,” referring to these sodas, originated here, as sometimes the corks could not withstand the pressure of the carbonated contents, and would explode with a large “pop” sound.
Around 1909 Makinen decided to ornament an ice house on his farm; it is thought to have been the first bottle-clad house in the state of Michigan. He found that the bottles provided an excellent insulation barrier, as they trapped air within. Some years later, around 1932, he was faced with a large surplus of bottles when the bottling technology changed at the plant, and, recalling the ice house, built a storehouse from the extra bottles, spelling out his company’s name in contrasting colors.
Following his retirement in 1939, Makinen decided to leave the farm and, in Kaleva, build a one and one-half-story bungalow with a foundation of rock-faced concrete blocks and an intersecting gable roof, using the remaining surplus bottles from the Bottling Works plant. Approximately 60,000 bottles were used in the Kaleva house, laid horizontally with their bottom end facing the exterior so that the framework studs could fit between the bottle necks (and, not coincidentally, so that the bottle bottoms marked with the mold from the company could be seen). Makinen carefully laid levels of the bottles with a specifically developed mortar between the brick corners. There are many different varieties, shapes, and colors of bottles that were used in the construction, including those for soda drinks, wine, beer, and liqueurs. Different patterns were created with the bottles; the most prominent are the words “HAPPY HOME,” which are spelled out on the front façade, and dark bottles accent the window openings.
Unfortunately, Makinen passed away just shortly before the house was completed, but his widow, Maria, lived there for many years. Following her death, in 1980 the Kaleva Historical Society purchased the home, which renovated it to house the Kaleva Historical Museum, which moved in that following year. The building currently operates as a museum, with a collection of local 19th-  and 20th-century artifacts that tell of the Finnish settlers’ lives in farming and business, and it is also the focus of the local ethnic Finnish celebrations. The building is listed on the Michigan Register of Historical Sites (1982) and the National Register of Historical Sites (1987). It is open weekend afternoons 12-4 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
~Jo Farb Hernández

More about SPACES:

SPACES is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) public benefit organization that was incorporated in 1978 for the purposes of identifying, documenting, and advocating for the preservation of large-scale art environments. Founding director Seymour Rosen conceived of SPACES as a national (and, later, an international) organization; currently operating out of offices in northern California, it boasts an archives of approximately 35,000 photographs as well as numerous books, articles, audio and video tapes/DVDs, and artists’ documents.