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.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wheatland Music Organization's Traditional Arts Weekend

Each year, Wheatland Music Organization puts on Traditional Arts Weekend. This year, the dates are May 22-24. This event is a great way to dip your toe into the world of traditional music, dance, and visual arts in a beautiful setting. It is held on the Wheatland Music Festival site, but feels more intimate due to the smaller number of participants.

From Wheatland's website:
Traditional Arts Weekend (formerly known as Dance Camp) is an annual event held over the Memorial Day weekend on the Wheatland Festival grounds near Remus, Michigan. The Community Education committee provides over 80 workshops in traditional forms of dance, music, crafts, vocal and instrument instruction to which participants might not otherwise be exposed. Free primitive camping for participants. Food is available to purchase on site. Traditional Arts Weekend has become a very popular Wheatland event for those seeking more personal instruction.
Participants can register for the entire weekend, a single day, or workshop. Some workshops have limited participation.  There are evening performances and dances which include Square, Contra, Klezmer-Contra, Swing and Cajun.
The prices are as follows:

All Weekend
Adults (16+) $75 / Children (11-15) $20 / Children (5-10) $5
Saturday Only
Adults (16+) $40 / Children (11-15) $12 / Children (5-10) $5
Sunday Only
Adults (16+) $40 / Children (11-15) $12 / Children (5-10) $5
Evening Passes (at gate only)
$5 per night OR Friday night you can purchase 3 Evening Passes (Fri, Sat, Sun) for just $10!

The full schedule can be found here. See you there!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowship Guidelines Announced

The nomination guidelines for the 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellowships are now available on arts.gov. The deadline for new nominations is July 16, 2015. You may submit your nomination through our website at this link. Please, pass it on and share with others. 

From the NEA website:
"To honor and preserve our nation's diverse cultural heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts annually awards up to eight NEA National Heritage Fellowships to master folk and traditional artists. These fellowships recognize lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nation's traditional arts heritage.. 
The folk and traditional arts, which include crafts, dance, music, oral traditions, visual arts, and others, are those that are learned as part of the cultural life of a community whose members share a common ethnic heritage, cultural mores, language, religion, occupation, or geographic region. These traditions are shaped by the aesthetics and values of a shared culture and are passed from generation to generation, most often within family and community through observation, conversation, and practice.
Nominees must be worthy of national recognition and have a record of continuing artistic accomplishment. They must be actively participating in their art form, either as practitioners or as teachers. Awards will be up to $25,000 and may be received once in a lifetime. No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased recipient."
You may now be wondering about the 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowships. They will be announced on June 9th.

For inquiries and further details, contact Cheryl SchieleFolk & Traditional Arts Specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Monday, May 4, 2015

In Memoriam: Larry Syndergaard

Friend of the MSU Museum Larry Syndergaard passed away peacefully on April 15, 2015, at Bronson Methodist Hospital due to congestive heart failure following a heart attack in January. He was born in Iowa in 1936, and moved with his family to Wisconsin in 1950 to start a dairy farm. From there, Larry bounced around the Midwest, marrying wife Ardis in 1958 and earning Bachelors degrees in Forestry and General Science in 1959. After the birth of his first child, Larry decided to pursue advanced degrees (both Masters and PhD with a minor in Scandinavian Studies) in English to allow for a more stationary career. 

He took a job at Western Michigan University in 1968, where he taught courses in writing, literature, and occasionally environmental studies for thirty-two years. To quote his obituary - "[Larry specializedin medieval topics and bootlegging in folk and oral-traditional material when he could... From the beginning, Larry was heavily involved in WMU's Medieval Institute and its renowned International Congress. A Fellow of the International Ballad Commission, his research into folklore and the Scandinavian ballads was respected worldwide and resulted in dozens of papers and articles-and an important book, English Translations of the Scandinavian Medieval Ballads (1995). Thanks to a stint as asst. dean at U-W, Larry was drawn into advising and policy roles early on at WMU, becoming associate chair for undergrad English programs as a tender but committed junior professor."

Larry was a regular attendee, supporter, and sometimes presenter at festivals put on by the MSU Museum, beginning with the Festival of Michigan Folklife.  Even as of February this year he wrote to say he was planning to bring a group of friends with him to this year’s Great Lakes Folk Festival. He will be dearly missed. 

To use the language of the medieval world he knew so well: May he rest in peace and may perpetual light shine on him. A memorial service on Sunday, May 31, 2015, 1:30pm at WMU's Fetzer Center will celebrate his life richly lived. Memorial donations may be directed to WMU School of Music (Jazz Studies), Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, Kal County Democratic Party or Tillers International.

Read his full obituary here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Finding Funding for Michigan's 2015 Quest Program

Last year, a program called The Quest came to the attention of Michigan Traditional Arts Program staff. It was an after school program for k-12 students living in northern Michigan putting special focus on areas suffering from persistent poverty, such as schools in Brethren, Kalkaska, Mesick, and Rapid City. This 2014 partnership between SEEDS, Earthwork Music, and Blackbird Arts was focused on honoring the work of Alan Lomax by using his collected materials to inspire new creations and educating kids about music. MTAP researcher Laurie Sommers documented The Quest from start to finish. Read more about that here.

This year, those involved with this program are aiming to raise $10,000 via an IndieGoGo campaign over the next twenty days in the hopes of presenting a similar program with a different theme. These funds will go toward space rental fees, materials, recording and engineering costs, sound equipment, and student transportation. The goal is to present a performance on July 2nd that displays the hard work and creativity of the student participants.

To support this wonderful program, click here.

Here is a video about the Lomax-themed Quest program from 2014.

Monday, April 13, 2015

MSU Alumnus Joshua Davis on NBC's The Voice

Image courtesy of the Lansing State Journal
Americana roots musician and MSU alumnus Joshua Davis is competing in this season of NBC's The Voice. It is exciting to see this genre of music being represented on a national stage.

Joshua is a member of the Earthwork Music Collective. Many of his fellow collective members have performed at the Great Lakes Folk Festival, including Seth Bernard and May Erlewine in 2014 and Red Tail Ring in 2013. Joshua and the collective were involved with the Lomax QUEST project last spring, featured here in a blog post by Laurie Sommers.

Joshua's band, Steppin In It, performed weekly at the Green Door in the Eastside neighborhood of Lansing for fifteen years, drawing loyal crowds of dancers and fans with their big sound.

Watch The Voice tonight on NBC at 8pm EST and vote to keep our Michigander going strong and spreading to good word of folk music to this massive audience.

Here's a handy infographic illustrating the various voting methods.

Read more about Joshua's performances and journey in the articles below.

The Lansing State Journal


Local Spins

The State News

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Michigan State Championship Old-Time Fiddlers Contest Set for October

Fiddle contests are a tradition found all over the country. The Michigan State Championship Old-Time Fiddlers Contest takes place each year at the Huron Township Applefest.

From the Huron Township Applefest Website:
Contestants must play a waltz, a schottische, a jig and a reel in a manner suitable to Michigan old-time dancing. Contestants will be judged on tempo/timing, intonation, expression and repertoire. There is a non-refundable $10.00 entry fee. The contest begins promptly at 3:00 pm. Contestants register at 2:00 pm and draw for positions at 2:30 pm.

The contest is free to watch. Winners receive cash prizes and other awards. This is a great opportunity to show your stuff! 

To register, print the application for here and mail it to:

Huron Applefest
37296 Huron River Drive
New Boston, MI 48164

For more information, contact Jim McKinney, fiddle contest director at (734)753-8863 or stringtet@charter.net.

Monday, March 30, 2015

MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival Set for August 7-9, 2015

The Tannahill Weavers, Photo courtesy of the band
Where else in the world will you find French-Canadian, Celtic, Tejano, Creole and Western Swing? Throw in some 'Blind Boy' Blues, 'Uprizin' steel drum and 'Down Hill Strugglers' and it can only be the MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival, turning downtown East Lansing in to a living museum of roots, rhythms and richness Aug. 7-9.

 The preliminary music and dance program includes:

Learn more here: Music and Dance Program

Most groups play 2-4 times throughout the weekend, including sets on a 2,400-foot dance floor.

Musicians from different groups take the stage in popular Traditions Showcases -- fiddlers, percussionists, accordion players, etc. -- to share and compare traditions and techniques of their instruments.

Also, for festival-goers to participate: an old-time jam, community sing, and shape note singing.

A performance schedule will be set in July.

Exhibits, demonstrations, storytelling, marketplace, Kidlore children's folk activities, Taste of Traditions foodways, and Heritage Awards make the Great Lakes Festival a one-of-a-kind celebration of culture, tradition and community where visitors can sample and savor the distinctive cultural expressions throughout the festival weekend. Special programs for 2015 include:

Lomax Centennial: Celebrating Alan Lomax’s 100th Birthday

"Treasures from the Archive Roadshow: Celebrating Alan Lomax & The Folk Music Collections at the Library of Congress." This roadshow draws together nationally recognized folk musicians who play songs they have learned directly from the Lomax Family Collection and other important collections at the American Folklife Center. These performers will tour nationally during Lomax’s centennial year.

At GLFF, the roadshow includes The Down Hill Strugglers with legendary musician and folklorist John Cohen (of the New Lost City Ramblers), Jerron “Blindboy” Paxton, Frank Fairfield, and Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops).

Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression
Through Oct. 18, 2015, Heritage Gallery, Michigan State University Museum
Exhibition bringing Alan Lomax's 1938 Michigan field trip to life through words, song lyrics, photographs, and sound recordings from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula including lumberjacks, miners, schoonermen, and more.

Community Sing: focus on Lomax's popular songbooks, which include songs like Goodnight Irene, House of the Rising Sun, Jesus is on the Mainline, and more!

The China Experience: An MSU Exploration of Arts & Culture
The China Experience is a university-wide thematic year that focuses on the arts and culture of China. For more information visit: artsandculture.msu.edu.

As part of the university wide focus on China GLFF has special China related activities led by Chinese students from the International Studies and Programs at MSU in the Global Traditions, Local Connections tent; activities will include traditional Chinese Calligraphy, games, clothing and more!

Arts and Health
Attendees will learn about arts and health through panel discussions on the Campus and Community stage and exhibits including quilt & fiber art displays and an Orphan Tower, comprised of beaded dolls representing the number of AIDS orphans in one South African village.

Great, Guaranteed!

2015 Michigan Heritage Awards 
Each year at GLFF, the MSU Museum presents the Michigan Heritage Awards recognizing the state's leading tradition-bearers in music, material culture and community leadership. This year's honorees are: Ronald Ahrens, Three Oaks (Berrien County), for lacemaking; and Stephen Stier of Empire (Leelanau County), for historic barn preservation.

The GLFF Marketplace returns with more recycled and upcycled green goods, from jewelry to garden and fiber art, and sculpture. The MSU Museum also showcases master artists in textiles, basketry and other traditional arts. (Attention prospective vendors: apply here!)
Children’s Area ‘Kidlore’ Activities 
 Kids will have the opportunity for hands-on experiences inspired by the artists and traditions of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.

Taste of Traditions Foodways: with authentic regional and ethnic food - Greek, Indian, Mexican, Thai and more.

The festival site -- across the street from the MSU campus -- spans the downtown core of the city for three days of festival fun. Find out more at http://greatlakesfolkfest.net or follow GLFF on Facebook and twitter.

Admission is by donation (suggested $10 per day) and contributions leading up to the event and on-site -- sustain GLFF. Festival friends can make donations leading up to the event online at greatlakesfolkfest.net or at the MSU Museum.

Parking is available in downtown ramps and across Grand River Avenue on the MSU campus (in designated areas; free on weekends). GLFF also provides bike parking on-site.

More than 400 agile volunteers assist the MSU Museum in staging the event - from artist transportation, children's activities, information booth, site set-up and teardown, ice delivery and visitor surveys. To volunteer, click here!

The Great Lakes Folk Festival is presented by the Michigan State University Museum, Michigan's first Smithsonian affiliate. The MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program researches, documents, preserves, and presents our shared heritage and cultural expressions. Primary financial support for GLFF comes from Michigan State University Office of the Provost, University Outreach and Engagement, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of East Lansing, and many MSU departments. In addition, nearly 100 corporations, foundations and organizations also support GLFF annually, as well as individual donors, "Great Friends."

This award-winning event is one of the region's premiere arts programs and is expected to draw more than 90,000 visitors throughout the weekend to celebrate culture, tradition and community. GLFF was named the state's top public humanities program by the Michigan Humanities Council.

Double the festival fun!
 It's a festival rich weekend in the Greater Lansing Area! The MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival and the Lansing JazzFest in Old Town will take over Mid-Michigan on the same weekend in August 2015. Traditionally JazzFest is the first weekend in August and GLFF is the second -- and depending on your interpretation and the quirk of how the dates fall this year, that is the weekend of Aug. 7 for both. Because of long-standing scheduling with artists and vendors, and working around the campus calendar and the lead-up to the MSU fall semester, GLFF is maintaining this weekend slot Aug. 7-9.

This won't happen again until 2020, so enjoy both festivals in one weekend for 2015!

Arts and culture at MSU play a critical role in nurturing the human spirit while contributing to a richer quality of life. Museums, galleries, and gardens along with libraries, historic sites, and performance spaces provide a catalyst for cultural exchange of diverse ideas and inspirations. At the same time, audiences on campus and around the world take advantage of academic and research outreach programs such as public broadcasting, online resources, and publications. Learn more at http://artsandculture.msu.edu.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Alan Lomax Archive Goes Live!

As described by NPR, it's "kind of like Pandora for grad students."

Though this archive was released to the public in 2012, it has recently been getting national press as people begin to use and understand it more fully. The Association for Cultural Equity, an organization originally founded by Alan Lomax and now run by his daughter, has created an excellent resource, featuring over 17,000 audio recordings, as well as photographic images, video recordings, and radio programs generated by master folklorist Alan Lomax.

This fits in nicely with the MSU Museum's recently opened exhibition, "Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries From the Great Depression." Lomax's Michigan collection, discussed in the exhibit, is in the process of digitization and will hopefully be available soon through the Lomax Family Collection of the American Folklife Center. We can't wait!

A young Alan Lomax
CBS Promotional photo from the 1940s

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rhiannon Giddens Featured on NPR

Photo courtesy of rhiannongiddens.com

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens performed at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in 2008 with her band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It was clear seven years ago that this band was one to watch. A recent NPR story confirms this. Rhiannon sat down with NPR's Renee Montagne to discuss her recent release, musical influences, and past experiences. Click here for the full NPR article.

Since then, the band has released another album, and has undergone some transformations. In 2010, the group received a GRAMMY Award for their album, Genuine Negro Jig. Two members amicably left to pursue solo careers (Justin Robinson and Dom Flemons) and three new ones joined (Hubby Jenkins, Rowan Corbett, and Malcolm Parson). Giddens recently released her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, to much acclaim.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

MSU Museum Welcomes Visiting Scholar Aleia Brown

Photo courtesy of Aleia Brown
The Michigan State University Museum welcomes Aleia Brown, a Middle Tennessee State University doctoral student in public history who recently started a 9 month residency as a visiting scholar at the MSU. She was formerly a curator at the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, and is part of a national cohort group leading a very important web blog and twitter chats on museum responses to Ferguson. Click here for more information.

At the MSU Museum, Aleia will be engaged in a number of research, administrative, and educational activities affiliated with folklife and history. One collections-based activity will focus on cataloguing the recent donation of the Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi/Women of Color Quilters Network collection, as well as conducting interviews with key quilt artists who make work addressing civil and human rights.

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Interview with AFC Lomax Family Collection Curator Todd Harvey

In honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 75th anniversary of his 1938 collecting trip through Michigan, an upcoming exhibition at the Michigan State University Museum will focus on the extensive upper Midwest materials collected by renown folklorist Alan Lomax. This exhibition, entitled "Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression," has travelled around the state of Michigan, landing in schools, libraries, museums, and community spaces. It was generated through a partnership between the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress (AFC) Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum (MSUM); the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture, University of Wisconsin, and the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE). The exhibition is part of a larger project that includes innovative publications, community engagement, digital educational resources, and the repatriation of copies of collections to their home communities. It inspired concerts, public programming, and even a collaboration between the Earthwork Music Collective and seven underserved northwest lower Michigan schools (read more about that here).

Photo courtesy of the MSU Museum website
These programs have been made possible in part by a grant from Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities; with additional support from the Michigan State University Museum and its the Great Lakes Traditions Endowment; the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress; the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin; the Association for Cultural Equity; and the Finlandia Foundation.

I interviewed Lomax Family Collection Curator Todd Harvey to get a better understanding of the exhibition, the collection, and the role that archives play in current society. Here is a look into our conversation:

What is your role at the American Folklife Center with the Lomax Collections? What do your daily responsibilities entail?

I am the Curator of the Lomax Collection. I oversee processing of materials and am the content and reference specialist. I help to promote and interface with other organizations. You could say I am the "point person for all things Lomax."
Every day I get queries about the collection. Some of them might be, "Can I have some materials?" or "Can I do some licensing?" Others are more broad, such as an eighth grade student doing a National History Day project on Alan Lomax who wants access to some of our collections or a record producer who wants help with getting proper permissions, content, and track information.
In the longer term, The Lomax Family Collection is engaged in a large-scale digitization and online publication project where all Lomax manuscripts in the collections will be presented online, plus ninety-eight other Lomax family collections. This involves between 350,000-400,000 scans that will be available through the Library of Congress. I help to select and prepare that materials, which then move to the conservation department, then to digital curation, etc. It is an extremely large institutional project. 

Why should visitors to the exhibition care about fieldwork that Lomax did in Michigan? What can we learn about Michigan and the upper Midwest from his fieldwork? 
I think you can learn about the incredible ethnic and cultural diversity of the upper Midwest. That is what really struck Lomax in Ohio and Indiana in the spring of 1938 and in Michigan in the fall of 1938.
He intended a rapid recognizance survey of the upper Midwest cultures, those present in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota,  Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, but he got stalled because, as he put is Michigan was "the most fertile source for cultural expression."
People should care  because some of the earliest documentation of those cultures, certainly earliest fieldwork documentation, occurred during this period. This was one of the first times an ethnographer had worked in the upper Midwest. It is early and unique and precious.
At its core, this fieldwork shows the great depth of expressive culture in Michigan in the 1930s. 
What surprised you about the collecting work that Lomax did in Michigan?
 A lot of things surprised me. Because I went day-to-day looking at his work, I was surprised by the intensity of the work and the constancy of the work. He didn't take a lot of days off. He was always moving from one town to the next, finding performers, recording them, and moving on.
I was surprised by the diversity as well. I think he recorded twelve languages [during his time in Michigan]. It represented so many culture groups for not much geographic space. 
It seemed like a tremendous amount of fun. His correspondence showed a good sense of humor about what he was doing. He seemed to be totally in his element. He would write these messages... "I'm getting such great stuff, I can't bear to leave. Send my advance to the next town." He was always broke because he was always paying performers. He truly embodied that nostalgic sense of the fieldworker, constantly recording, alone on the road but so happy to be there.
One of my favorite stories is that of Ted Lewandowski from Cheboygan, Michigan. Lomax had recorded Ted singing old songs, and then proceeded to ask his two young daughters if they had anything they would like to share. They start singing this cowboy song, "Goldmine in the Sky," which was a title track to a Gene Autry film which had been playing at an area theatre. They copied it from the film. It was popular music of the moment. Here you had a father doing songs from the old country juxtaposed against this pop song from a film. Lomax wasn't just interested in "old people doing old songs." It was real culture.
When you read Lomax's notes, there are all sorts of events like that. For all the successes he had, he would write down the negatives as well. A priest would throw him out of a church, or he would arrive at someone's house to record them only to discover that they had died. He once said "I'm beginning to think I'm death's special messenger."
The 75th anniversary of the Lomax fieldwork in Michigan and the 100th anniversary of Lomax's birth has led to a rich collaboration between the American Folklife Center/Library of Congress, the MSU Museum, and other partners. Can you reflect on this partnership and how it worked?
We started to reflect on the 75th/100th anniversaries with the idea that it should focus on the performers and the cultures they represented, on the documentation rather than the documenter. That was Lomax's way.
We are particularly fortunate because of the strong MSU/AFC bond that already existed. They were the obvious partner for us to approach. When we decided to work together, we agreed that we would use our complimenting strengths to create a viable program. The Library of Congress is great for preserving materials and creating authoritative metadata. We have discovered that the MSU Museum is good at promoting materials throughout the state of Michigan. They are the best at it! Who did Kurt Dewhurst (MSU Museum Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage) hire but one of the best-known fieldworkers in the state, Laurie Sommers. She knew which venues and communities to talk to and which reporters to approach. The great press snowballed.
We tried to keep things modest in scope. We did what each organization does best and played to our strengths. We involved other organizations as we needed them or as they approached us (The Michigan Humanities Council, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures at the University of Wisconsin, the Association for Cultural Equity, and the Finlandia Foundation) and were intentional with our branding. 
 Why are fieldwork collections by folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and other scholars held in professional archives so important to us today? 
At the Library of Congress, our goal is to create a universal body of knowledge that represents culture. Much of this is achieved through archives. This includes photographs, sound recordings, etc., of people. For a long time, this meant congressmen, senators, and people in power.
In the 1920s when the folk archive was founded, it gave a richer, truer picture of American culture. Ethnography is that in many ways... that expressed culture of ordinary people, and of everyone. Is this a world of power and ideas and reports? Or of things that are passed down from generation to generation? It is important to represent both of the aspects of culture.
We are only part of a continuum. There is someone who keeps a tradition alive in their world and in their family by practicing it. At some point, this tradition is documented, preserved, then learned and reinterpreted. This repeats. This is how expressive culture is maintained in the digital age. We are all tradition bearers, like it or not, know it or not. 
At the Library of Congress, we are stewards of this material, which is only useful if someone uses it, looks at it, and learns something from it. We have to be inward-facing preservationists, but also face out to the world and present this material. The Michigan Folksong Legacy Project was unique because we didn't just present academic papers, but tried to sew materials back into the communities from which they originated through the exhibition and public programs.
Why do you think that there is growing interest and passion by the younger generations for early recordings?
I hope it is because mass culture is finally beginning to mature, and digital natives are the benefit of that. We don't have NBC broadcasting a "folk show" on Thursday night as the only representation of what traditional culture is. We have a million ways for younger people to grab culture and use it. We've seen an atomization of American culture. We have access to everything, so we are able to ask: what is important? The answer is becoming: our traditions. I think that is what is happening. I am glad to be a part of it. If I can teach some high school students to use our archive, we are relevant for another generation.
I am reminded of Alan Lomax's principle of "cultural equity." In a big way, what happened in the 20th century was a cultural grey out. The growth of media in the 1920s caused people to turn less and less to their own culture and more and more toward mass culture. It's hard to fight that. It's hard not to take the "hee-haw" as a true representation of rural American culture. It was half Vaudeville and half... something else. Lomax proposed equal time for all cultures on the air and in the classroom. In that way we can help to encourage the beautiful cultural diversity that we see in the US and the upper Midwest. This is a foundational principle of the Lomax Collection.
What do you think Lomax might be collecting in Michigan if he were alive today?
He collected folksongs because that was a big way for people to express themselves in 1938. He was especially interested in the way these songs moved across the country and the world. He also collected oral histories and instrumental music. He would be looking at vestiges of traditional culture being expressed... Finnish culture in the Upper Peninsula, children's games, polka music on the east side of the state, dance throughout the state, "the urban strain" as he called it-- urban popular music and how has changed and moved in Detroit. He was also interested in recent immigrant communities, so I think he would take a look at the Arab communities around Detroit as well.
 I wouldn't be surprised if he went over to the Traverse City area to talk to some of the Earthwork Music Collective members because they are transforming folksongs
and keeping them alive. 

Click here to listen to podcasts generated by the Library of Congress about the work of Lomax.

"Michigan Folksong Legacy: Grand Discoveries from the Great Depression" will be on view at the MSU Museum from March 2nd through October 18th in the Heritage Gallery.

Listen to a clip of one of Lomax's recordings here!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mark Priest and Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives

Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives, a partnership of the MSU Museum and the MSU School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, proudly featured a number of Mark Priest's artworks in the one-man exhibit "Iron Men, Steel Rail," which was held at the MSU Museum in 1996. One of the paintings from this exhibit was purchased by the MSU Museum and remains in the collection today.

As reported a few weeks ago, Priest has continued in his vein of socially informed paintings with a number of series focusing on African-American history and the experience of the Underground Railroad. An exhibit of Mark Priest's current work, “Underground Railroad 2015,” is currently on display in two locations at the University of Louisville where Priest is a professor of art.

Mark and a great representation of the art in the exhibit were recently featured in the video below, generated by the University of Louisville.

The Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives Brown Bag Presentation Series schedule for winter/spring of 2015 can be viewed below:

Philipp Scholz Ritterman
photographer Seeing China exhibit
"Emperor's River: Photographing along China's Grand Canal"
Monday, February 23, 2015 
7:00-8:30 pm
MSU Museum Auditorium

Laurie Sommers

MSU Museum
"Songs of Miners, Lumberjacks and Schooner Men: Alan Lomax's Michigan Legacy"
Monday, March 2, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Marcie Ray
MSU College of Music
"Love, Sex and Greed: Reflecting Gender and Class in French Comic Opera"
Friday, March 19, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context and the MSU Women's Resource Center

Rebecca Meuninck
Ecology Center
"Labor, Livelihoods and Brazilian Black Gold: Navigating Fair Trade, Coffee Quality, and Environmental Standards"
Friday, March 27, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Maria Cotera, re-scheduled
American Studies and Women's Studies, University of Michigan
"Working for Justice: Legacies of Latina Activism in Southeastern Michigan"
Monday, March 30, 2015
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the MSU Center for Gender in Global Context, Chicano/Latino Studies Program, Julian Samora Research Institute and the MSU Women's Resource Center

Maite Tapia
School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Michigan State University
"Organizing the Fragmented: Workers, Unions and the Fast Food Industry"
Friday, April 10, 2015 
MSU Museum Auditorium

Peter Cole
History Department, Western Illinois University
"On the Waterfront in Durban and San Francisco: Longshoremen and Social Movement Unionism, 1934-1994"
Friday, April 24, 2015
MSU Museum Auditorium

co-sponsored by the African-American and African Studies

For more information, contact John Beck at (517) 432-3982 or beckj@msu.edu or Kurt Dewhurst at 355-2370 (517)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

New Feature: Local Learning Dress to Express Museum Modules

In conjunction with first issue of the Journal of Folklore and Education, “Dress to Express: Exploring Culture and Identity,” Local Learning proudly announces the launch of three museum modules that extend this theme in our new online Discovery Studio. Because dress and adornment carry such deep, complex meaning, they present exciting opportunities for learning across disciplines and age groups and in diverse settings. Dress and adornment create accessible portals to culture and community as well as to historical and contemporary identity.

The images made available by our museum partners bring the museum collection to the computer screen, and the suggested lessons offer new ways to think about history, identity, art, and culture as well as encourage close observation and interpretation. Activities suitable for grades 4-12, university, museum, and community settings accompany the images. Find more activity and context on this theme in Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education.

Exploring Dress, Culture, and Identity in Asian Art
by Joanna Pecore
Asian Arts & Culture Center, Towson University, Towson, Maryland
What do art objects from distant times and places express about the identity of the people and the cultures depicted in them?

Exploring Dress, Culture and Identity in American Indian Dress and Objects
by Lisa Falk
Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson Arizona
How would you feel if someone (outside your identity group) used your identity design references in a clothing line? What might change how you feel about this use? 

Lau Hala Weaving and Hawai’ian Cultural Identity
by Marsha MacDowell
Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan
How is the weaving and wearing of lau hala papale (hats) connected to Hawai’ian history, identity, natural resources, and culture?

Find the Dress to Express Museum Modules in the Discovery Studio of the Local Learning website and explore more activities and context on this theme in Volume 1 of the Journal of Folklore and Education, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. Please publicize these free resources among your colleagues and networks.

Paddy Bowman, Director, pbbowman@gmail.com
Lisa Rathje, Assistant Director, rathje.lisa@gmail.com
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education

Friday, January 30, 2015

Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Seeks Fellows

Photo courtesy of the NACF Website
From the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Website:
"The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) seeks to recognize innovative American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists and culture makers across the country through the 2015 NACF Artist Fellowship. 
The coveted national award recognizes artistic excellence and includes support ranging up to $20,000 per artist. Awards will be made in six artistic disciplines, including: performing arts, filmmaking, literature, music, traditional arts and visual arts. 
To apply, artists who are members of federally and state-recognized U.S. tribes, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities can review criteria and complete an application at http://your.culturegrants.org. 
To date, the foundation has recognized 41 American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian artists with the unique national award. Past fellows are ineligible for applying for the current year’s award. The foundation will announce award recipients in August 2015. "

The deadline is Monday, April 6th at 5pm PST (8pm EST).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Michigan Heritage Award Winner Julia Mainer Dies at 95

Singer and guitarist Julia "Hillbilly Lilly" Mainer died on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at age 95 after sustaining injuries from a fall. Mainer was a resident of Gennessee County. She and her husband Wade Mainer received a Michigan Heritage Award in 1996 for their knowledge and performance of old time music. Wade passed away in 2011 at the age of 104.

Hear Julia and Wade Mainer perform "I Can't Sit Down" at Michigan State University Museum's Festival of Michigan Folklife in East Lansing, Michigan, 1989.


From the Michigan Heritage Award website [bio c. 1996]:
"Wade and Julia Mainer have done what all great folk artists have always done: they received their music from earlier generations, gave it their own special shape and stamp, and passed it on to younger musicians. They have played exemplary roles in preserving old-time Appalachian music and hold a special place in southern musical history. 
As a fine singer and guitar player, Julia had her own radio program in the 1930s. A deeply religious woman, Julia specializes in gospel songs. In addition to solo work, she has served as Wade's guitarist in concerts and on records for almost 25 years. She also sings harmony with him. 
Wade, a living legend of traditional mountain music, grew up in a musical family from his birth on April 2, 1907. He learned to play the banjo, which became his specialty, by watching local musicians at Saturday night barn dances. In the 1930s he began his musical career, joining with his older brother, J. E., to form the string band Mainer's Mountaineers. He soon formed his own group, Sons of the Mountaineers, and continued to record and work in radio until 1953 when he moved to Flint to work for General Motors. Wade's large recorded repertoire in the 1930s served as a bridge between the older mountain music and the Bluegrass style of the 1940s and 1950s. He was one of three musicians who kept the five-string banjo and its old-time repertoire in the public eye through records and the radio until the arrival of musicians such as Earl Scruggs. 
During the early 1950s, Wade and Julia gave up musical entertainment, singing only in religious services. Persuaded years later that the banjo and gospel music were compatible, they returned to public performance, and by 1961 had begun to record again.  
After Wade's retirement in 1973, he and Julia began to perform at bluegrass festivals, concentrating on mountain gospel music with an occasional old and rare secular piece. They have been together in marriage and music for 63 years. In 1987 Wade was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship for his role in the development of two-finger banjo picking in the style of his native western North Carolina. 
Wade Mainer also received a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1987." 

Hear Julia and Wade perform once more at Michigan State University Museum's Festival of Michigan Folklife in East Lansing, Michigan, 1989.

Read more on BluegrassToday or MLive.