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.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New MTAP Video on the Masters of Harmony

Check out the new video added to Michigan Traditional Art Program’s YouTube channel! It highlights the Masters of Harmony, an a cappella Gospel group from Detroit, Michigan.  In the video we hear how the Masters of Harmony came to be and how each member started singing Gospel.

The Masters of Harmony performed recently at the 2015 GreatLakes Folk Festival.  After their GLFF performance, volunteer Dave Langdon and Molly McBride were able to sit down with the group and interview them.  Current members are Thomas Kelly, Neal Lewis, O’Bryant Walker, and David Grear.  Masters of Harmony was formed in 1952 by Thomas Kelly, who has been singing Gospel since 1926.  Since 1952, there have been many different members and sometimes four to six men.  They have performed along side Gospel music’s most prominent ensembles.

Don’t forget to subscribe to MTAP’s YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with videos we post from recent fieldwork, the Great Lakes Folk Festival, and our Research Collections!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Michigander Frank Ettawageshik Delivers Paris Climate Convention Address

Image courtesy Native News Online
Frank Ettawageshik (Odawa) spoke recently at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ettawageshik gave his address on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians, as well as indigenous peoples worldwide. In addition to serving as the former Chairman of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa and as a research associate of the Michigan State University Museum, he was recognized by the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program as a master artist in Woodland Indian pottery in 1993 and 2001.

Due to recently events in Paris and around the world, this convention has been highly publicized. It is incredible to have one of our own speaking out about climate change and Native Rights on such an impressive platform.

Here is the transcript of his full remarks:
International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change
Statement at Closing Plenary of UNFCCC COP21Paris, France  December 12, 2015Presented by Frank Ettawageshik, supported by Chief Bill Erasmus, Hindou Ourmou Ibrahim, and Saoudata Aboubacrine 
Aanii, Nakwegeshik N’diznikas. Pipigwa Ododem. Waganakising n’doonjibaa.    (Hello.  Noonday is my name. The Sparrow Hawk is the mark of my family. I am from the Land of the Crooked Tree.)

Mr President, I greeted you in my Native language.  My name is Frank Ettawageshik and I represent the National Congress of American Indians. Thank you for this opportunity to address you on behalf of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change.   Indigenous Peoples are those who least contribute to climate change, having safeguarded our traditional lands, territories and resources for millenia. Because our lives are inextricably and intimately related to the natural world, every adverse effect on that world acutely affects our lives.
The members of our caucus come from all the regions of the world.  Indigenous peoples came here with three key messages. We are pleased that during these negotiations all of our points were addressed to some degree.
  1. It is essential that the rights of indigenous peoples be recognized, protected and respected within a broad human rights framework. We sought such assurance in the operative section of the Agreement. We are keenly disappointed that the Parties did not see fit to accommodate this request in which we joined with a broad constituency. The Parties do recognize the importance of such rights in the Preamble and we intend to insist on our rights at every turn. We are sovereign governments with international treaties and rights to land territories, and resources toward which we have a sacred duty which we intend to fulfill.
  1. A temperature goal of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are disappointed this was not adopted as the Structured Expert Dialog stated that our traditional livelihoods will be severely affected at two degrees. However, we are thankful that the vital importance of achieving the 1.5 degree Celsius goal is recognized in the agreement language.
  1. Recognition, respect for, and use of our traditional knowledge, with our free, prior, and informed consent. We appreciate that a provision appears in the operative section under adaptation, but it should apply everywhere in the Agreement and Decision without the qualification “where appropriate.”
We must remember we are here as nations to uphold the future for our children!  We recognize the hope in all children’s eyes and we work so that this hope will remain through the future generations.
Miigwetch (Thank You), Merci Beaucoup
View the full, original posting here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What is Folklore?

Folkstreams is a wonderful online archive of documentary films made about American folklore. They recently made this short video featuring folklorist Daniel W. Patterson describing folklore. Patterson, a Kenan Professor Emeritus of English at UNC-Chapel Hill, Fellow of the American Folklore Society, and author of ten books, relates in the video that:
“People think of folklore as… a quilt on the wall, it’s a pot on the mantelpiece…it’s an old song…but actually, folklore makes you very uncomfortable.  It’s powerful.  If it’s anything at all it’s powerful because it’s what you use to survive…it comes out of struggle and difficulty.”
In Michigan, folklore is a fiddle tune passed down through generations, a pasty recipe, a style of duck decoys or pottery, a gospel shout.  And it’s also a ritual at the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, a quilt made in response to the AIDS epidemic, the refinement of a recipe at a microbrewery, the making of a Quinceañera dress, it’s improvisation in tap dancing. 

As Patterson describes in the video, folklore arises from every-day lived experiences; in the back woods of the Upper Peninsula, on the waterways winding through our state, in the auto factories speckled throughout the mitten, the convivial din of a house party, and even the careful knot in a web of lace, folklore affects and comprises our lives.  We’re always interested to hear how folklore is a part of our readers lives, so please leave a comment with a personal story or thought!

Folkstreams is a great resource to learn about traditions and folklife through videos.  They even have a few films based in Michigan.  The Michigan Traditional Arts Program is also a great resource to learn about Michigan-specific folklife.  Our YouTube channel is a great place to find short videos on contemporary traditions from recent fieldwork and archival footage from our research collections. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Document Your Family Folklore This Thanksgiving

Become a folklorist this Thanksgiving holiday and document your family folklore.

Quillworker Yvonne Walker Keshick with her grandchildren at the 2015 GLFF.

Family folklore could include stories, jokes, music, rituals, games, scrapbooks, videos, recipes, and material culture. 
"For an individual family [however "family" may be defined], folklore is its creative expression of a common past. As raw experiences are transformed into family stories, expressions, and photos, they are codified in forms which can be easily recalled, retold, and enjoyed. Their drama and beauty are heightened, and the family’s past becomes accessible as it is reshaped according to its needs and desires," (Zeitlin 1982).
Lacemaking has been passed down for generations in Ron Ahren's family.
An easy way for anyone to document family folklore is to interview a relative through the StoryCorps app.

"The StoryCorps app—a free mobile application—seamlessly walks users through an interview by providing all the necessary tools for a wonderful experience. You will receive help preparing questions, finding the right environment for your conversation, recording a high-quality interview on your mobile device, sharing the finished product with friends and family, and uploading your conversation to the StoryCorps.me website. This site is a home for the recordings and also provides interviewing and editing resources. In addition, all interviews uploaded to the platform during the first year of the program will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress," (https://storycorps.me/about/).
Though the app has built-in questions to ask your interviewee, we suggest you make your own questions centering on family traditions.
What kinds of traditions does your family have for Thanksgiving?

Ask about Foodways
            What dishes do you always have at Thanksgiving?
            How do you make the dishes?
            Where does the recipe come from?
            Where do the raw ingredients come from?
            Who cooks what?
            What kind of cookware is used?
            Are there special serving dishes?
            When do you eat?

Ask about Music
            What kinds of music do you listen to during the holidays?
            When do you listen to music during the holidays?          
Does anyone in your family play music?
                        Where did they learn?

Ask about Stories
            What are the stories, tales, and myths told?
                        Where do they come from?
                        What kinds of stories are they? Humorous, cautionary, or romance?
            Who tells stories at a gathering?
            In what setting are stories told?
Use the Story Corps app to record and archive your interview.  Tag your interview with “MSU Museum” and your interview may be featured on the Great Folks blog! We want to hear about your folklife. 

If you need some pointers for interviewing, the Smithsonian has a free online guide available here.

Work Cited
Steve Zeitlin. A Celebration of American Family Folklore. Cambridge, MA: Yellow Moon Press, 1982, p. 2 

Photos by M. McBride.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

MSU Museum's MacDowell Named American Folklore Society Fellow

MacDowell at the Great Lakes Quilt Center of the MSU Museum
Michigan State University Museum Curator of Folk Arts Dr. Marsha MacDowell has been named a fellow of the American Folklore Society (AFS), demonstrating outstanding accomplishments and making important contributions to the field of folklore.

Established in 1960, the Fellows of the American Folklore Society are folklorists who have produced a significant number of important articles, books, and other scholarly productions or exhibitions on folklore, and have provided meritorious service to the Society and the discipline of folklore studies. In addition to her substantial record of publications and exhibitions, MacDowell has served in a number of capacities within AFS, including as elected member of the AFS executive board.
MacDowell is also a professor in MSU's Art, Art History, and Design Department as well as a core faculty member in the College of Arts and Letters Museum Studies Program, where she serves as the program's internship coordinator and teaches future museum professionals curatorial, research, field work, exhibition and civic engagement work. Her research interests include South African quilt history; traditions of patchwork covers in China; quilts and health; the history and meaning of lau hala in Hawaiian culture; and the intersection of ethnography and museums in a digital age. She is the director of the Quilt Index, an international digital repository of stories, images, and other data related to quilts and their makers.

MacDowell has curated over 50 research-based interpretive exhibitions and festival programs as Michigan State University and is founding director of the MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival, a university-community partnership. As the Coordinator of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program since 1984, she has led many projects focused on Michigan traditional and cultural heritage. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

MSU Museum's Quilts of Southwest China Featured on WKAR

Bedcover, c. 1940
Photo by Pearl Yee Wong
The new exhibit at the MSU Museum, "Quilts of Southwest China," opened September 28th, and runs until April 30th, 2015. Folk Arts Curator Marsha MacDowell sat down with WKAR's Peter Whorf to discuss the exhibit.

From the WKAR website:
Dr. Marsha MacDowell was surrounded by quilts from the start. She says she was born with an instant quilt collection assembled by her quilting grandmothers. The quilts from MacDowell’s childhood bed made their way to her residence hall during student days at MSU.
Her love and knowledge of art and textiles ultimately led to a professorship in Art and Art History at Michigan State, and her role as Folk Art Curator at the MSU Museum.
Dr. MacDowell is the author of numerous books about the art of quilts in Michigan and beyond. Her most recent work with MSU’s ongoing China Experience project now connects her passion for the art to people half a world away.
Current State's Peter Whorf talks with MacDowell about the exhibition.
Listen to the full interview here!

Monday, November 2, 2015

2014 Nation Heritage Fellow Yvonne Walker Keshick Visits the MSU Museum

Yvonne Walker Keshick at the MSU Museum
Photo courtesy Kim Worthington
Yvonne Walker Keshick stopped by the MSU Museum on Friday, October 23, to see the new exhibition on Michiganders who received the very prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Yvonne was the most recent Michigander to receive a fellowship. She was recently honored, along with 2002 National Heritage Fellow Nadim Dlaikan, as a featured speaker at a 50th Anniversary Celebration for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Photograph by Kim Worthington, Yvonne’s daughter and a good quillworker herself.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Events Around the State Highlight 40th Anniversary of The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald

For the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (Nov. 10th, 1975), museums and communities around the state are putting together events and exhibitions to remember and honor those lost and discuss the culture surrounding shipping on the Great Lakes. 

The Lansing State Journal has compiled a comprehensive list of these events below:
“Iron Hulls and Turbulent Waters: Ore Boats, Workers, and Great Lakes Shipping” is on display through Jan. 24 at the MSU Museum, 409 W. Circle Drive. Events include a reception with James Brozek from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday; and a talk by Brozek at 12:15 Friday talk in the Museum auditorium. A panel discussion is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the MSU Library featuring State Archaeologist Dean Anderson and MSU professors Peter Kakela and Michael Velbel. They’ll discuss the nature and shipping of iron ore and Great Lakes shipwrecks.  In addition, Robert Campbell, author of “Classic Ships of the Great Lakes,” will sign books and speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at Schuler Books in Meridian Mall. Find out more about the exhibit here.
-- The annual Lost Mariners Remembrance takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, on Belle Isle in Detroit. It feature marine artist Robert McGreevy, who will tell the story of lifesaving crews that patrolled the Great Lakes. There also is a lantern vigil at the Fitzgerald anchor and a performance by singer Lee Murdock. Admission is $10; advance registration is strongly recommended. Call (313) 833-1801 for information.
-- “Gales of November: The 40th Anniversary of the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” takes place at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Michigan Maritime Museum in South Haven. Speaker Jim Spurr will discuss the perils of Lake Superior travel in November, from 1816 through the Fitzgerald sinking in 1975. Admission is $8. Learn more at www.michiganmaritimemuseum.org.
-- The 40th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in the main gallery at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Gallery in Whitefish Point. The museum displays the bell of the wrecked ship as well as its life boats and other artifacts. The bell will toll 29 times, once for each member of the crew, and a 30th time for all lost on the Great Lakes. The Museum also will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 10. Learn more about the museum and the event at www.shipwreckmuseum.com.
-- The documentary movie “A Good Ship and Crew Well-Seasoned” will premiere at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Seagate Center in Toledo as part of the National Great Lakes’ Fitzgerald memorial activities.  Learn more at www.inlandseas.org.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Michigan Traditional Arts Program Call For Applications, Nominations

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the MSU Museum has two initiatives that are currently accepting applications and nominations.

The first is The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. This program awards $2000 grants to qualified master artist and apprentice pairs who apply to work together from February through August. Traditional art forms can include, but are not limited to, music, dance, foodways, storytelling, fiber arts, carving, ceramics, calligraphy, and more. The master artist and apprentice must be residents of Michigan. (Follow this link for a list of past participants)
The application for can be found here.

The second is the Michigan Heritage Awards. These awards are given to individuals or organizations that are nominated by members of their own community as tradition bearers deserving of recognition. The actual Awards Ceremony is held each year in early August at the Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing, Michigan. (Follow this link for a list of past awardees)
The nomination form for artists can be found here.
The nomination form for community leaders can be found here.

All applications are due by December 1, 2015.
Apply today!

View our current press release here!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Video With Odawa Quillworker Yvonne Walker Keshick

Yvonne Walker Keshick demonstrating quill work at the 2015 GLFF

 A new video has been added to the MTAP YouTube channel that features nationally recognized quillworker Yvonne Walker Keshick.  Watch the video to hear Yvonne speak about how she learned quill work.

Yvonne is speaking this Friday at the 50th anniversary event of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowments for the Humanities.  The event commemorates the NEA and NEH and the cultural work made possible through their grant programs.  The event is open to the public and free.  It is Friday, October 23, at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts.  Tickets can be reserved online here.  
Friday, October 23 at 7pm, Wharton Center
Yvonne received a Michigan Heritage Award in 1992 and in 2014 became a NEA National Heritage Fellow for her mastery of quillwork and for teaching future generations the art. She has taught through the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and has been featured at the Great Lakes Folk Festival. 
Yvonne and her family demonstrate quill work at the 2015 GLFF
The Michigan Traditional Arts Program seeks artists and community advocates like Yvonne 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.

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."