|| The aim of the Massachusetts
Cultural Council's (MCC) Folk Arts & Heritage Program
is to identify craftspeople, performers and cultural specialists,
help sustain the practice of tradition where they live,
and increase appreciation of their artistry within the community
Since 1999, the MCC — with crucial support from the
National Endowment for the Arts — has been committed
to putting a vital traditional arts program into place.
We have established an ongoing regimen of documentary fieldwork;
provided direct support to individual artists through Artist
Fellowships and Traditional Arts Apprenticeships; and created
visibility for traditional artists through print media,
radio broadcasts, and bookings at regional folk festivals.
In an effort to bring greater visibility to Massachusetts
folk arts traditions we collaborated with the National Heritage Musuem in producing the exhibition Keepers
of Tradition: Art & Folk Heritage in Massachusetts, which ran May 18, 2008-June 7, 2009.
Fieldwork and Documentation
Under the leadership of Maggie Holtzberg, Ph.D., the MCC
has established a very strong fieldwork collection. Over
900 individuals, groups, and community organizations have
been documented. Our archival holdings now include some
5,305 color slides, 1,010 black and white film negatives,
317 color negatives, 2,911 digital images, 172 cassette
tapes, and 237 digital audio recordings.
In addition to building our collection and augmenting the state's folk arts expertise, fieldwork helps us connect traditional artists to resources of which they are often unaware. We consistently fulfill requests for curatorial advice from artistic directors looking for high-quality traditional performing and crafts artists. Fieldwork also continues to play a growing role in the MCC's arts-in-education efforts, including an ambitious teacher's institute launched in 2006 in Springfield, "Explorations
in Puerto Rican Culture."
Support for Traditional Artists
We have two active grant programs for traditional artists
at the MCC: Artist
Fellowships and Traditional
Arts Apprenticeships. These programs offer recognition
and economic opportunity to traditional artists; preserve
and foster understanding of traditional art forms; and recognize
cultural competence and the transmission of cultural values.
In 2001, the MCC introduced the category of traditional
artists to its Artist
Fellowships Program, offered on a biennial basis. The
review criteria for Artist Fellowships in the Traditional
Arts include artistic excellence, authenticity, and significance
of the artist's work to the traditional community. In FY12, grants were awarded to Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan and Irish accordion player Joe Derrane. See all the Traditional Arts Fellows and Finalists at Gallery@MCC.
Arts Apprenticeship Program was introduced in 2002 and
is offered on a biennial basis. It provides a financial
incentive for master artists to identify promising apprentices
to whom they might pass on their traditional skills. Review
criteria include artistic excellence, the master's standing
within the traditional community, significance of the art
form, quality of budget and work plan, and demonstrated
commitment to the traditional art form. In FY13, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program funded six apprenticeships, totaling $28,437. Since the inception of the program in 2002, $153,982 has been awarded supporting 42 apprenticeships.
Since 2000, we have partnered with the Institute for Community
Research and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
in a grant program called Southern New England Folk &
Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. The program offers
traditional artists the possibility of working with masters
in neighboring states. The Massachusetts artists that have
served as either masters or apprentices in 2006/2007 include
Donna Hébert (Franco-American fiddling), Angel Sanchez
(Puerto Rican vejigante mask making), Chue Yang
(Hmong needlework), and Lorraine Hammond (Yankee ballads
and rural work songs).
Through a unique partnership with Lowell National Historical Park, state folklorist Maggie Holtzberg has been temporarily assigned to the Park to support the development and expansion of traditional arts programming serving the public. While MCC will continue its work in running a vital state folk arts program, this new endeavor is an exciting opportunity to explore cross-cultural understanding within in the context of a national park based on ethnic heritage, occupational folklore, immigration, and industrial history.
The goal is to engage visitors and more of the region's immigrant and ethnic populations by offering a variety of culturally-relevant public programs at the park year-round. Though the MCC Folk Arts and Heritage Program has worked with the Lowell Folk Festival for over a decade (providing potential crafts artists and musicians, emceeing on stages, etc.) we will be more actively involved in the planning and presentation of folk arts than ever before.
Building on the energy of the Lowell Folk Festival, we recently launched the "Lowell Folklife Series." These free public events of craft, music, dance, and foodways occur throughout the year and are based on MCC's folklife field research within the region's many diverse communities.
At the annual Lowell Folk Festival, we curate and produce "Folk Craft & Foodways" in Lucy Larcom Park, where we showcase some of the extra-musical aspects of traditional folk culture.
Folk Arts & Heritage Program interns assist with research,
documentation and support of the state's folk cultural resources.
1. Working with the Program Manager to identify traditional
artists, ethnic and community organizations and agencies
working with traditional communities.
2. Assisting with the ongoing development of a folklife
database and entering data from folklore fieldwork. (This
includes helping to maintain an archive of field collected
materials – recorded interviews, slides/digital images/negatives,
fieldnotes and log forms – and listening to recorded interviews
to create topic indices.)
3. Assisting with the administration of the Traditional
Arts Apprenticeship Program and Traditional Artist Fellowships.
Interns should have some familiarity with the field of folklore
or the related fields of cultural anthropology, American
studies, ethnomusicology and oral history. They must have
familiarity with spreadsheets and databases. Basic knowledge
of the history and cultural make-up of Massachusetts as
well as foreign language experience (Portuguese, Chinese,
Spanish preferred) is a plus.
To see if a Folk Arts & Heritage Program internship
is currently available, search MCC job listings on hireCulture.org.
Have a Lead?
If you know about a traditional artist or folk tradition
who should be documented, please contact Maggie
Holtzberg, Folk Arts & Heritage Program Manager.