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MSU Museum Seeks 2018 Heritage Award Nominations, Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Applications

Honoring Tradition-BearersImage of Michigan Traditional Arts Program logo

Honoring individuals who carry on traditions with excellence is the focus of two annual programs coordinated by the Michigan State University Museum: the Michigan Heritage Awards (MHA), and the Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (MTAAP).

Nominations for 2018 Heritage Awards and applications for the apprenticeships are due Friday, December 1st, 2017. Heritage Award nomination forms and apprenticeship application forms are available online.

2017 Michigan Heritage Awards:
Since 1985, the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program has, through its Michigan Heritage Awards, honored the achievements and dedication of Michigan’s traditional artists and traditional arts advocates. The awards recognize these practitioners in the areas of performance, material culture, and community leadership.  The awardees in 2017 were:

1. Bruce Bauman of Remus (Mecosta County) for community leadership in old time music and dance
2. Daniel Gorno [posthumous award] (Antrim County) for percussive and waltz dance and square dance calling
3. Anshu Varma of Okemos (Ingham County) for menhdi and Indian American cultural traditions

"The attention and honor extended to these artists through the Michigan Heritage Awards are important not only to them but to all of us who cherish the state's cultural heritage," explains Marsha MacDowell, Curator of Folk Arts at the MSU Museum and director of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.  "We seek nominations from all over the state so that the awards continue to reflect the great diversity of skills, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds of Michiganders," she adds.

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program:
The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program supports the continuation of traditional arts practiced in Michigan that are learned informally from one another in small groups and families. These range from decoy duck carving to storytelling, mehndi (henna) art application to Irish step dance, and tamale making to Finnish kantele playing. A master artist works with an apprentice artist, passing on the skills and knowledge about a particular traditional art form. The apprenticeship program awards a $2000 stipend in support of the instruction time the master artist spends with the apprentice.

"Like its natural resources, Michigan's cultural traditions are a treasured resource to be nurtured for future generations, which is why the apprenticeship program provides incentives to traditional artists to pursue their art and pass on these skills to others," says MacDowell. "Many master and apprentice teams tell us that their apprenticeship was one of the most meaningful times of their lives, providing the opportunity and the means to pass on a living tradition to someone who will continue the tradition as well," she adds.

The National Endowment for the Arts, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and MSU Museum fund these traditional arts programs. MacDowell encourages anyone considering putting together an application for either program to please contact Micah Ling, MTAP public programs coordinator, at msum.mtap@gmail.com or 517-353-5526. 

A gallery of past awardees is online here. Heritage Awardees and MTAAP masters and apprenticeships are featured in a special exhibition at the MSU Museum, "Michigan Artists: Passing on Traditions," and are recognized at the MSU Museum's annual Great Lakes Folk Festival in East Lansing each August. Many of these tradition-bearers also demonstrate their skills and/or perform at the festival in workshops and showcases.

The MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program advances cross-cultural understanding in a diverse society through the documentation, preservation, and presentation of the traditional arts, folklife, and everyday culture in Michigan.