Interested in applying for a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship?

February 9th, 2016

Kieran Jordan and Emerald RaeDimitrios Klitsas at his workbenchIvelisse Pabon de Landron with apprenticeJohn Kristensen and Jesse MarsolaisKarol Lindquist and Timalyne FrazierQianshen Bai and Mei HungWilliam Cumpiano with apprentice Isidro AcostaDavid Hawthorne teaching bowmaking

Apprenticeships are a time-honored method by which an individual learns skills, techniques, and artistry under the guidance of a recognized master. Since its founding in 2001, the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s  Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program has funded nearly 100 artists in a vast array of traditions, both old and new to Massachusetts. Applications are now available.

Recent apprenticeships funded by MCC’s Folk Arts and Heritage Program include mentorships in Madhubani painting, Irish uilleann piping, urban sign painting and gold leaf, Chinese seal carving and calligraphy, Carnatic singing, and European architectural and ornamental woodcarving, to name a few. The deadline for applying is April 12, 2016.

MCC Awards 2016 Fellows & Finalists in the Traditional Arts

February 2nd, 2016

FELLOWS:

Portrait of Shannon Heaton

Shannon Heaton, Irish flute playing, singing, & composition

No matter how well any of us play, our Irish cred lies in
how tightly we can play with others. Irish music is social.

Shannon Heaton is highly regarded in Irish traditional music circles for her beautifully expressing playing, composing, and dedication to teaching and promoting the music. She was fortunate to learn firsthand from musicians in Chicago’s rich traditional Irish music scene and later in repeated trips to County Clare, Ireland. For National Heritage Fellow, Seamus Connolly, Shannon’s playing encapsulates the tradition, “In it I hear so many elements of the old styles, such as the playing of Kevin Henry from County Sligo, Ireland, who lived in Chicago and whose music goes back to another time.”

Shannon co-founded the Boston Celtic Music Festival in 2001, a festival that continues to bring Irish musicians together with other Celtic styles. “Live Ireland,” an Irish music radio show broadcasting from Dublin, nominated Shannon “Female Musician of the Year” twice. In addition to performing regularly, Shannon is a sought after teacher, not only of tunes and technique, but also of the tradition’s social and musical customs, e.g., the importance of session etiquette.

 

Dimitrios Klitsas at his workbench
Dimitrios Klitsas, architectural and ornamental woodcarving

Both students and seasoned wood carvers come from around the country to study with master woodcarver Dimitrios Klitsas in his studio in Hampden. Like the architects and designers who seek out his impeccably carved ornamental work for fine homes and churches, these students are inspired by Dimitrios’s ability to shape slabs of walnut, mahogany, or oak into breathtaking architectural and figurative works. Guided by his deep knowledge of the fundamentals of classical European design, Dimitrios patiently creates carvings that exemplify both his unique talent and his devotion to the tradition of his craft.

Dimitrios began his training in classical carving at age 13 at the Ioannina Technical School near his home in the foothills of northwestern Greece. After graduation, he served a five-year apprenticeship and then ran his own woodcarving shop in Athens for another five years, before coming to Massachusetts nearly four decades ago. His work here has been recognized nationally with commendations including the Arthur Ross Award for Artisanship from the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Many of Dimitrios’s students have gone on to professional carving careers, including his son, Spiro.

FINALISTS:

Delft redware by Stephen Earp

Stephen Earp, redware pottery

Stephen Earp works within the redware tradition, the common name for a variety of domestic, leadglazed
pottery made in New England between the 17th and 19th centuries. Originally, redware was produced to meet the daily needs of food storage, preparation, and serving such as plates, platters, and pitchers. On occasion, redware served commemorative and decorative purposes. Stephen has perfected the functional forms and sgrafitto of Colonial redware, and more recently found his way to his own heritage through making Dutch Delftware.

Most of Earp’s pottery is thrown on a wheel that he designed and built. He uses local materials including clay from a family owned pottery in Sheffield, Massachusetts, which mines clay from a local seam. His glazes include locally dug clay, as well as ashes from the hay of a nearby farmer. In 2007, Stephen was included in Early American Life Magazine Directory of Traditional Crafts. Stephen was named an MCC Finalist in the Traditional Arts category in 2008. He writes an engaging and informative blog, This Day in Potter History.

Soumya Rajaram

Soumya Rajaram, Bharatanatyam dancer

Soumya Rajaram performs and teaches Bharatanatyam dance, a South Indian classical tradition with strong spiritual connections to Hindu religion and mythology. Although originally a hereditary tradition, the teaching of Bharatanatyam has become institutionalized. Indeed, Soumya came up within a deep lineage of dance teachers trained at the Kalakshetra Foundation in Chennai, India. In addition to her years of dedicated training in the technique and expressive elements of Bharatanatyam, she has extensive training in Carnatic music, which is integral to Bharatanatyam dance.

Known for her exacting standards, Soumya is skilled in nritta (abstract dance) and abhinaya (emotive aspect). She performs regularly at festivals and concerts and is thought of highly by senior dance teachers who first brought Bharatanatyam to southern New England. Soumya is an active contributor to the India arts community in Greater Boston. She continues to enhance her learning under the mentorship of Sheejith Krishna, spending a few months a year at his studio and home in Chennai.

Lutchinha

Maria Neves Leite, Cape Verdean singer

Known in the performing world as  “Lutchinha,” Maria Neves Leite is a singer of Cape Verdean songs. She was born into a singing family on the island of Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands, part of an archipelago off the coast of West Africa. She began singing at age seven, first with her father and later with family friends who would come to the house. Luchinha’s first solo CD Castanhinha bears the title of a mourna that her father wrote for her mother. She went on to become one of the winners at the Todo Munco Canta singing competition, representing her island of Sao Vicente. Engagements in the Soviet Union and in Portugal soon followed.

Lutchinha enjoyed a successful performing career in Europe before she joined her parents in immigrating to the United States. The family settled in Brockton. Lutchinha sang out in the local region, performing for Cape Verdean weddings, Noite Caboverdiana, and other community events. Her repertoire continued to draw from the deep well of traditional Cape Verdean song including the morna, coladeira, batuku,and funana Only recently, with her own children grown, Lutchina has returned to performing outside of the Cape Verdean community, including appearances at major festivals like the 2014 American Folk Festival in Bangor, ME. and the 2015 National Folk Festival in Greensboro, NC where she was backed by an all-star band of Cape Verdean musicians from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

 Textile with hole to be repairedInvisible reweaving

Toni Columbo, invisible reweaving

When is a traditional art at its best when it can’t be seen? Toni Columbo excels at invisible reweaving, French weaving, over weaving, and reknitting; all are traditional ways of repairing holes and damages by hand as imperceptibly as possible in woven and knitted fabrics. Threads or a frayed piece of fabric are harvested from an inconspicuous spot on a jacket, pants, coat, or sweater, and rewoven thread by thread, into the damaged area, rendering it virtually invisible.

Toni learned needle arts from her mother, who in turn, learned from her mother. Toni was born and raised in Boston’s North End, and she maintains a vital connection to this Italian American community. She is highly regarded by customers and by high end retail stores for her excellent skill in mending cherished items of clothing. Using the skills passed down through her family, Toni repairs and restores suits, sweaters, coats, couches, tapestries, and uniforms (including Babe Ruth’s 1926 New York Yankees baseball jersey). In addition to working on heirlooms, Toni keeps up with the new weaves and fibers used in today’s textiles. To work on these micro fabrics, some containing between 100-125 threads per inch, Toni uses a high powered surgeon’s loupe.

The Coloring Book Trend in Light of an Ancient North Indian Tradition

January 20th, 2016

Adult coloring book cover

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of coloring books for adults. Once considered child’s play, coloring is now being touted as an adult’s “centering activity,” one that can combat anxiety, relieve stress and improve fine motor skills. Hearing about the trend in recently published coloring books and coloring groups of made us wonder what 8th grader Sanjana Krishan would think of the coloring trend.

Sanjana Krishnan standing with two of her Madhubani paintingsher

Sanjana recently completed an apprenticeship with master artist Sunanda Sahay in the ancient North Indian art of Madhubani painting. This very traditional art form features hand drawn hatched borders, motifs, and figures from Hindu mythology. Once the black lines are drawn, brushed acrylics fill in the spaces, leaving very little white space on the finished work.

filling in the drawing with color

Sanjana was interviewed by the Acton Tab, the local paper about her passion for Indian art. Towards the end of the article, she affirms, “(Art) relaxes you . . . when you paint, it’s focusing you on different things other than schoolwork. It’s different. It’s healing.”

Sounds like it might be the perfect time for someone to publish a Madhubani coloring book . . .

 

Planting the Art Tree in Lowell: Yary Livan

January 14th, 2016
YouTube Preview Image

This short video tells the remarkable story of master Cambodian potter Yary Livan. He is a shining example of not only the promise America holds for refugee artisan immigrants, but also of how these individuals enrich our cultural landscape.

The “whole nine yards” — telling the story of the unstitched garment from South Asia

November 24th, 2015

Jaya and Lakshmi in their booth at the folk craft area

Guest Blog by Lakshmi Narayan, Auburndale, MA

When Maggie Holtzberg asked me if I would participate in the Lowell Folk Festival, I was excited to be able to share my fascination for the “unstitched garment” with visitors to this unique festival. It has been fifteen years since I moved to Massachusetts from India. While living in India, I had been deeply entrenched in working with hand woven, hand block printed, embroidered fabrics, for close to 15 years. I still continue to stay connected with craft communities in India and keep looking for ways to share my love of South Asian textiles with communities here in the US.

On the day before the festival I pulled out all my favorite saris from my wardrobe — Ikats, Jamdanis, Benaresi, Mysore silks and Kanchipurams. To this collection I added a suitcase full of incredible hand spun, hand woven contemporary saris from “Taan Baan” a label well respected and known for revivals, and all my books on saris including the one I contributed to, Saris: Tradition and Beyond.

South Asian sari textile

I loaded my little Volkswagen beetle on the morning of the festival. On my way to Lowell, I stopped to pick up Jaiya Aiyer, a truly remarkable young girl who was introduced to me a few months earlier as a student of Indian dance. The plan was for us to demonstrate the folding and wrapping of the sari and discuss the ways the unstitched garment could be worn in myriad elegant ways.

Jaiya had worn the sari as a costume for her Bharatanatyam dance recitals in the past and was very familiar with the regular six yard wearing style.

Jaiya in Bharatanatyam costume. Photo by Michael Walz Photography

Jaiya in Bharatanatyam costume. Photo by Michael Walz Photography

When Jaiya got into the car I was thrilled to see her wearing a beautiful traditional “Narayanpet” from Andra Pradesh, which she had borrowed from her mom’s wardrobe.

Jaya wearing a purple sari

As soon as we arrived at the Lowell festival we got busy hanging up the saris and stoles in our tent and putting up the posters I had made. In preparation for meeting festival goers, we continued to chat about saris — their structure and materials, the weavers and printers, the wearers and the community.

Festival goers looking at Lakshmi and Jaya's display

I dressed the mannequin, so kindly lent to us by Lowell National Historical Park, in a white cotton Kerala sari and our first visitors watched with amusement as I wrestled with the mannequin, to turn the skinny blond lady into a traditional South Indian “mohini attam” dancer.

Mannequindressed in a white cotton Kerala sari

It wasn’t long before we overheard friendly chatter coming from the other end of our tent. We soon learned that our tent neighbors were Liberian Rosaline Accam Awadjie who had arrived with brightly colored Dutch wax prints fabrics for African head wraps and Qamaria Amatal-Wadud, a young woman from western Massachusetts with her fine Islamic hijabs.

Roseline Accam Awadjie (left)standing behind a woman she has dressed. Qamaria Amatal-Wadud with her hijabs

We spent two days sharing wonderful stories and experiences with visitors explaining the wearing style they would try on, the materials, the variable textures. The way the sari is worn conveys a wealth of cultural information about an Indian woman- her religious belief, marital status, wealth, or social standing. Visitors asked several questions on rituals, customs and culture.

These exchanges did not stop with just a greeting — something that I have experienced, having participated as a vendor of Indian hand crafts on several occasions. Here, people were interested in knowing more about the culture and story behind the cloth, the women who wore them, and the weaver who wove printed or painted them. We used the charts I had made to explain the process of hand spinning, weaving and printing.

festival goer dress in red sari

At the end of day, Sunday, a woman who had visited the day before came back with a sari in her hand. She had gotten it as a gift years ago and wanted to know if I knew which part of India it might be woven. “I think Bengal,” I told her, looking at the fine cotton thread work and indeed there was an old label stamped with a shop’s name in Bengal!

Another enthusiast we dressed in a sari wanted photographs of herself after she been dressed with an African headwrap; by combining the two she made a unique fashion statement! Below you see Qamaria taking a photo of this woman walking past a patch of black-eyed Susans.

Lakshmi_Qamaria shooting photo

Both Jaiya and I enjoyed our two days of interactions and were happy to have shared the story of the unstitched garment, literally the “whole nine yards” with visitors to Lowell.

Children posing in unstitched wrapped garments

Khmer Ceramicist Yary Livan Honored in Nation’s Capitol

October 8th, 2015
Yary Livan receiving National Heritage Award, posing with NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu

Yary Livan receiving National Heritage Award, posing with NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu.

What a delight it was to be present for the 2015 NEA National Heritage Fellowship awards in Washington, DC last week. The stellar “class” of master traditional artists were recognized and feted in the nation’s capitol. The events culminated in a dazzling and moving concert most ably emceed by PRI The World’s Marco Werman.

Photo by Michael G. Stewart, courtesy NEA

Photo by Michael G. Stewart, courtesy of the NEA

We congratulate all of this year’s heritage fellows, but are especially proud of Lowell, Massachusett’s Yary Livan; his stunning artwork and life story should make us all proud of the opportunities this country continues to provide immigrants. Here’s to Yary, a gentle and humble soul. We look forward to the work he has yet to create and the efforts of the many students who will benefit from his dedication to passing on this incredible, endangered Khmer art form.

NEA_HYary Livan and Nary Tith. Photo by Tom Pich

Yary Livan with his wife and “life assistant” Nary Tith. Photo by Tom Pich.

In Honor of Labor Day

September 4th, 2015

Folk Tradition in Good Hands: A Visual Reminder

September 1st, 2015
Anahid Kazazian inspecting Armenian Marash embroidery
Anahid Kazazian inspecting Armenian Marash embroidery

Anahid Kazazian inspecting Armenian Marash embroidery

Violin bowmaker David Hawthorne chiseling mortise
Violin bowmaker David Hawthorne chiseling mortise

Violin bowmaker David Hawthorne chiseling mortise

origami rose by Richard Alexander
origami rose by Richard Alexander

origami rose by Richard Alexander

Linda Lane making bobbin lace
Linda Lane making bobbin lace

Linda Lane making bobbin lace

Fisherman Marco Randazzo holding one of his rope sculptures
Fisherman Marco Randazzo holding one of his rope sculptures

Fisherman Marco Randazzo holding one of his rope sculptures

Ruben Arroco carving fruit
Ruben Arroco carving fruit

Ruben Arroco carving fruit

Dottie Flanagan cooking pierogi
Dottie Flanagan cooking pierogi

Dottie Flanagan cooking pierogi

Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan carving clay
Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan carving clay

Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan carving clay

Alma Boghosian making Armenian needle lace
Alma Boghosian making Armenian needle lace

Alma Boghosian making Armenian needle lace

Karol Lindquist making a Nantucket lightship basket
Karol Lindquist making a Nantucket lightship basket

Karol Lindquist making a Nantucket lightship basket

Chent  Chow holding Chinese chop
Chent Chow holding Chinese chop

Chent Chow holding Chinese chop

Hands of Sicilian strega Lori Bruno
Hands of Sicilian strega Lori Bruno

Hands of Sicilian strega Lori Bruno

Apply for an Artist Fellowship

August 24th, 2015

Guidelines and application forms for our next upcoming Artist Fellowships in the traditional arts have just been posted!

Recent recipients include craft artists, dancers, and musicians:

Yary holding brown bowl

Yary Livan, Artist Fellow 2012

Elizabeth James Perry with Wampanoag weavings

Elizabeth James Perry, Artist Fellow, 2014

Jimmy Noonan at Boston College Jan 23 2014. Photo: Paul Wells

Jimmy Noonan, Artist Fellow, 2014

Kieran Jordan Irish sean nos dancer

Keiren Jordan, Artist Fellow, 2008

To see a complete list of past fellows in the Traditional Arts category, see here.

Scenes from a Festival: Textile Traditions

July 30th, 2015

Signage in Folk Craft & Foodways area

Entrance to folk craft area in Lucy Larcom Park

Kudos to all the textile artists who made the Folk Craft area of this year’s Lowell Folk Festival so vibrant! Here are some images from the two-day event.

Kathy Blake-Parker (far right) of the Cranberry Rug Hookers Guild

Kathy Blake-Parker (far right) of the Cranberry Rug Hookers Guild

Fatima Vejzovic of Hartford demonstrating Bosnian rug weaving

Fatima Vejzovic of Hartford demonstrating Bosnian rug weaving

Jonas Stundzia holding a frame with Lithuanian pick-up weaving

Jonas Stundzia holding a frame with Lithuanian pick-up weaving

Jonas Stundzia (right) with friend Irene Malasaukas, who demonstrated Lithuanian pickle making in the Foodways tent

Jonas Stundzia (right) with friend Irene Malasaukas, who demonstrated Lithuanian pickle making in the Foodways tent

Entrance to Foodways demonstration tent

Entrance to Foodways demonstration tent

David Blackburn serving pickes at the foodways demonstration tent

David Blackburn serving pickles at the foodways demonstration tent

Samples of torchon bobbin lace by Linda Lane

Samples of torchon bobbin lace by Linda Lane

Sisters 'n Stitches quilting guild members

Sisters ‘n Stitches quilting guild members enjoying the crowd

Melissa Dawson of Chelmsford Quilters' Guild

Melissa Dawson of Chelmsford Quilters’ Guild

Elizabeth James Perry discussing Wampanoag weaving traditions

Elizabeth James Perry discussing Wampanoag weaving traditions

LFF2015_Patrisiya Kayobera with festival goer

Patrisiya Kayobera holding one of her Rwandan coiled baskets

Rwandan coiled basket by Patrisiya Kayobera

Rwandan coiled basket by Patrisiya Kayobera

Qamaria Amatal-Wadud with examples of her Islamic hijab and abaya

Qamaria Amatal-Wadud with examples of her Islamic hijab and abaya

Rosaline Accam Awadjie (on right) with two festival goers that she has dressed in African headwraps and dress

Rosaline Accam Awadjie (on left, standing) with two festival goers that she has dressed in African headwraps and dress

Jaya Aiyer and Lakshmi Narayan displaying South Asian saris

Jaya Aiyer and Lakshmi Narayan displaying South Asian saris

LFF2015_attendance at unstitched garment tent copy

Visitors checking out the “unstitched garments” in the folk craft area


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