As the state folklorist, I’ve ventured out to annual ethnic festivals and inside the homes and work spaces of countless traditional artists around Massachusetts in an effort to understand folk art traditions that individuals and communities care enough to sustain and to pass on. This archive is now finding an expanded audience through our online exhibition (www.massfolkarts.org) and this blog. Read about our latest fieldwork finds or learn about what these “Keepers of Tradition” are up to. We want to hear from you, too, is there an individual, group, or tradition we should know about? Do you know of an endangered tradition worth supporting?
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. This summer, look for the “Keepers of Tradition: Folk Craft & Foodways” in Lucy Larcom Park where we will showcase some of the extra-musical aspects of traditional folk culture.
The plan is to build on the energy of the festival — the high-quality, traditional arts performances that are the hallmark of the Lowell Folk Festival — and offer similar experiences throughout the year. Special exhibits and interactive presentations of craft, foodways, performing, and expressive traditions will be developed based on both previous and new folklife field research within the region’s many diverse communities. There is even the possibility of re-establishing a folklife center at the park.
Maggie Holtzberg, Ph.D.