Power of Culture Blog
A lifelong resident of Fall River, she served on the Council for nearly six years
It has been nearly 25 years since I came to Mass Cultural Council to manage the Folk Arts & Heritage Program. As I approach retirement at the end of December, I can honestly say that my job here has been more gratifying than I could have imagined. Working throughout the state has been a calling and privilege allowing me to get to know, learn from, and support a remarkable range of traditional artists and culture bearers. I regularly got out to visit with people carrying on traditions of locally defined significance, like Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan firing ware in an arched woodburning kiln in Lowell or balafon player Balla Kouyaté playing for a West African baby shower in Dorchester. Imagine hearing an auctioneers’ chant competition, attending the side-launch of a newly built wooden schooner in Essex, watching a Caribbean Carnival procession on Blue Hill Avenue, or going underground with Tunnel Workers Local 88 during Boston’s Big Dig? What’s not to like?
One of the great joys of the work has been curating traditional arts programming for the public, introducing them to craft, music, and dance traditions of which they might be unaware. Some highlights include:
Maintaining a traditional arts practice takes commitment, passion, and time. Funding helps. Artist Fellowships in Traditional Arts and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants have helped revitalize many under resourced cultural traditions in Massachusetts. When things go well, apprenticeships like those captured in these short films, help ensure the continuity of traditional practices – ways of knowing-by-doing that might otherwise be lost.
For the hundreds of traditional artists and culture bearers who allowed us to visit and interview them, thank you! A fraction of our encounters are captured in blog posts but all of your words, images, and stories live on, safely housed in the Folk Arts and Heritage Collection at the Mass State Archives, digitally accessible to all.
So many traditions, so little time.