Traditionally Maryland - Maryland Traditions featured in Maryland Life Magazine
May 31, 2011 - Maryland Life Magazine!June 01, 2011Press Release
Maryland Life Magazine!">Traditionally Maryland
by Jason Tinney
When you think of folk art, scrapple probably isn’t the first thing that jumps to mind.
But in San Domingo, a rural African-American community in Wicomico County, autumn hog-butchering and the subsequent creation of hearty pork loaves—a mix of ground meat, cornmeal, flour, sage, and other seasonings—has been a way of life in Newell Quinton’s family for more than 200 years.
Quinton, 66, and his 22-year-old nephew, Allen, are among the more than a dozen Master-Apprentice teams being honored at this year’s Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival, an all-day gathering in Baltimore celebrating the Maryland State Arts Council’s folklife program.
From boat-building to beaten biscuits, Kunqu opera to Piedmont Blues, Arabbers to muskrat skinners, Maryland Traditions and its network of regional folklorists and partner institutions have spent a decade combing the Free State identifying, chronicling, and championing distinct local customs and practitioners of folk art.
“We define it as cultural knowledge that’s learned orally or by example, handed down through generations within communities,” says Cliff Murphy, Maryland Traditions’ co-director.
Funded, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts, Maryland Traditions is the brainchild of folklorists Rory Turner (the academic director for the master’s program in cultural sustainability at Goucher College in Baltimore) and Elaine Eff.
Over the years, the program has collaborated with a number of partners, among them Frostburg State University, Prince George’s African American Museum & Cultural Center, and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
“We feel it is critical to recognize and honor the traditions that make us Maryland,” says Eff, Maryland Traditions’ co-director and folklorist-in-residence at UMBC.
“We wanted [partners] who understood why it was important—that, in fact, it was a way to capture the stories of people, the authenticity of their places, of their communities, of their neighborhoods.”
The Master-Apprentice Award provides $2,000 grants to traditional artists who work one-on-one with an apprentice of their choosing for a year. Additionally, Maryland Traditions funds grants up to $5,000 to nonprofits for public projects that document, preserve, or promote folk and traditional arts.
Headlining this year’s festival is Grammy-nominee (and southern Maryland resident) Bill Kirchen—a.k.a., the “Titan of the Telecaster.” Kirchen’s dieselbilly guitar sound drove the 1970s classic “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
To mark its 10-year anniversary, Maryland Traditions’ annual showcase will also feature performances from internationally renowned Irish button accordionist Billy McComiskey, doo-wop pioneers the Legendary Orioles, and others.
Eff and Murphy will also present this year’s ALTA (Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts) Awards. Named in honor of the late Alta Schrock, founder of the Penn Alps/Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville, the award recognizes individuals or organizations who exemplify outstanding stewardship of the state’s living traditions.
“What connects everybody, from the decoy carver to the South Indian dancer, is each one of these people is practicing an art form that is oftentimes very important to the identity of the community that they come from,” says Murphy, adding, “Maryland is made up almost entirely of people who have been on the move.
“As people move around over the course of decades, over the course of centuries, our communities are trying to maintain these memories of where we’ve been. I see it as a conversation with the past and the future.”
Reflecting on the past decade and the program’s efforts to sustain those diverse fabrics of the state’s culture, Eff couldn’t be happier.
“Every time I look back at what we’ve accomplished, I’m in shock,” she says.
“It’s just thrilling to know that we have not only created something, but built something that keeps growing and grows as people have needs and [then] realize that there is an institution that supports them.”
This year’s Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival takes place June 18 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave., Baltimore. For more information, call 410-276-1651 or visit www.creativealliance.org. To learn more about Maryland Traditions, visit www.marylandtraditions.org.