Maryland Traditions, the traditional arts program of MSAC, has announced the winners of its 2021 Heritage Awards, which recognize long-term achievement in the traditional arts. Three Heritage Awards are given annually: one each in the categories of Person or People, Place, and Tradition. Each award comes with a $5,000 grant. This year’s winners are:
Person or People: Phil Wiggins of Montgomery County is a master harmonica player in the tradition of the Piedmont blues, a delicate, lyrical style of blues originating in Black communities in the eastern United States in the 1920s and 1930s. Phil has taught thousands to both play and value the Piedmont blues and is the recipient of many awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Place: The historic Dentzel carousel has been a fixture in Montgomery County’s Glen Echo Park since 1921. Crafted by the Dentzel Carousel Company, the amusement has for 100 years served as the site of community gathering, including a 1960 civil rights protest to open the park to Black visitors. The desegregation effort was ultimately successful, and the carousel has remained the centerpiece of the park and a cherished attraction for all guests.
Tradition: Arabbing is the name for the Baltimore City tradition of selling fruits and vegetables by horse-drawn cart. Those practicing the tradition, known as arabbers, alert their customers to the availability of fresh food through unique hollers. For 150 years, arabbing has been recognized as a tradition primarily upheld by and for Baltimore’s Black communities, as well as an entrepreneurial economic system serving neighborhoods across the city.
“The Maryland State Arts Council’s Heritage Awards highlight what’s best of Maryland’s folklife and community-based cultural traditions,” said Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. “The award recipients have shown significant and long-term achievement, and help tell the world about Maryland’s great heritage.”
Maryland Traditions has offered Heritage Awards annually since 2007 in honor of Dr. Alta Schrock, a Garrett County community leader who taught biology at Frostburg State University and founded groups, events, and publications to support traditional arts in Appalachian Maryland and beyond. Dr. Schrock’s legacy and work are a continuing source of inspiration for the Heritage Awards today. As part of their honor, each winner participates in a photo shoot and recorded interview to document their activities.
About the Maryland State Arts Council
Founded in 1967, MSAC is an agency of the State of Maryland Department of Commerce that plays an essential role, ensuring every person has access to the transformative power of the arts. MSAC advances the arts in our state by providing leadership that champions creative expression, diverse programming, equitable access, lifelong learning, and the arts as a celebrated contributor to the quality of life for all the people of Maryland. To do this, the agency awards grants to not-for-profit, tax-exempt organizations for ongoing arts programming and projects, awards grants to individual artists, and provides technical and advisory assistance to individuals and groups. MSAC receives its funds in an annual appropriation from the State of Maryland and from grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. The Council may also receive contributions from private, non-governmental sources. For more information, go to msac.org.
Photo caption: Arabbers Leonard "Felix" Wells and James Cooper repairing a wagon by Edwin Remsberg Photographs.