Maryland Traditions: Maryland’s State Folklife Program
What is folklife?
Folklife is all around you. It’s in the music that makes your culture unique, the special dishes on your family dinner table, and the customs that mark your holidays. In a nutshell, folklife is made up of the living cultural traditions that help to define who you are and where you’re from.
Folklife can be based on ethnicity. Marylanders who come from other places bring their folklife with them in the form of traditional dances or foods. Folklife can be based on place. Head west to Appalachian Maryland, and you might hear the sounds of old time mountain music passed down over generations. Or, folklife can be based on occupation, as with the oystering, crabbing, and boatbuilding traditions of the Chesapeake Bay.
Maryland Traditions is the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council. Since 1974, state-employed folklorists have worked to identify, document, support, and present Maryland folklife through grants, awards, festivals, and other programming. Learn more about our work below, or contact Director Chad Edward Buterbaugh at (410) 767-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offered annually, the Maryland Traditions Apprenticeship Award funds a year-long period of study between a master and apprentice artist. These awards support the passing down of folklife in a wide range of living cultural traditions.
Offered annually, the Maryland Traditions Project Grant funds folklife programming, production, or research. These grants support the presentation of Maryland folklife to wider audiences throughout the state.
Given each year since 2007, the Maryland Traditions Heritage Awards recognize outstanding contributions to the vitality of Maryland folklife in three categories: Person, Place, and Tradition. Recipients are honored at a public ceremony produced by the Maryland-based National Council for the Traditional Arts.
Hosted in Salisbury from 2018-2020, the National Folk Festival is a free celebration of the nation’s living cultural traditions. Maryland folklife practitioners are featured at the festival’s Maryland Traditions Folklife Area. The National Folk Festival is produced by the Maryland-based National Council for the Traditional Arts.
The Maryland Folklife Archives contain fieldwork data collected by Maryland state folklorists since 1974, along with many more folklife materials. This public archive is housed in the Special Collections of the Albin O. Kuhn Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where digitization work is ongoing.
Maryland Folklife Network
The Maryland Folklife Network is a statewide infrastructure of collaborating organizations doing folklife work on the regional level. Current Maryland Folklife Network collaborators are Frostburg State University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Sandy Spring Museum; St. Mary’s College of Maryland; and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University. Members of the Maryland Folklife Network receive funding and support from the Maryland Traditions state folklife program, which is housed at MSAC.
National Heritage Fellowships
The National Heritage Fellowship is the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Given annually by the National Endowment for the Arts, fellowships honor artists’ excellence and contributions to folk and traditional arts in the United States. Seventeen awards have been given in Maryland since the first class of recipients were recognized in 1982. Read about them here.