March 9, 2018

High Honors for Heritage: 2018 Michigan Heritage Awards and Apprenticeships Announced

The Michigan Traditional Arts Program of the Michigan State University Museum announces honorees in two programs celebrating cultural heritage in Michigan: the 2018 Michigan Heritage Awards (MHA) and the 2018 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (MTAAP) recipients.

The Michigan Heritage Award (MHA) is the state’s highest distinction to honor individuals who continue their family, community, or cultural traditions with excellence and devotion.

“The Michigan Heritage Awards are presented each year to honor master tradition bearers in Michigan who continue the folk traditions of their families and communities through practice and teaching,” explains Marsha MacDowell, Curator of Folk Arts at the MSU Museum and Director of the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.

Receiving a 2018 Michigan Heritage award for their traditional arts achievements are:

Mick Gavin of Redford (Wayne County) for Irish fiddling and melodeon playing

Neil Woodward of Howell (Livingston County) for Michigan folk songs, storytelling, and folklore

Since 1987, the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program (MTAAP) has supported the teaching and passing on of Michigan’s cultural traditions by awarding funds to master artists and their apprentices. As part of this program, a master artist works with an apprentice for a period of seven months. Past apprenticeships have helped sustain traditions in diverse art forms such as fiddling, quill box making, storytelling, blacksmithing, tamale making, and rag rug weaving. MTAAP master artists receive a monetary stipend for working with the apprentices in their traditional art form.

The 2018 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program’s master artists and apprentices, respectively, are:

Paulette Brockington of Highland Park (Wayne County) and Brianna Benvenuti of Lansing (Ingham County) for American vernacular dance

Kelly Church of Allegan (Allegan County) and Holly Alberts of Kewadin (Antrim County) for black ash basketry

Nihad Dukhan of Farmington Hills (Oakland County) and Aisha Changezi of Grand Blanc (Genesee County) for classical Arabic and Islamic calligraphy

Andrew Duncan of Royal Oak (Oakland County) and Duncan Petersen-Jones of Okemos (Ingham County) for Scottish bagpiping

Randy Dunn of Cedarville and Kyle Slater of Hessel (Mackinac County) for blacksmithing

Cindi John and Ruby John of Northport (Leelanau County) for smoked fish preparation

Josh Homminga and Sarah Bedell of Brimley (Chippewa County) for black ash basketry

Christine Ingabire and Grace Johnson of Grand Rapids (Kent County) for Rwandan dance

Meghan Scott and Christine Russell of Williamston and Anna Wright of Onondaga (Ingham County) for Irish step dance

Roopa Shyamasundara of Rochester Hills (Oakland County) and Bhuvna Murthy of Ann Arbor (Washtenaw County) for Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance)

Celeste Smith of Highland Park and Peggy Brandon of Detroit (Wayne County) for millinery

Jill Woods and Timothy Calvert of Fennville (Allegan County) for chair seating and wicker repair.

The Michigan Heritage Awards and Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program are supported this year primarily by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with additional support from the Marsha MacDowell and C. Kurt Dewhurst Traditional Artists Endowment. The awards were given out following a thorough review by a panel of folklife scholars and educators. The nominations and applications were considered based on depth of experience, community engagement, representation of the tradition, samples of work, and the relationship between tradition-bearer and apprentice when determining the merit of each award.
To learn more contact the Michigan Traditional Arts Program at or (517) 353-5526.

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