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The Folk Festival: A Hands-on MSU Museum Tradition

Ground Floor Gallery
March 12 - October 26, 2014

The Michigan State University Museum has a long history of producing outdoor festivals of traditional culture. In the early 1980s, the Michigan State University Museum began to produce festivals as part of its strategy to document, interpret, and present aspects of contemporary traditional culture; to teach others about the tools and methodologies used especially that of Michigan and the Great Lakes region. In 1983, the MSU Museum produced its first series of outdoor showcases of Michigan’s folk traditions at the annual 4-H Exploration Days in East Lansing. The “Michigan Whosestory?” Festival was presented over a weekend in 1987 and brought together over 75 musicians, storytellers, and crafts demonstrators.

This new exhibition features a photographic history of MSU Museum produced folk festivals from the Festival of Michigan Folklife in 1987 for the Michigan Sesquicentennial, to the National Folk Festival in 1999-2001, right up to the most recent Great Lakes Folk Festival. The exhibition presents a selection of photos from our Folk and Traditional Arts Research Collections taken by a variety of photographers many who are from the local area. Pearl Yee Wong and C. Kurt Dewhurst from the MSU Museum curated this exhibition.

The current annual Great Lakes Folk Festival includes over 150 musicians and dancers. In addition to traditional food vendors, craft vendors and many other individual artists/demonstrators, along with a children's hands-on activity area, crafts demonstrations, and crafts marketplace. Every year since 1987, the MSU Museum has produced a folk festival that energizes and educates 90,000 annual visitors - first on campus and now in downtown East Lansing. Under the direction of the MSU Museum's Michigan Traditional Arts Program, a statewide partnership with the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, the festival also represents partnerships of civic, business, education and arts agencies.

Save the date: the MSU Museum's 2015 Great Lakes Folk Festival is planned for Aug. 7-9.

photography credits from right to left:
The Festival of Michigan Folklife dance stage, 1990. Photo by David L. Perry
Brazilian Junkanoo on the streets of East Lansing, 2001. Photo by Mary Whalen
Jamming under the dance tent, 2010. Photo by Patrick Power.