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Dewhurst, C. Kurt, Ph.D.

Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives, and Senior Fellow for University Outreach & Engagement
Director Emeritus and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Co-Director, Great Lakes Folk Festival
Professor, Department of English

Research Interests/Experience

C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D., serves as the Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and Senior Fellow, University Outreach & Engagement; Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Michigan State University Museum and Professor of English at Michigan State University. He is also Director Emeritus of the MSU Museum. A founder of the folk and traditional arts programs at the museum, he coordinates a variety of folklife research, collection development, and outreach & engagement programs. He is one of the founding directors of the Festival of Michigan Folklife, a coordinator for the National Folk Festival when it was in East Lansing, and is a founding director for the Great Lakes Folk Festival. He is the author or co-author of variety of books and exhibition catalogues including: Artists in Aprons: The Folk Arts of American Women; Reflection of Faith: Religious Folk Art in America; Michigan Folk Art: Its Beginnings to 1941; Rainbows in the Sky: The Folk Arts of Michigan in the 20th Century; Traditions at Work: Grand Ledge Folk Pottery; Michigan Hmong Arts; and MSU Campus: Buildings, Spaces, Places, Michigan Folklife Reader, To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions, Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa, and Ike Ulana Lau Hala: The Vitality and Vibrancy of Lau Hala Weaving Traditions in Hawaii. He is co-author of forthcoming publications: Folklife and Museums: 21st Century Perspectives; Michiganders: Michigan Folk Traditions; and The MSU Campus Guide.

His research interests include folk arts, material culture, ethnicity, occupational folk culture, and cultural economic development, and cultural heritage policy. As a Professor in the English Department at MSU, he teaches courses in folklife, material folk culture, and museum studies. He currently serves as Chairperson of the Board of the Board of Trustees for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress; and Past President of the American Folklore Society, Chair of the Advisory Council, Smithsonian Center for Foklife and Culture, Chair of the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, Vice-Chair of the Michigan Humanities Council, and President of the Michigan Museums Association. He also is an advisor to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, South Africa and an advisor for the development of the new Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Museum Center on Non-Racialism in Lenasia, South Africa. He has served as an advisor to the development of the Nokomis Learning Center, Okemos, MI, National Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand and the National Heritage & Cultural Studies Center at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.

He has served as Chairperson of the Fund for Folk Culture in Austin, Texas, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., President of the Michigan Museums Association; Chairperson of the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs; and Vice Chairperson of the Michigan Humanities Council. He serves as a senior reviewer for the Accreditation Program of the American Association of Museum.

He is a past recipient of a Fulbright Grant to work in Thailand with the National Culture Commission of Thailand and participated in a French-American Foundation Arts Administrators Exchange Program in France. He was honored with the 2004 Américo Paredes prize by the American Folklore Society for excellence in integrating scholarship with engagement with communities. In addition, the Great Lakes Folk Festival was recognized in 2004 as the best project in the 30-year history of the Michigan Humanities Council.

In the past decade he coordinated a major Cultural Heritage Training program in South Africa; served as co-curator of the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, Carriers of Culture: Native Basket Traditions; co-curator for the major international exhibition, Dear Mr. Mandela, Dear Mrs. Parks: Children’s Letters, Global Lessons (in South Africa and the U.S.) and Ahmed 'Kathy' Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy in the U.S. He recently completed a Fulbright Grant at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa where he assisted on the re-development of the Museum of Anthropology. He is one of the leaders for the US-Africa Cultural Heritage Strategic Partnership. He was the co-curator for a collaborative exhibition Nani I Ka Lau Hala: Weaving Hawaii on living Native Hawaiian lauhala hat traditions with the Bishop Museum (2015) and MSU Museum, and co-curator of the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program, Campus and Community: Public Universities and the USDA at 150.

Selected Publications

  • “Nani I Ka Hala: The Vibrancy and Vitality of Lau Hala Weaving in Hawaii.” Bishop Museum, Honolulu, and Maui Arts and Cultural Center, HA. 2015.
  • “Sun-up to Sundown: Selections from the Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives Collection,” Michigan State University Museum. 2013.
  • “Ahmed Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy." Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI. 2013.
  • “Campus and Community” (Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program), Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Washington, DC. 2011.
  • "Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions" program at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2006.
  • "Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions" preview exhibit, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. 2006.
  • "Dear Mr. Mandela/Dear Mrs. Parks" Exhibit, (collaborative with the MSU Museum and Nelson Mandela Museum), Mthatha, South Africa, 2008.
  • To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions" (a collaborative project between the National Museum of the American Indian and Michigan State University Museum), National Museum of the American Indian, New York, New York, October 16, 1997 - January 4, 1998; Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan. National venues: Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts; Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio; Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana; Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, Washington; Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • "Native Quilt Traditions of the Southwest." Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000.
  • "Caught on the Fly: Fly Fishing Traditions in Michigan," MSU Museum

Selected Exhibits

  • “Nani I Ka Hala: The Vibrancy and Vitality of Lau Hala Weaving in Hawaii.” Bishop Museum, Honolulu, and Maui Arts and Cultural Center, HA. 2015.
  • “Sun-up to Sundown: Selections from the Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives Collection,” Michigan State University Museum. 2013.
  • “Ahmed Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy." Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI. 2013.
  • “Campus and Community” (Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program), Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Washington, DC. 2011.
  • "Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions" program at Smithsonian Folklife Festival, 2006.
  • "Carriers of Culture: Living Native Basket Traditions" preview exhibit, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. 2006.
  • "Dear Mr. Mandela/Dear Mrs. Parks" Exhibit, (collaborative with the MSU Museum and Nelson Mandela Museum), Mthatha, South Africa, 2008.
  • To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions" (a collaborative project between the National Museum of the American Indian and Michigan State University Museum), National Museum of the American Indian, New York, New York, October 16, 1997 - January 4, 1998; Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, Michigan. National venues: Fuller Museum of Art, Brockton, Massachusetts; Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, Ohio; Museum of the Rockies, Bozeman, Montana; Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii; Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, Washington; Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Heard Museum, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • "Native Quilt Traditions of the Southwest." Institute of American Indian Arts Museum. Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000.
  • "Caught on the Fly: Fly Fishing Traditions in Michigan," MSU Museum

Selected Honors 

  • American State and Local History Awards, 1977, 1985, and 1988.
  • French-American Foundation Arts Administrators Exchange Program in France, 2000
  • Cultural Heritage Training program in South Africa, program coordinator, 2000-present
  • Salzburg Seminar Series on Community and Culture, Salzburg, Austria
  • Distinguished Service to the Humanities Award, 1998
  • Fulbright Grant to work in Thailand with the National Culture Commission of Thailand, 1992
  • Michigan Humanities Council and the American Association of State and Local History Award, 1992
  • Award, and a Crystal Award for exemplary community service by the City of East Lansing.
  • Michigan State University Diversity Award for Michigan Traditional Arts Program Contributions, 1990.
  • Americo Paredes Award, American Folklore Society, 2004
  • Michigan Humanities Council, Best Project in 30 Year History of the MHC for the Museum's Folklife Festivals, 2005
  • Fellow, American Folklore Society, 2011
  • Fulbright Grant at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2011

Degrees 

Ph.D., English/American Studies, Michigan State University, 1983 
M.A., Michigan State University, 1973