When the Smithsonian’s annual Folklife Festival takes center stage this summer -- across the 2-mile outdoor National Mall, over two weeks and attracting 1 million people to Washington, D.C. – Michigan State University will be especially well represented at the largest annual cultural event in the U.S. capital.
MSU will share exhibits and presentations, train students and welcome Spartan alumni during this national celebration of heritage, tradition and culture.
On America’s Front Yard
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival
encourages visitors to participate—to learn, sing, dance, eat traditional foods, and share stories with presenters and other visitors. The Festival, inaugurated in 1967, honors tradition bearers from across the United States and around the world. The Festival unites performers and visitors in the nation’s capital to celebrate the diversity of cultural traditions. It is produced by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
Over the years, it has brought more than 23,000 musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, workers, cooks, storytellers, and others to the National Mall to demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and aesthetics that embody the creative vitality of community traditions. The Festival takes place Wednesday, June 27, through Sunday, July 1, and Wednesday, July 4, through Sunday, July 8. All events are free. Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, with special evening events such as concerts and dance parties beginning at 5:30 p.m. The Festival is co-sponsored by the National Park Service.
“Campus and Community”
In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation to establish the land-grant university system and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, the land-grant mission of “knowledge with public purpose” is evident in research, learning and community engagement projects that make the world safer, healthier and more sustainable. The 2012 Folklife Festival program “Campus and Community: Public and Land-grant Universities and the USDA at 150”
celebrates 150 years of partnership among universities, the USDA and communities.
Michigan State University, the nation’s pioneer land-grant university
, is playing a pivotal role in crafting the “Campus and Community” program at the Smithsonian. C. Kurt Dewhurst, director of arts and cultural initiatives for University Outreach and Engagement and curator of folklife and cultural heritage at the MSU Museum, is co-curating the "Campus and Community" program.
Four themes reflect the current work of public and land-grant universities and the USDA: reinventing agriculture, sustainable solutions, transforming communities and building on tradition. From master gardeners to Hawaiian traditional healing, from managing invasive species to helping communities recover from natural disasters, the program will cover an array of ways universities and the USDA put research to action every day. In all, more than 25 land-grant and public universities from across the U.S. will take part in this year’s Festival, including consortia of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges in the land-grant system, and Hispanic Serving Institutions.
MSU at the Smithsonian
· Among those “Campus and Community” projects showcased is a special MSU and Native American Head Start Program, “Wiba Anung: Supporting our Early Stars
.” The “Wiba Anung” partnership with the Northern Michigan tribal school, Bay Mills Community College, is designed to build children's academic skills, build staff teaching skills, and integrate American Indian culture throughout the tribal Head Start system in Michigan.
· The Michigan State University 4-H Children’s Garden
stakes out a place where plants, children, and imaginations grow. The Pizza Garden, replicated at the Smithsonian, features typical pizza ingredients: tomatoes, onions, peppers, parsley, basil, oregano (and marigolds representing the cheese). It helps youth understand the agricultural and cultural roots connected to a widely popular food item.
· Meanwhile, the Michigan State University Museum’s FOLKPATTERNS
, developed in collaboration with the 4-H Youth Programs, promotes youth engagement in the documentation, understanding, preservation, and presentation of their own cultural heritage traditions as well as those of their families and their communities.
· Another Smithsonian Folklife Festival exhibit program, “Crisis and Creativity,” highlights not only the powerful AIDS NAMES project quilt but also current MSU Museum work in South Africa surrounding AIDS, art and education that will feature a series of community and traditional art responses to the AIDS pandemic. The MSU Museum was the first institution in the country to present the NAMES Project quilt in a festival program at its 1996 Festival of Michigan Folklife. Curator Marsha MacDowell will be a presenter and in addition to the display of the quilt there will be demonstrations of its customary folding and unfolding, speaking out names of those who are memorialized on the quilts, panel making sessions, and narrative sessions on the project.
· The Festival production makes for a tremendous learning experience for future museum professional, and four students with ties to the MSU Museum will be interning at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Current MSU Museum intern Emily Langenberg will be in Washington, D.C. for eight weeks beginning this June to work on their festival before coming back to help with the MSU Museum's Great Lakes Folk Festival in August. Recent Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) graduate Hailey Chenevert had an internship with the Great Lakes Folk Festival. Last fall, she moved to D.C. to start working on the 2012 Folklife Festival. Meredith Brown, another graduate from RCAH, has an internship to help this summer, and Meghan Burke, an Art History graduate, will be at the Folklife Festival to work the Children's Area.
· Washington, D.C. is a popular destination for Spartans working in politics and government, and MSU will also have a presence in the Festival’s Reunion Tent where MSU will have a table staffed by MSU DC Alumni Association.
· Beyond the National Mall, the Smithsonian “Campus and Community” program will be recreated on a smaller scale as a featured part of the 2012 Great Lakes Folk Festival,
Aug. 10-12 in downtown East Lansing, and produced by the MSU Museum, Michigan’s first Smithsonian affiliate. Modeled very much like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, GLFF combines exhibitions, music and dance, regional foodways, children’s activities and hand-made craft traditions in a vibrant outdoor museum experience honoring living traditions.