Empowering Artisans: MSU Museum to Participate in Smithsonian African American Craft Legacy

The MSU Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, was selected as one of four organizations participating in a cultural heritage preservation project led by the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The initiative aims to broaden the visibility of underrepresented local elder African American artisans through the Cultural Sustainability and Legacy Planning for Craft Artists project.

Devon Akmon, the director of the MSU Museum, expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration: “The MSU Museum is proud to expand its robust collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution on another project aimed at advancing research and enhancing public engagement. Furthermore, we’re excited to partner with the Michigan Traditional Arts Program and Matrix: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences to bring this project to fruition.”

The Michigan African American Craft Initiative (AACI) Project will feature a series of five workshops, focusing on documenting methodologies, archiving techniques, and community engagement for Black craft artists. These workshops will be led by experienced museum and research professionals, collaborating with four MSU students eager to enhance their storytelling and archiving skills. The team comprises two undergraduate students from the Department of African American & African Studies and two doctoral graduate students from the College of Education.

The project will culminate in two public-facing workshops held at the MSU Detroit Center on February 15 & 22 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. These workshops are designed to empower participants with knowledge and skills in documentation, archiving, and community engagement. The events are open to the public; however, pre-registration is recommended.

Both gatherings will be documented, and artifacts shared on the Quilt Index website, providing a lasting testament to the project’s impact. The Michigan AACI Project exemplifies a commitment to preserving cultural heritage, fostering intergenerational relationships, and amplifying the voices of underrepresented artisans.

Dr. Diana Baird N’Diaye, curator, and founder of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s African American Craft Initiative, expressed excitement about the collaboration, stating, “We want to connect with heritage leaders across the map to share and strengthen our ability to support local African American artists.”

Cultural Sustainability and Legacy Planning for Craft Artists is part of the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s African American Craft Initiative, aiming to expand the visibility of African American artists and makers through collaborative research, documentation, public programming, and community building. For more information, visit folklife.si.edu.

The other organizations selected to participate in the project are City Lore in New York City, the Orange County Regional History Center in Orlando, Fla., and the Springfield Museum of Art in Springfield, Ohio. All are Smithsonian Affiliates—members of a national outreach program that develops long-term collaborative partnerships with museums, educational and cultural organizations to enrich communities with Smithsonian resources.

Back To Top