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Traditional Arts Indiana Honored By Governor’s Arts Awards

TAI sends researchers around Indiana to speak with area creative types -- from weavers and instrument makers to casket builders and hoop net makers.

jon-kay-grave-stone

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

Jon Kay is the director of Traditional Arts Indiana.

Event Information

Indiana Governor's Arts Awards

In addition to Traditional Arts Indiana, other honorees include Christel DeHaan, Cynthia Hartshorn, John Hiatt, Mark Kruzan and Sydney Pollack.


The Center for the Performing Arts (Carmel, Indiana)

Thursday, September 26 at 5:00pm

Ticket Information

Taking It To The Next Level

This year, the Indiana Governor’s Arts Awards is honoring Traditional Arts Indiana (TAI) – an organization with roots in Bloomington but whose reach stretches to all corners of the state.

Researchers have recorded jam sessions by local old time music groups. They’ve interviewed Indiana University Jacobs School of Music horn professor Richard Seraphinoff, who builds natural horns. They’ve also traveled to Muncie to speak with Iranian santour builder Ehsan Kousari, who was amazed that TAI found him at all.

Jon Kay is the director of TAI. He says people make aesthetic and artistic choices all the time, from the way they dress to what they order for lunch. The folks Kay and fellow researchers try to speak with are artists who are significant within a localized context. “We tend to look for those people who take it often to the next level and become the folks that people look to,” he says.

Kay says they share the Governor’s Arts Award with the many artists they’ve interviewed.

“It’s not just a recognition of what we’ve done, but a recognition that there’s art in everyday life, and art and aesthetic choices are all around us continually,” he says.

It’s not just a recognition of what we’ve done, but a recognition that there’s art in everyday life, and art and aesthetic choices are all around us continually.

Word Of Mouth

Tracking down artists in the first place requires perseverance and a knack for talking to people. Folklorists spend a month or more in an area trying to identify traditional artists who contribute to a community’s artistic life.

“I always say it’s like the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon — it’s never the first person you go to talk to, and it’s never the second, but one person leads you to another person leads you to another person,” he says.

Kay did some of his own research with Amish artisans near Shipshewana, Indiana who make buggies, harnesses and saddles. Six Degrees Of Shipshewana later, he met Amish coffin and casket builder LaVern Miller. They spoke about what tradition means to him, the role his work plays in the community and how he plans to pass along the tradition to his sons.

While it’s important for folklorists to know how to talk to people, Kay says it’s even more important to know when to shut up.

“Sometimes all an artist really wants from us is to come and talk with them and we record their stories and we listen to them,” he says.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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