Traditional Arts

Around the world,  there are programs which honor individuals who have made signature contributions to the cultural heritage of their countries. Each year,  The Great Lakes Folk Festival showcases artists who have been honored with a Michigan Heritage Award, or a Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award. These programs are coordinated by the MSU Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program (a partnership with the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs) and are supported by grants from the MCACA and the National Endowment for the Arts.

GLFF also honors recipients of NEA’s National Heritage Heritage Fellowship Program.  This program was established in 1982 to recognize individuals “for their artistic excellence and their efforts to conserve America’s many cultures for future generations.” Every year the Great Lakes Folk Festival presents one or more recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellow Award.

The Michigan Heritage Awards
The Michigan Heritage Awards, established in 1985, recognizes Michigan’s exceptional tradition bearers and supporters of traditional culture who have made significant contributions to our state’s heritage. Over 100 tradition bearers have been honored since the inception of the program.
Nominate someone and to learn about past awardees.


The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program
The Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program assists master artists who in passing their skills and knowledge to others through one-on-one apprenticeships.
Learn about past recipients and apply.


Allison Gibson Murad

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards (Scottish Highland Dance)
East Lansing, Michigan

Allison Gibson Murad and Maggie Callender
2017 master artist and apprentice
East Lansing and Lansing (Ingham County)
Scottish Highland dance

Allison Gibson Murad has a strong familial connection to Scottish dance and culture. Her paternal grandparents emigrated from Scotland to the United States in the early 1900s. To keep her connected to her heritage, Allison’s parents enrolled her at age 10 in Scottish Highland Dance lessons taught by Tracey Walton.

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Anshu Varma

2017 Michigan Heritage Award (Mehndi and Indian American Cultural Traditions)

Anshu Varma was born in north India and grew up in Calcutta and New Delhi. As a child she was fascinated by the tradition of mehndi, an art form using paste made from henna leaves to decorate the hands and feet with ornate patterns. Greatly inspired by her mother’s artistic creations, Anhsu learned the art of mehndi at home, where a henna plant grew in her backyard.

Henna plays an important role in maintaining cultural and traditional identity in India.

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Bruce Bauman

2017 Michigan Heritage Award (Community Leadership in Old-time Music and Dance)
Remus, Michigan

Bruce Bauman is a Southern Michigan native who settled in Remus after college in 1972. Bruce helped found the Wheatland Music Organization (WMO) in 1974 with, among others, 2016 MHA awardees the Costabella Cloggers. He served as the manager for the Wheatland Music Festival for two decades, produced by WMO, which will celebrate its forty-fourth anniversary in 2017. Nominator Marcia LeClear puts it, “As a founder and guiding force of the WMO since 1974, he has been the impetus to preserve and present traditional music and arts to the thousands that attend the yearly festival and Traditional Arts Weekend.” Bruce’s advocacy work extends throughout the state and country.

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Celeste Smith

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Millinery)
Highland Park, Michigan

Celeste Smith and Marva Brown
2017 master artist and apprentice
Highland Park and Detroit (Wayne County)

Celeste Smith has been interested in the art of millinery since childhood. Her mother was a seamstress and performed in fashion shows. She taught Celeste how to sew. After completing home economics classes in high school, Celeste went on to train in millinery with Wilma Rae Gordon in Los Angeles and Rose Cory in London.

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Christine Ingabire

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Rwandan Dance)
Grand Rapids, Michigan

Christine Ingabire and Grace Johnson
2017 master artist and apprentice
Grand Rapids (Kent County)
Rwandan traditional dance 

Christine Ingabire grew up in Rwanda, where she participated in dance clubs in school and performed regularly at community events. She and her family fled the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and were resettled in Grand Rapids in 2000. While a single parent, Christine earned an associate of arts degree from Grand Rapids Community College and is now completing her bachelor’s degree in social work from Spring Arbor University.

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Cindi John

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Smoked Fish Preparation)
Northport, Michigan

Cindi and Ruby John
2017 master artist and apprentice
Northport (Leelanau County)
Smoked fish preparation 

Cindi John is a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Chippewa Indians. In addition to running her commercial fishing business, Treaty Fish Co., with her husband Ed, Cindi is an accomplished basketmaker, quillworker, and beadworker. She has been involved with her tribal fishery since 1982. She learned the trade from Jeeboo Sands,

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Dan Gorno

2017 Michigan Heritage Award (
Traditional Percussive and Waltz Dancing and Dance Calling) Posthumous Award
Bellaire, Michigan

Dan Gorno (1957-2015) was a percussive dancer and dance caller. He was born in Wyandotte but made his home in Bellaire. From an early age, Dan was exposed to and engaged with dance culture in Michigan. His family attended waltz workshops at their local country club and he took traditional dance classes in high school. His passion for dance led him all over to the world. He visited and learned from dancers in Canada, Ireland,

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Gary Tassier

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Boat Building and Restoration)
Cedarville, Michigan

Gary Tassier and Scott Barr
2017 master artist and apprentice
Cedarville (Mackinac County)
Boat building and restoration

Gary Tassier (b. 1948) learned to repair and restore wooden boats from his grandfather, Leo, and Uncle Marvin at their shop, Tassier Boat Works in the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan. Upon graduating from Lake Superior State College with a degree in mechanical engineering technology, he returned to the Islands to work at the family boat shop.

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Jim Neal

Michigan Water Traditions - Boatbuilding and restoration - Irish Currachs
East Lansing, Michigan
Boat builders making and Irish Currach

Jim Neal is an East Lansing resident, a long time history buff, and a small boat enthusiast.  His boating interests include restoring old boats and building new ones.  He has recently developed an interest in Irish culture with emphasis on the traditional boats of Ireland, mainly focusing on Irish currachs.  While interest in Irish history and culture remains steady in Michigan and throughout the US, Jim hopes that building, displaying  and using currachs will spark interest in this less common aspect of Irish heritage.

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Lynn Hershberger

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Stranded Colorwork Knitting)
Lansing, Michigan

Lynn Hershberger and Annette Tanner
2017 master artist and apprentice
Lansing (Ingham County)
Stranded colorwork knitting

Lynn DT Hershberger was born in Golden Valley, Minnesota, in the winter of 1958. She moved at the age of four with her family to the Greater Lansing area where she has lived ever since. Lynn was introduced to knitting by her great-aunt Ingeborg who immigrated to Minnesota from Norway as a teen;

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Meghan McCartney Scott

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Traditional Irish Hard Shoe Dance)
East Lansing, Michigan

Meghan McCartney Scott, Sarah Horan, and Catherine Russell
2017 master artist and apprentice
East Lansing, Okemos, and Williamston (Ingham County)
Traditional Irish hard shoe dance

Meghan McCartney Scott has been dancing since she was eight years old. She began dancing and competing at the Heinzman School of Irish Dance at the age of thirteen, and went on to become open champion. She has experience with Appalachian,

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Nic Gareiss

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards (Traditional Percussive Dance)
Lansing, Michigan
percussive dancer Nic Gareiss and apprentice, Emily Doebler

Nic Gareiss and Emily Doebler
2017 master artist and apprentice
Lansing (Ingham County) and Mount Pleasant (Isabella County)
Traditional Percussive Dance

Nic Gareiss is a dancer, musician, and dance researcher currently residing in Lansing, Michigan. From his early childhood, Nic has been involved with traditional music and dance through the Wheatland Music Organization, based in Remus, Michigan. It was there that he met Sheila Graziano (MTAAP Awardee 2013, 2014, 2017),

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Renée “Wasson” Dillard

Michigan Water Traditions - Culture Bearer, Fiber Artist
Harbor Springs, Michigan
Renee Dillard

Renée “Wasson” Dillard is a highly accomplished master finger weaver, black ash basket maker, culture bearer and educator. Born of a Scottish-American mother and Odawa father, Renée grew up near Grand Rapids. She draws on her two heritages for her love for traditional fiber arts. In addition to black ash baskets she weaves cedar bark and cattail and bulrush mats, makes birch bark boxes, and finger weaves sashes, a tradition she learned as a young girl from her mother.

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Roger LaBine

MIchigan Water Traditions - Wild Rice Restoration and Gathering
Watersmeet, Michigan
Stern of ricing boat

Roger is an elder of the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, based in Watersmeet, Michigan. He has been a leader of the effort to restore wild rice (manoomin) in the Great Lakes region, and has devoted much of his life to raising awareness of the grain’s cultural, historical, and spiritual importance. Working with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Roger has helped establish rice restorations in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

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Roger Simpson

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Square Dance Calling)
Hopkins, Michigan
Dance caller Roger Simpson and his apprentice Bethany Tanis

Roger Simpson and Bethany Tanis
2017 master artist and apprentice
Hopkins (Allegan County) and Caledonia (Kent County)
Square Dance Calling

Roger Simpson (b. 1941) has been calling square dances in Allegan County, Michigan, for sixty-six years. He grew up in a musical family and went to square dances at the local grange every second and fourth Saturday. Before Roger was old enough to dance he would sit next to the piano player,

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Sheila Ruby Graziano

2017 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Award (Percussive Dance)
Chelsea, Michigan

Sheila Ruby Graziano began dancing at the Shirley St. Mary School of Dance in Detroit where she was introduced to many different aspects of tap. She made her TV debut on a local talent show, Starlit Stairway, in the mid-1960s. At Cass Technical High School, she enrolled in the performing arts curriculum and took modern dance but found it to be not as much to her liking because she missed the “percussive beats and the more aggressive nature of tapping.” In 1976,

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Tim Riley

Michigan Water Traditions - Au Sable River boat building and restoration
Grayling, Michigan
Boat builder varnishing boat

Tim is a fly fishing guide on the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers, located in Grayling Michigan. Although he very much enjoys Fly Fishing, Guiding and Tying Flies, his true passion is the restoration and history of Au Sable riverboats. Graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, Tim has carved out a niche for himself guiding folks out of these historic watercraft. When not on the water guiding clients or in the shop working on one of these classic boats,

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Walt Peebles

MIchigan Water Traditions - Boatbuilding and restoration - Welsh Coracles/Irish Currachs
Eaton Rapids, Michigan
boat building sewing on Irish traditional boat

“Walt Peebles has been fascinated by wooden boats ever since childhood, when he noticed an old wood-and-canvas rowboat under his grandfather’s boat shed.  He and “Gramp” repaired the transom and re-canvassed it during a couple college summers.  Though skin-on-frame boats are of particular interest, a variety of small boats reside in his collection.  Walt also researches company history and collects period advertising and sales literature for a number of his boats.  The coracles of Wales and the currachs of Ireland have recently captured his imagination,

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