Throughout Massachusetts, artists carry on and revitalize deeply rooted traditions that take many expressive forms—from Native American basketry to Yankee wooden boats, Armenian lace, Chinese seals, Puerto Rican santos, and Irish music and dance. These keepers of tradition are recognized in their communities as outstanding practitioners of craft, music, dance, and sacred arts. Yet much of this work is hidden to the public at large, remaining essentially unknown beyond the local community in which it flourishes.
This beautifully illustrated volume celebrates and shares the work of a wide array of these living artists. Passed down from person to person within both long-settled and new immigrant communities, traditional art involves the shaping of deeply held cultural values into meaningful artistic forms. Keepers of Tradition presents material drawn from eight years of intensive field research by folklorists at the Massachusetts Cultural Council—an investigation that has taken researchers into the homes, kitchens, workshops, dance halls, places of worship, parade routes, and festival sites where traditional art is produced, used, valued, and displayed.
Featuring more than sixty artists from communities across the state, Keepers of Tradition showcases high levels of mastery in diverse media—the uniformity and handiness of a Nantucket Lightship basket, the Native quill work on a tobacco pouch, the vibrant colors and textures of a Caribbean Carnival costume, the exquisite gestures of Cambodian dance. At the same time, the text describes the deeply personal and cultural context for each piece of work.
This volume is published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name, organized by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts, and on view there from May 2008 through February 2009.