Board of Trustees
The American Folklife Center was created by the U.S. Congress in 1976
through Public Law 94-201, the "American Folklife Preservation Act." According
to the law, the Center receives policy direction from a Board of Trustees
that is made up of representatives from departments and agencies of the
federal government concerned with some aspect of American folklife traditions
and the arts; the heads of four of the major federal institutions concerned
with culture and the arts (see below); persons from private life who are
able to provide regional balance; and the director of the Center. Included
in the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 1999, are provisions for
the board to be expanded to include four new members appointed by the Librarian
of Congress, and, ex officio, the president of the American Folklore Society
and the president of the Society for Ethnomusicology. The board meets several
times a year, in Washington, D.C., or in other locations around the country,
to review the operations of the Center, engage in long-range planning and
policy formulation, and share information on matters of cultural programming.
Congressional Appointees | Presidential Appointees | Librarian Appointees | Ex Officio Members
C. Kurt Dewhurst, Chair of the AFC Board of Trustees
C. Kurt Dewhurst (Chair) serves as the Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and Senior Fellow, University Outreach & Engagement and Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage at the Michigan State University Museum. He is also a Professor of English at Michigan State University.
A founder of the folk and traditional arts programs at the MSU museum, he coordinates a variety of folklife research, collection development, and outreach programs. He is one of the founding directors of the Festival of Michigan Folklife, a coordinator for the
National Folk Festival when it was in East Lansing, and is a founding director for the Great Lakes Folk Festival. Dewhurst is also a past President of the American Folklore Society.
Patricia A. Atkinson, a native westerner, joined the Nevada Arts Council as its Folklife Program Coordinator in December 2007. She has initiated the Nevada Heritage Award to honor and celebrate the state's living cultural treasures. Atkinson has been a professional folklorist for over 35 years and has
served as an independent consultant and trainer for programs in more than a dozen states and four regions.
Jean Dorton is the Community and Legislative Liaison of Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Paintsville, Kentucky. Ms. Dorton has served as a board member for various organizations, including as a member and chair of the Kentucky Folk Art Museum, the Kentucky Arts Council, East Kentucky Concert Series, and the Apple Festival Arts and Crafts Board.
Joanna Hess is the founder of the Indigenous Language Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has also served as the producer of two documentaries, Beyond Words (1988) and Life is Language, Language is our Life (1997). She serves on numerous arts and cultural boards, including the Santa Fe Art Institute, Native Americans International, and the Center for Contemporary Arts.
Amy Kitchener. Photo by Craig Kohlruss, 2017.
Amy Kitchener co-founded the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in 1997 and is its current executive director. Understanding California's unique position as the nation's epicenter for diverse cultural and multi-national communities, ACTA's work has focused on social change through grantmaking, capacity and leadership development, technical assistance, and bilingual program development. Trained as a public folklorist with an MA from UCLA, Amy has piloted participatory cultural asset mapping in neglected and rural areas of the state and consults with other organizations and across sectors on this method of discovery and inclusion of community voices. She continues to serve as a consultant for many national organizations and has taken part in two U.S.-China Intangible Cultural Heritage exchanges. She has published on a variety of subjects involving California folklife, including immigrant arts training and transmission, and Asian American folk arts. Amy and husband Hugo Morales are the proud parents of twin boys who dance and sing with regularity.
John Patrick Rice is a Professor of Theatre at Great Basin College in Elko, Nevada. He holds an MFA in Acting and a PhD in Education. He served on the Board of Trustees of Nevada Humanities for six years, the last two as its chair. He is also a member of the Elko City Council where he has promoted a philosophy of "arts and culture as community infrastructure." He was successful in establishing the city’s Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee, which has recommended and funded through public and private resources several public art projects and humanities forums. He is a frequent host at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko and recently began working with the National Basque Festival, helping to coordinate outreach to the 2016 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC. As an actor he performed Off-Broadway and in regional theatres in Boston and Washington, DC, and throughout the nation. He was also seen regularly on several New York-based day-time television series. He is married to broadcast journalist Lori Gilbert. They have a daughter, Olivia.
Jay Winik is one of the nation’s leading public historians, an acclaimed best-selling writer, a popular public speaker, and a frequent television and radio guest. He is the author of the New York Times best-selling April 1865. It was the focus of major media attention and made into an Emmy nominated TV special watched by more than 50 million people on the History Channel. He is also the author of the much acclaimed New York Times bestsellers, The Great Upheaval as well as 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History.
He is the on-air Fox News Presidential Historian for such major events as the presidential inaugurations for Donald Trump and Barack Obama. He is an Advisor for the start-up newsmagazine, Franknews; he is also their Columnist and Historian in Residence. He was until recently the Inaugural Historian-in-Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations. At the invitation of the Librarian of Congress, he was interviewed by noted philanthropist David Rubenstein in January 2017 about 1944 before 250 Members of Congress. The US Holocaust Museum built a special event around the book. The Senate majority leader also invited Winik to talk about 1944 with the Senate leadership. Winik has been a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal as well as the New York Times, and other numerous major publications.
Represented by Michael Carlisle and the Harry Walker Speakers Bureau, Jay Winik is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, is an elected Fellow of the Society of American Historians, and served or serves on the Governing Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the boards for American Heritage magazine, Ford's Theatre, the Lincoln Legacy Project, the journal World Affair, the Civil War Preservation Trust, The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, and the Potomac School. He has a BA and PhD from Yale University, and an MSc with distinction from the London School of Economics.
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Bob Edwards is a national leader in the field of radio journalism. Most recently, he was the host of "The Bob Edwards Show" on Sirius XM Radio, and "Bob Edwards Weekend," which was distributed to public radio stations by Public Radio International. Both programs featured in-depth interviews with newsmakers, journalists, entertainers, and others. For several years, the shows featured segments highlighting audio recordings from the collections of the American Folklife Center. Following service as a broadcaster in the U.S. Army, Edwards joined National Public Radio (NPR) in 1974, and was co-host of their evening news magazine, "All Things Considered," until 1979, when he helped launch the morning news program "Morning Edition." He hosted "Morning Edition" for over twenty-four years, attracting more than thirteen million listeners weekly. Bob Edwards has won the duPont-Columbia Award for radio journalism, a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding contributions to public radio. In November of 2004, Edwards was inducted into the national Radio Hall of Fame. He is the author of three books, including his autobiograpy, A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio (2011).
Tom Rankin is Director of Duke University’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts. Rankin was formerly the Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. A native of Kentucky, he is a graduate of Tufts University (BA, summa cum laude, American History), the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill (MA, Folklore), and Georgia State University (MFA, Photography). His books include Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta (1993), which received the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for
Photography; Deaf Maggie Lee Sayre: Photographs of a River Life (1995); Faulkner's World: The Photographs of Martin J. Dain (1997); and Local Heroes Changing America: Indivisible (2000).
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Ex Officio Members
Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress on September 14, 2016. Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama on February 24, 2016, and her nomination was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 13. Prior to her latest post she served, since 1993, as CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland. Hayden was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board in January 2010 and was confirmed to that post by the Senate in June 2010. Prior to joining the Pratt Library, Hayden was deputy commissioner and chief librarian of the Chicago Public Library from 1991 to 1993. She was an assistant professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh from 1987 to 1991.
Jane Chu was appointed Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts in June, 2014. From 2006 to 2014, Chu served as the president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri.
Chu was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, but was raised in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied music growing up, eventually receiving bachelor’s degrees in piano performance and music education from Ouachita Baptist University and master’s degrees in music and piano pedagogy from Southern Methodist University. Additionally, Chu holds a master’s degree in business administration from Rockhurst University and a PhD in philanthropic studies from Indiana University, as well as an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.
Jon Parrish Peede is Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). His previous positions include publisher of the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR) at the University of Virginia, literature grants director at the National Endowment for the Arts, counselor to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, director of the NEA program "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," director of the NEA "Big Read" program, director of communications at Millsaps College, founding editor of Millsaps Magazine, and editor at Mercer University Press with a focus on the humanities. He has written speeches for a U.S. president, a first lady, and a librarian of Congress. From 2007 to 2011, Peede oversaw the NEA’s funding of literary organizations and fellowships to creative writers and translators. For seven years, he led writing workshops for U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Bahrain, England, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, and the Persian Gulf, as well as on domestic bases. He has served on the national council of the Margaret Walker Center for the Study of the African-American Experience, Jackson State University; the advisory committee of Virginia Festival of the Book, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; and the poet laureate selection committee, state of Mississippi, office of the governor. He is the coeditor of Inside the Church of Flannery O’Connor: Sacrament, Sacramental, and the Sacred in Her Fiction (Mercer, 2007) and editor of a bilingual anthology of contemporary American fiction (Lo que cuenta el vecino: cuentos contemporáneos de los Estados Unidos (2008). Peede holds a bachelor's degree in English from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi.
David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He assumed his position July 1, 2015. As Secretary, Skorton oversees 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers. Skorton, a cardiologist, is the first physician to serve as Secretary. He previously was the president of Cornell University, a position he held beginning July 2006. He was also a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and in Cornell's Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering. His research focus is congenital heart disease and cardiac imaging and image processing. Before becoming Cornell’s president, Skorton was president of the University of Iowa from 2003 to 2006 and a member of its faculty for 26 years.
Dorothy Noyes is President of the American Folklore Society. She is Professor in the Departments of English and Comparative Studies at The Ohio State University, with courtesy appointments in Anthropology, French and Italian, and Germanic Languages and Literatures. She is a research associate at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and served as Director of the Center for Folklore Studies from 2005 to 2014. She studies political performance and the traditional public sphere in Romance-speaking Europe; she has also written about folklore theory and the policy careers of culture concepts. She is the author of Fire in the Plaça: Catalan Festival Politics After Franco (2003); Humble Theory: Folklore’s Grasp on Social Life (2016); and Sustaining Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Guide for the Academy (coauthored with Regina F. Bendix and Kilian Bizer, 2017). Among her courses at Ohio State are The Fairy Tale and Reality, American Regional Cultures in Transition, Cultures of Waste and Recycling, Cultural Diplomacy, and Poetry and Politics in the Twentieth-Century Mediterranean. She spent six years on the executive board of the Société Internationale d'Ethnologie et de Folklore and has lectured or taught in seventeen countries. Her interdisciplinary projects have included a six-year stint as Fellow of the Göttingen Interdisciplinary Working Group on Cultural Property. She was elected Fellow of the American Folklore Society in 2005.
Gregory Melchor-Barz serves as the current President of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He is Professor of Musicology (Ethnomusicology), Associate Professor of Religion, and Chair of the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Vanderbilt University. His areas of specialty include African music, jazz, and world music. Publications include Singing for Life: Music and HIV/AIDS in Uganda (2006, with an accompanying Smithsonian Folkways recording) and Music in East Africa (2004) in addition to numerous journal and encyclopedia articles and reviews. He has also edited or co-edited several volumes, including Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology (2008) and The Culture of AIDS in Africa (2011)and serves as the Ethnomusicology editor for New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Professor Melchor-Barz has received numerous grants, including a Fulbright Research Fellowship. Prior to his current position, Melchor-Barz held faculty positions at University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; University of Alberta; and Ohio State University.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Peterson is Director of the American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress. She holds an MA and PhD in folklore from Indiana University. For nearly three decades she has been producing, developing and administrating cultural programs throughout the United States. Prior to joining the AFC in 2012, Peterson worked as a cultural consultant and served as Executive Director of the Fund for Folk Culture (2004-2009). She also served as Director of Folk and Traditional Arts at the New England Foundation for the Arts and was a co-founder of Texas Folklife Resources in Austin, Texas. In her consulting practice, her past clients have included The Wallace Foundation, South Arts, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Carnegie Hall, The Ford Foundation, the American Folklore Society and the National Endowment for the Arts, for whom she wrote, edited and compiled The Changing Faces of Tradition: A Report on the Folk and Traditional Arts in the United States, published in 1996. Dr. Peterson has written, produced or edited a number of publications and media recordings, reports and commissioned articles for organizations as the South Arts, Asia Society, the Pew Fellowships in the Arts, and Animating Democracy.