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.
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.
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On January 19, 2011, President Obama appointed Susan Hildreth to be Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The nomination to her new post was confirmed by the US Senate by unanimous consent on December 22, 2010. Hildreth is the former city librarian of Seattle where she managed the Seattle Public Library, which includes the world-renowned Central Library and twenty-six new and expanded branches.
Hildreth was the former state librarian of California, where she managed a seventy-million-dollar administrative budget supporting library and research services for the state government, as well as funding and consultation for California libraries. Before her 2004 appointment to that position by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hildreth was city librarian of San Francisco. Hildreth was president of the Public Library Association and served on its board of directors. She was an elected member of the council that governs the American Library Association. She was a longtime member of the California Library Association and served as its president and treasurer. Hildreth graduated cum laude from Syracuse University and holds a master's degree in library science from the State University of New York at Albany and a master's degree in business from Rutgers University.
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Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Maribel Alvarez holds a dual appointment as Assistant Research Professor in the English Department and Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center, University of Arizona. She is deeply devoted to Chicano folk arts and culture, and her teaching and research interests focus primarily on cultural objects, oral histories, and visual representations of the US-Mexico border. Alvarez serves on
several boards, including the Board of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture (NALAC).
Bob Edwards is a national leader in the field of radio journalism. He is currently the host of "The Bob Edwards Show" on Sirius XM Radio, and "Bob Edwards Weekend," which is distributed to public radio stations by Public Radio International. Both programs feature in-depth interviews with newsmakers, journalists, entertainers, and other compelling figures. For several years, the shows have featured segments highlighting audio recordings from the collections of the American Folklife Center.
Edwards was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and began his radio career there. Following service as a broadcaster in the U.S. Army, Edwards moved to Washington, D.C. He 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. He serves as national first vice president of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In November of 2004, Edwards was inducted into the national Radio Hall of Fame. He is the author of three books: Fridays with Red (2000), which chronicled his radio friendship with legendary sportscaster Red Barber, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism (2004), and 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.
William "Bro" Adams is the tenth Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Adams, president of Colby College in Waterville, Maine from 2000 until his retirement on June 30, 2014, is a committed advocate for liberal arts education and brings to the Endowment a long record of leadership in higher education and the humanities. A native of Birmingham, Michigan, and son of an auto industry executive, Adams earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at Colorado College and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz History of Consciousness Program. He studied in France as a Fulbright Scholar before beginning his career in higher education with appointments to teach political philosophy at Santa Clara University in California and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to coordinate the Great Works in Western Culture program at Stanford University and to serve as vice president and Secretary of Wesleyan University. He became president of Bucknell University in 1995 and president of Colby College in 2000.
Alternate for William D. Adams: Margaret Plympton, the Deputy Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities.
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.
Elizabeth Peterson is the Director of the American Folklife Center (appointed in 2012). Since 2009 Peterson has been a consultant, specializing in folklife-related cultural planning, program planning and assessments, development, meeting facilitation, writing, and research. Her primary clients have included the American Folklore Society, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Association of Western States Folklorists, the Houston Arts Alliance and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In her consulting work for AFC, Peterson helped develop a national documentation project focusing on the transformation of work in 21st century American life. She brought together scholars and other stakeholders from folklore, oral history, anthropology, public policy, private philanthropy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) leading to a partnership agreement between the AFC and the IMLS. She co-directed a project team that coordinated and presented a 2010 symposium, Work and Transformation: Documenting American Workers at the Library of Congress.
Prior to her work as a consultant, Peterson was executive director (2004-2009) and program director (1998-2004) of the Fund for Folk Culture. In these positions, she advocated with private foundations to increase national visibility and resources for the folklore field, initiated working relationships with Grantmakers in the Arts, Inc., established a donor-advised fund, cultivated over 30 individual donors, and attracted corporate support for the fund. She encouraged cross-sector exchange to stimulate collaboration, networking and resource sharing on timely topics, such as support systems for immigrant and refugee artists and communities; holistic approaches to cultural conservation, environmental stewardship and sustainable development; and the impact of changing demographics on artistic production among artists, cultural activists, folklorists, funders, and policy researchers. She co-founded Preserving America's Cultural Traditions (PACT), a coalition of folklore nonprofits and federal agencies whose members meet annually for knowledge-sharing and collaborative planning. She initiated and secured support for three collaborative projects with the American Folklore Society (AFS) that provided professional development services for the field.
Anne K. Rasmussen is the current President of the Society for Ethnomusicology She is professor of music and ethnomusicology at the College of William and Mary and in 2014 was named the William M. and Annie B. Bickers Professor of Middle Eastern Studies. Since 1994 Rasmussen has directed the William and Mary Middle Eastern Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, a forum for the study and performance of music and with musicians from the Middle East and Arab world. Rasmussen also serves on the faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies at William and Mary and has been chair of the Middle East Studies Faculty and co-director the Asian Studies Initiative. Rasmussen’s broad research interests include music of the Arab world, the Middle East and the Islamicate world, music and multiculturalism in the United States, music patronage and politics, issues of orientalism, nationalism, and gender in music, and fieldwork, music performance, and the ethnographic method. She teaches a family of courses in ethnomusicology and music research at William and Mary and has mentored a number of William and Mary student toward graduate study in ethnomusicology and careers in music and academia. Rasmussen’s book Women, the Recited Qur’an, and Islamic Music in Indonesia, (2010) is recipient of the Alan Merriam Prize Honorable Mention for 2011.
David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He assumed his position July 1, 2015. As Secretary, Skorton oversees 19 museums and galleries, 20 libraries, the National Zoo and numerous research centers, including the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. The Smithsonian generates additional funding from private contributions and business revenues. Skorton, a board-certified cardiologist, previously was the president of Cornell University, a position he held from 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.
Alternate for David J. Skorton: Michael Mason, Director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Curator of the Smithsonian Folkways Collections.
Kay Turner is President of the American Folklore Society. Kay Turner currently serves as adjunct professor in the Performance Studies Department of New York University. She holds a PhD in folklore from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked as both a public folklorist and an academic scholar over her 35 year history in folklore. A Fellow of the American Folklore Society and recipient of the Botkin Prize, Turner lives in Brooklyn, New York, and currently teaches courses on folklore, gender, oral narrative, temporality and performance, and ghosts and their ontology. She co-founded (with Pat Jasper and Elizabeth Peterson) Texas Folklife Resources in 1984 and from 2000-2014 she directed the Brooklyn Arts Council’s Folk Arts Program producing major field-researched public projects inncluding Folk Feet: Celebrating Traditional Dance in Brooklyn; Brooklyn Maqam: Arab Music Festival; Black Brooklyn Renaissance, 1960-2010; and a seven-year long, annual September 11th Memorial series, including the 2006 exhibition of over 300 photographs in Here Was New York: Twin Towers in Memorial Images. Widely published in folklore, women’s studies, queer studies, and folk and contemporary art, her publications include Beautiful Necessity: The Art and Meaning of Women’s Altars, an extended treatment of her dissertation on Texas-Mexican women’s home altar; Baby Precious Always Shines: The Love Notes of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; and Transgressive Tales: Queering the Grimms (edited with Pauline Greenhill).