Extraordinary Ordinary People: American Masters of Traditional Arts

Curated by Alan Govenar and Marsha MacDowell


Nationally Touring Exhibition:
September 3 - December 20, 2013, Michigan State University Museum, East Lansing, MI
January 20 - June 20, 2014, Castellani Art Museum, Niagara, NY
September 19 - December 20, 2014, Western Folklife Center, Elko, NV
May 1 - August 9, 2015, Wenatchee Valley Museum, Wenatchee, WA
September 11- November 30, 2015, Jack Straw Cultural Center, Seattle, WA


Extraordinary Ordinary People: American Masters of Traditional Arts presents a journey across America through the lives of individuals whose creativity is rooted in their cultural identity and community.

Around the world, programs honor individuals who have made signature contributions to their communities and to their countries. In America, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) established the National Heritage Fellowship Program in 1982 to recognize individuals "for their artistic excellence and their efforts to conserve America's many cultures for future generations" Created by curator Marsha MacDowell (Michigan State Museum) and photographer Alan Govenar (Documentary Arts, Inc.), Extraordinary Ordinary People: American Masters of Traditional Arts presents National Heritage Fellows from all over the country through human-size portraits, artworks, and audio-visual materials.

The exhibition features numerous art forms and cultural groups that contribute to the vibrancy of American life, including Byzantine (Greek) icon woodcarving, Peruvian retablos (personal altars), Native American basketry, Eastern European lacemaking, African-American quiltmaking, and a vast array of musical and performing traditions from Chinese Beijing opera to Guinean drumming.