Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Harold Burnham

Harold Burnham's schooner, Ardelle. Photo by Tom Pich

In this week's podcast, we meet 2012 National Heritage Fellow, master shipwright Harold Burnham! Burnham is deeply committed to the tradition of shipbuilding that began and was refined in his hometown of Essex, Massachusetts. He has built six wooden sailing ships averaging 50 tons each. These aren't fancy yachts, but working boats made with sawn frames, heavy timber, and fastened together with wood. There are a number of things that stand out about Burnham: first, he works and lives on the land that housed his family's shipyard for generations. Second, he is involved in every aspect in the creation of his boats: he not only designs and builds them, he also mills the wood and sews the sails. Third, Burnham invites the community to help him build the boats. The people of Essex have responded so enthusiastically that Burnham managed to build his sixth boat, a schooner for his personal use, Ardelle, without any paid labor---everyone who helped was a volunteer. And, when the Ardelle was launched from Burnham's boatyard on the Essex River, over 2,000 people were there to see it...this in a town that numbers 3,500.

In this excerpt from the podcast, Burnham talks about how his commitment to building boats in the traditional Essex way resonates with his community. [1:09]

On Thursday, October 4, the 2012 NEA National Heritage Fellows perform live at the NEA National Heritage Fellowships Concert, taking place at 7:30 p.m. at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington, DC. If you can't make it to DC, don't worry---we're webcasting it live! Click here for more information about this free concert, the live webcast (Archive), and our full class of 2012 honorees.


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