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NEA Selects New Director of Folk and Traditional Arts

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A photo of a man with curly brown hair and an orange shirt.

New NEA Folk and Traditional Arts Director Clifford Murphy. Photo by Edwin Remsberg

Washington, D.C. –The National Endowment for the Arts has selected Clifford Murphy as its new director of folk and traditional arts, effective August 24, 2015. Murphy will manage NEA grantmaking in folk and traditional arts, oversee the NEA National Heritage Fellowship program, and represent the agency to the field. 

“Clifford has an impressive range of experience in the folk and traditional arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The NEA will surely benefit from his skills as an administrator, a university professor, a field folklorist, and his time as a touring musician.” 

Murphy is currently director of Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC). In 2011, Murphy launched the state’s first Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival, and also manages the Maryland Traditions grant program supporting apprenticeships and projects. Murphy also produces the state’s annual Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Awards. In 2014, Murphy helped to establish a partnership with the University of Maryland Baltimore County to bring MSAC’s 40 years of folklife archives into the university library system, making the collection available to the public. Murphy holds a doctorate in Ethnomusicology from Brown University, has authored numerous publications, including a forthcoming book on country music traditions of the Mason-Dixon Line. An active member of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology, Murphy has also co-produced a recurring radio program on Maryland folk traditions for WYPR Maryland Public Radio in Baltimore, Maryland. 

“Working as a state folklorist in Maryland has brought me into close collaboration with remarkable artists, communities, and innovative organizations” said Murphy. “I’m incredibly excited about joining the NEA and being of service to folk and traditional artists, advocates, and programs nationwide.”

Murphy replaces Barry Bergey, who retired in November 2014 after 29 years of service with the NEA.

The National Endowment for the Arts supports a wide range of folk and traditional arts grants, such as the creation of new works based on traditions, media projects, professional development, festivals, touring, apprenticeships, conservation projects, and educational activities across generations. Recent grants include support for the Mariachi Nationals and Summer Institute, and the Missouri Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. In FY 2014 alone, the NEA awarded more than $3.5 million to 130 folk and traditional arts projects across the country. The NEA’s flagship folk arts program is the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the nation’s highest award in the folk and traditional arts. On October 1-2, the 2015 National Heritage Fellows will be honored in Washington, DC at an awards ceremony along with a concert which will be webcast live at arts.gov.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit arts.gov.

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