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AFS Review: Notes

2014 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize Awarded to Robert Cogswell

Monday, November 24, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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At its recent annual meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the American Folklore Society named Dr. Robert "Roby” Cogswell of Nashville, Tennessee, as the 2014 recipient of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize.

In its report, the 2014 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contribution of this year’s awardee, noting: "Throughout his long and successful career, Dr. Cogswell’s intelligence, creativity, and uncompromising commitment to the field of folklore has helped establish what now epitomizes 'best practices' in public sector folklore methodology and practice. He has successfully guided the Tennessee Folklife Program from the infancy of state folklore programs in 1984 to its present position as a nationally-recognized model program by undertaking important documentation and archival projects and designing and carrying out innumerable innovative public programs. In addition, he has built strong information sharing and support networks that have benefited traditional artists, folklorists, the larger arts community, and members of the public both in his home state of Tennessee and throughout the United States.”

A native of Shelbyville, Tennessee, Cogswell received a BA at Vanderbilt and an MA and PhD in folklore at Indiana University. Highlights of his career include the Tennessee program at the 1986 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife and the National Folk Festival in Chattanooga; his work with the Tennessee Folklore Society; and expanding the Tennessee Governor’s Awards in the Arts to recognize and honor folk artists. Dr. Cogswell’s projects run the gamut from music, to craft, to sport, to cultural tourism. As a musician, photographer, and author, Cogswell’s credits include co-production of the Handbook for Tennessee Folk Artists, and authoring the acclaimed book Tradition: Tennessee Lives & Legacies (2010). Throughout his career, Dr. Cogswell has spoken out on behalf of the ethical treatment of artists and issues concerning public arts policy. He has been one of the field’s strongest advocates for public folklore and public policies that insist on integrity and sensitivity in presenting traditional culture.

The Botkin Prize is given each year by the AFS and its Public Programs Section in recognition of the work of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975). Eminent New Deal-era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938-1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress from 1942 to 1945, Botkin has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

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