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AFS Review: Notes

Gates and Raim Awarded 2012 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize

Friday, November 30, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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At its recent annual meeting in New Orleans, the American Folklore Society named two prominent American folklorists as the 2012 recipients of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize, given to recognize lifetime achievement in public folklore.

The recipients, whose careers epitomize the best in public sector folklore methodology and practice, are Robert Gates, the founder and recently retired director of the Kentucky Folklife Program in Frankfort, Kentucky, and Ethel Raim, co-founder and artistic director of the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York City.

This 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.

In its report, the 2012 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contributions of this year’s recipients to the field of folklore, noting:

"Bob Gates has been a model state folklorist. In addition to founding and directing the Kentucky Folklife Program for the past 23 years, Bob extensive career as a public sector folklorist includes positions as Director of the Louisiana Folklife Program and excellent work as a public folklorist, oral historian, and advocate for the field in Tennessee, Ohio, and New York. As Dr. Tim Evans eloquently notes in his nomination letter: ‘Throughout his career, Bob has worked tirelessly to serve communities, cultures, and individual folk artists in a way that consistently gives the spotlight to others rather than himself and empowers the individuals and communities he works with’.”

"For over 50 years, Ethel Raim has been one of the leading pioneers in researching, documenting, and presenting community-based ethnic music and dance traditions. Working primarily, though not exclusively, in the New York metropolitan regions, she has developed and implemented innovative programs, founded pioneering organizations, and successfully advocated for traditional artists and folk arts funding. Through her efforts, dozens of ethnic communities and hundreds of individual artists and ensembles have been able to preserve and nurture their distinctive artistic voices. From the early Newport Folk Festivals to her work with Ralph Rinzler on the earliest Smithsonian Folklife Festivals to her co-founding and leadership of the Balkan Arts Center – later the Ethnic Folk Arts Center and today the Center for Traditional Music and Dance (CTMD) – Ethel continues to champion new opportunities and methodologies, reach out to additional ethnic communities, and identify and support community-based artists. Her efforts, such as CTMD’s groundbreaking Community Cultural Initiatives programs, have resulted in US careers for more than a dozen National Heritage Award-winning musicians, the formation of super-groups, such as Cherish the Ladies, scores of award-winning films and recordings, and hundreds of concerts, workshops, and festivals.”

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