Arkansas Living Treasure Program Celebrates State’s Folk Arts and Traditional Crafts

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Scarlet Sims

Artist Services Manager

Monday, January 30th 2023
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Every year the Arkansas Living Treasure program celebrates crafts and folk arts in Arkansas via the Arkansas Living Treasure Award. The award highlights artists working in this field while also spotlighting craft and folk traditions in Arkansas.

A main goal has been to make the Arkansas Living Treasure program more accessible to better reach and encourage creatives in rural and underrepresented communities.

“The Arkansas Living Treasure Award program has evolved to become a way to recognize Arkansas’s master craftspeople and traditional folk artists and to better preserve our state’s unique identity, culture, heritage, traditions and history,” said Scarlet Sims, Artist Services Manager at the Arkansas Arts Council. “Over the past two years, the program has widened to fully embrace the historical performance and oral traditions that are connected to underrepresented communities. This one move has helped draw new nominations from the Chinese and Marshallese communities in our state. We hope to see more nominations from the Latino and Black communities as well.”

Over the years recipients of the award have included artists from across the state that showcase mastery in a broad range of traditional crafts including pottery, metalworking, woodcarving, sculpture, weaving, chairmaking, bladesmithing, fiddle making, egg art, log cabin construction, quilts and more.

“We strongly tied the Arkansas Living Treasure program to Arkansas to recognize our own culture bearers while preserving communities’ creative placemaking opportunities,” said Sims. Ideally, focusing on Arkansas-centered craft and traditional folk art will strengthen the creative economy by building on heritage tourism. As part of this effort, we changed the rubrics for how our panelists review nominees so that they now look at skill and mastery along with significance in Arkansas culture, identity or history and perpetuation of the craft. These ties do not have to be territorial Arkansas days, but simply must be a craft or traditional folk art that has roots in or has become part of Arkansas.”

Sims said that along with being an important part of our heritage, the arts are also a strong tourism driver for the state. “From mural trails and maps coming up in Fort Smith and Fayetteville, to craft schools and craft centers in the North Central and Northeast part of the state, to music festivals in the Delta, art is attracting visitors to Arkansas.”

Changes have been made to the Arkansas Living Treasure Award application process including an option to submit video instead of a written statement for those uncomfortable with writing or language. “Allowing this option has made our program more accessible,” said Sims. “Nominees who like writing are also embracing video because it gives them the opportunity to visually showcase their mastery.” The application process has also been streamlined to require less formal documentation like traditional resumes or cover letters. Instead, applicants are now asked to answer five questions in their portfolio, which includes images of their work.

More information on the Arkansas Living Treasure program as well as the nomination form can be found online by clicking here.

Short films that feature the state’s Arkansas Living Treasures have also been created via the Arkansas Living Treasure Film Project. More information about this project can be found by clicking here.

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