What is TAI?
What are the traditional arts?
Who works for TAI?
How to contact us
Who funds TAI?
Is TAI part of a national network?

What is Traditional Arts Indiana?

What is our mission?
Traditional Arts Indiana is dedicated to expanding public awareness of Indiana's traditional practices and nurturing a sense of pride among Indiana's traditional artists. TAI identifies, documents, and seeks more fully to understand the many ways in which cultural values are embedded in daily life. It calls attention to neglected aesthetic forms that firmly ground and deeply connect individuals to their communities —from the spoken text to the hand-made object to customary behavior. TAI's overarching goal is to integrate and connect cultural heritage to educational activities, cultural conservation, arts, and community development at the local, state, and national level.

What kinds of things does TAI do?

  • documents Indiana's traditional arts and artists
  • archives materials for public use at the Indiana Historical Society Library and Archive
  • produces public programs
  • trains in cultural documentation and public presentation
  • consults with cultural specialists about programming

What are the traditional arts as we define them?
Folklorists have long argued over this very question: What is traditional art and who is a traditional artist? Categorizing people and objects is necessarily complicated. Traditional Arts Indiana has developed guidelines to help us focus and limit the scope of our activities in order to work effectively.

TAI's guidelines focus not on the object but on the maker and the creative process:

  • Traditional artists work organically from within a community to which they belong. Community is defined as a group of people who share something in common such as ethnicity, region, religion, or occupation.
  • Traditional artists usually learn informally from someone within their community.
  • Traditional artists create contemporary, living forms whether a song, a dance, or handmade object.
  • The aesthetic sensibilities that evaluate traditional art are defined by the community and not by some outside set of standards.
  • While the work of traditional artists is rooted in the past, it is also innovative, constantly affected by technology, and subtly influenced by such factors as migration or mass media.

We view art as creativity found in everyday life -– from how people cook, how they extract limestone from a hillside, how they dress, and how they decorate their homes and yards. Perhaps the term folklife better describes the scope of artistic practices TAI addresses. Folklife includes artistic expressions as well as traditional knowledge – knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation, master to apprentice, mother to daughter, neighbor to neighbor, parishioner to parishioner.

TAI's focus means that we have to leave some artistic practices out of consideration: living history reenactments, revived pioneer crafts, and art and music learned solely through formal instruction or printed sources. These artists are encouraged to contact their Regional Arts Partner at the Indiana Arts Commission.

Who works for TAI?
Director: Jon Kay
Advisor: Lewis Ricci (Indiana Arts Commission)
Liaison: Monica Peterson (Indiana Arts Commission)
Chair, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology (IUB): Portia Maultsby
Office Support: Chavon Newmon
Assistants: Maria Kennedy, Thomas Richardson, Hsin-Wen Hsu, Selina Morales, Ilze Akerbergs,
Fieldworkers (2008): Jon Kay, Thomas Richardson, Ilze Akerbergs

How to contact us
504 N. Fess Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47408


Who funds TAI?
Indiana Arts Commission
Indiana University
National Endowment for the Arts
Indiana State Fair
Indiana Historical Society
Indiana Humanities Council
Fund for Folk Culture
IU alumni

Is TAI part of a national network?
Yes. TAI is one of many public folk arts programs in many states across the U.S. dedicated to preserving, promoting, and presenting their state's cultural heritage and traditional arts and artists. Learn more about public folk arts programs by visiting TAPnet.

Many state folk art programs are housed within state arts agencies and are supported by the state, the National Endowment for the Arts , and other organizations and funders.

American Folklife Preservation Act
In 1976, the United States congress passed P.L. 94-201, The American Folklife Preservation Act of 1976 (20 USC 2101), which created the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The Act defines folklife as:

"the traditional expressive culture shared within the various groups in the United States: familial, ethnic, occupational, religious, regional; expressive culture includes a wide range of creative and symbolic forms such as custom, belief, technical skill, language, literature, art, architecture, music, play, dance, drama, ritual, pageantry, handicraft; these expressions are mainly learned orally, by imitation, or in performance and are generally maintained without benefit of formal instruction or institutional direction."

With regard to the preservation of folklife, the Act states:

"that the diversity inherent in American folklife has contributed greatly to the cultural richness of the Nation and has fostered a sense of individuality and identity among the American people; . . . [and] that it is in the interest of the general welfare of the Nation to preserve, support, revitalize, and disseminate American folklife traditions and arts. . . "

Top of Page | Home | Programs | Cultural Map | Gallery