EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Traditional Arts Program of Michigan State University has announced that musician Ara Topouzian is among the 2022 Michigan Heritage Awards honorees in the annual statewide program recognizing artists, practitioners and community organizers working in the folk and traditional arts and everyday culture in Michigan.
“I would like to thank Michigan State University and the Michigan Traditional Arts Program for honoring me with this award,” said Topouzian, a resident of Bloomfield Hills in Oakland County, in a written statement to the Weekly. “I am very proud to be an Armenian and to be part of a vibrant arts community in Michigan. A sincere thank you to all those that have supported my musical achievements over the years and contributed to this nomination as well!”
Topouzian, who plays the kanun (an ancient harp instrument), was recognized for his achievements in traditional Armenian music performance.
The Michigan Heritage Award (MHA) is the state’s highest distinction to honor individuals and groups who have dedicated themselves to the teaching, preservation, presentation and growth of their traditional art form. This includes familial, cultural, ethnic, religious, occupational and regional traditions.
“The Michigan Heritage Awards are modeled after the National Heritage Fellowships awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Similar programs exist in most states, serving to reflect and celebrate the diversity of cultural expressions found in the United States. Since 1985, over 130 Michigan artists and cultural organizations have received Michigan Heritage Awards,” explains Micah Ling, public programs coordinator for the Michigan Traditional Arts Program.
The remaining awardees include:
– Alfred Bruce Bradley of Flint (Genesee County) for community leadership in tap dance
– Drs. William (1933-2017) and Yvonne Lockwood of Chelsea (Washtenaw County) for documentation, preservation and publication of Michigan traditional art, folklife and culture
– Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus of the Detroit Metro Area (Wayne County), for community organizing, supporting and promoting Ukrainian bandura music
Awardees were selected after a review of nominations by an independent panel of traditional arts specialists and practitioners.
“We receive nominations both from groups with whom we have existing relationships, like past participants in our apprenticeship program or fieldwork documentation projects, and from new connections,” noted Ling. “It is always exciting to see which Michiganders and traditions will be nominated and selected.”
Michigan Traditional Arts Program director Marsha MacDowell recognizes that “the program widens public awareness about the breadth and depth of traditional arts and culture in the state.”
A virtual celebration will be held this summer. An in-person celebration will be announced at a later date.
The Michigan Traditional Arts Program is a statewide program “to advance cross-cultural understanding and equity in a diverse society through the documentation, preservation, and presentation of traditional arts, folklife, and everyday culture in Michigan.” MTAP is headquartered at MSU’s Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and is supported by MATRIX: Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, MSU’s Office of University Outreach and Engagement, and the Michigan State University Museum.