Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), has announced the winners of its 2020 Heritage Award, which recognizes long-term achievement in folklife, or living cultural traditions. Three Heritage Awards are given annually: one each in the categories of Person or People, Place, and Tradition.
Each award comes with a $5,000 grant, and winners will be recognized at a public ceremony; details to follow. This year’s winners are:
Person or People: Rock Howland of Carroll County is a master of Appalachian flatfooting, a mountain dance style that has emerged from a blend of Scots-Irish, African American, and Indigenous solo dance traditions over the past 150 years. Rock has dedicated his life to flatfooting for three decades as a well-loved teacher and premier performer throughout Maryland, the Mid-Atlantic, and the southeast.
Place: The region now known as Dorchester County is the ancestral home of the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, descendants of the Nanticoke Indians who have made their home on the Eastern Shore for centuries. The modern Nause-Waiwash maintain an unbroken connection to their homelands, which today are used for an annual festival, traditional activities like trapping, and education on Indigenous lifeways.
Tradition: The Black Storytelling tradition is influenced on state and national levels by activities in Baltimore City, where organizations such as the National Association of Black Storytellers and the Griots’ Circle of Maryland steward and participate in African and African American oral traditions. Through performance, education, and outreach, their efforts provide entertainment, satisfy curiosity, recount history, and teach important lessons about everyday life.
Maryland Traditions has offered Heritage Awards annually since 2007 in honor of Dr. Alta Schrock, a Garrett County community leader who taught biology at Frostburg State University and founded groups, events, and publications to support folklife in Appalachian Maryland and beyond. Dr. Schrock’s legacy and work are a continuing source of inspiration for the Heritage Awards today. As part of their honor, each winner participates in a photo shoot and recorded interview to document their activities.