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Varick Chittenden and Teresa Hollingsworth Awarded AFS Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at Annual Meeting

AFS News, Annual Meeting News, Featured Folklorist

Varick Chittenden and Teresa Hollingsworth were named as the 2021 recipients of the AFS Benjamin A. Botkin prize for significant lifetime achievement in public folklore at the Annual Meeting in October. This prize, awarded each year by the AFS Executive Board and the AFS Public Programs Section, is given in recognition of eminent, New Deal era folklorist Benjamin A. Botkin (1901-1975) who has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and the public understanding of folklore.

Varick Chittenden’s lifework exemplifies the best of public folklore through his exhibitions and programming, mentoring of students, establishing of a non-profit folklife folklife center, advocacy for the field, and ongoing contributions to of folk cultural heritage in his native North Country in New York State. 

After obtaining a degree from Cooperstown (1976), he created the Center for North Country Folklife and went on to produce the first festival of North Country Folklife. As a professor of American Studies and Folklore at SUNY Canton, he encouraged his students to collect folklore in their own communities, inspiring more than a few to become folklorists in their own rite. In 1986, Varick established Traditional Arts in Upstate New York (TAUNY) one of the country’s first nonprofits devoted to folklife with its own building. Extensive programming include a folk narrative apprenticeship program, exhibitions, the selling of local crafts, and the North Country Heritage Awards.   

Read New York Folklore’s announcement about Varick’s award

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Teresa Hollingsworth is an engaging public folklorist who has worked tirelessly and successfully in the field, creating opportunities for artists, folklorists, and arts professionals since the late 1980s. Since earning her masters in Folk Studies at Western Kentucky University, she went on to hold posts at several important folklife organizations, including the Kentucky Folklife Program, Maine Folklife Center, and Florida’s Bureau of Historic Preservation, where she oversaw the Florida Heritage awards. Currently, Teresa is Senior Program Director of Film & Traditional at South Arts, a regional arts organization, where she has worked since 1999.

Public folklorists throughout the South owe her a debt of gratitude for maintaining the bi-annual Folklorists in the South Retreat, a much-needed professional development and networking gathering established by Peggy Bulger.Teresa has also collaborated with neighboring regional arts organizations and state arts agencies, creating multi-state apprenticeships and shepherding new traditional arts touring projects supporting folk artists performing beyond their home states, helping the South emerge as a stronghold for traditional arts. 

Teresa has served on no less than 36 national and state grant panels. Her exceptional skills as a folklorist have supported independent filmmakers from across the nation, taking them into unexpected venues in the south, promoting access, enrichment, and community value.

Read South Arts announcement of Teresa’s award

AFS thanks the members of Botkin Prize Committee: Maggie Holtzberg, Marsha MacDowell, Amanda Dargan. Langston Wilkins, Charish Bishop, Vanessa Navarro Maza, Karen Abdul-Malik, Eric Cesar Morales, and Mark Miyake.

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