You are here


Maryland Traditions Program Director Clifford Murphy Leaves MSAC for National Position

Maryland Traditions Program Director Clifford Murphy Leaves MSAC for National Position


Murphy named Director of Folk & Traditional Arts for National Endowment for the Arts

July 08, 2015Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD, JULY 8, 2015 - The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has selected Clifford Murphy, Ph.D. as its new director of folk and traditional arts, effective August 24, 2015. Murphy will manage NEA grantmaking in folk and traditional arts, oversee the NEA National Heritage Fellowship program, and represent the agency in the field.

"As the director of the nation's longest-running state folklife program, Cliff has been an outstanding advocate and guardian of Maryland's diverse array of folk and traditional art forms," said MSAC Executive Director Theresa Colvin. "Thanks to his leadership, the Maryland Traditions program now stands poised to enter the next phase of development as we look to establish a Maryland Folklife Center. This would not be possible were it not for the network of artists, scholars, community leaders, and other trusted partners developed by Cliff during his tenure with the MSAC.  We are so thankful for his many contributions to the MSAC and are very excited to see the impact he will have at the national level."

"Clifford has an impressive range of experience in the folk and traditional arts," said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. "The NEA will surely benefit from his skills as an administrator, a university professor, a field folklorist, and his time as a touring musician."

Murphy is currently Director of Maryland Traditions, the folklife program of the Maryland State Arts Council. He has been at MSAC since 2008 when he began as co-director alongside Maryland Traditions co-founder Elaine Eff. With Eff's retirement in 2011, Murphy became Director of the program.

During that time, he has worked with Assistant Director Michelle Stefano to expand the reach and visibility of Maryland Traditions, launching the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival in 2011, producing the annual Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts (ALTA) Awards, establishing a robust partnership with the University of Maryland Baltimore County to bring MSAC's 40 years of folklife archives into the university library system, and - most recently - launching the Maryland Folklife Center feasibility study.

"We thank Cliff for his service to the residents of Maryland," said MSAC Chair Carol Trawick. "And we are grateful that Maryland Traditions remains under the stewardship of Michelle Stefano." Stefano, who holds a joint position with MSAC and UMBC, will

guide the program - and its statewide partners - through the transition of seeking
a replacement for Murphy.MSAC grantees know Cliff through his outreach work, directing the folk and traditional arts discipline of the Grants for Organizations program and managing the Maryland Traditions Apprenticeships and Project Grants. He has also brought the sounds of Maryland's traditional artists to radio listeners through his ongoing collaborations with Aaron Henkin, host of WYPR's "The Signal."

Murphy is also the co-author of the deluxe book and CD project, Ola Belle Reed and Southern Mountain Music on the Mason-Dixon Line, due for release in August 2015  from Dust-to-Digital Records. The project - coauthored with folklorists Henry Glassie and Doug Peach - encapsulates nearly 50 years of fieldwork and audio recordings  conducted with country musicians along the border of Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

"I'm grateful to MSAC staff, council, and Department of Commerce leadership for being steadfast supporters of folklife in Maryland," said Murphy. "Working in Maryland has enabled me to learn from the best - from my folklorist colleagues to the gifted artists, community leaders, and visionary institutions I've encountered statewide. Leaving during this exciting time for Maryland Traditions is bittersweet, yet I'm incredibly excited about joining the NEA and being of service to folk and traditional artists, advocates, and programs nationwide."

Murphy replaces Barry Bergey, who retired in November 2014 after 29 years of service with the NEA.

The National Endowment for the Arts supports a wide range of folk and traditional arts grants, such as the creation of new works based on traditions, media projects, professional development, festivals, touring, apprenticeships, conservation projects, and educational activities across generations. Recent grants include support for the Mariachi Nationals and Summer Institute and the Missouri Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. In FY 2014 alone, the NEA awarded more than $3.5 million to 130 folk and traditional arts projects across the country.

The NEA's flagship folk arts program is the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the
nation's highest award in the folk and traditional arts. On October 1-2, the 2015
National Heritage Fellows will be honored in Washington, DC at an awards ceremony
along with a concert which will be webcast live at

About Maryland State Arts Council

An agency of the Maryland Department of Business & Economic Development, Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) is dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. Maryland State Arts Council grantees generate $1 billion in economic activity and support more  than 12,000 jobs and $45 million in state and local tax revenue. Source: Economic Impact of the Arts in Maryland: FY2013. For information call (410) 767-6555 or TTY (410) 333-4519.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit

# # #



Media Contact: 

Jill L. Kubatko
Communications Manager