By Suzanne Lynch, Director of Marketing and Development –
On the evening of September 14, 2017, Thomas Maupin graced a stage that was not as familiar to him as many of those back home. Selected as a 2017 National Heritage Fellow, Maupin along with eight other recipients were honored by National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu and members of Congress at an awards ceremony in the Library of Congress Coolidge Auditorium in Washington, DC. The ceremony included a presentation of medals and short remarks by the recipients in attendance. Following the ceremony, there was a reception with the artists in the Library of Congress’s Great Hall Mezzanine.
“Who would’ve thought a skinny-legged boy with a flat-foot buck dancing style would come to this,” said Maupin on accepting his award.
The NEA National Heritage Fellowships are the highest honor given by the federal government in the folk and traditional arts. Each year the NEA honors a select number of artists for their artistic accomplishments and efforts to share their knowledge with the next generation. Maupin came to Washington D.C. with quite the entourage that included his wife, Beulah, daughter Deana Rothwell, grandson Daniel Rothwell, and musicians Austin Derryberry and Casy Miekle. Also attending was Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife and Anne Pope, Executive Director for the TN Arts Commission.
Maupin is known as an elegant master of flat-foot buck dancing. In 2009, Maupin was given the Trail Blazer Award from the Uncle Dave Macon Days Festival and in 2011 he earned the Tennessee Governor’s Folklife Heritage Award. At the young age of 78, he is working to pass along the Buck Dancing tradition to younger dancers. Recently, Maupin participated in the Folklife Master/Apprentice Program with apprentice Courtney Williams
Hanson says, “Thomas has blended traditional steps learned in his family with a distinctive personal rhythmicality to create a mesmerizing and highly musical style. [He] has evolved a deceptively simple artistic philosophy: follow the note of the tune, dance the music that you hear, and make your feet say something.”
The TN Arts Commission congratulates Thomas Maupin on receiving this prestigious award and we look forward to seeing him dancing again in Tennessee.