October’s Humanities Hero is cultural anthropologist Maida Owens, Folklife Program director for the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
Specializing in traditional cultures, Owens has worked with organizations and researchers across the state to identify one of Louisiana’s most important assets: traditional folk artists – determining the most innovative and effective ways to present Louisiana’s folk musicians, storytellers, and craftsmen to the state’s citizens and to the world.
Owens’ wide-ranging achievements include producing fieldwork surveys, education websites, online and print publications, multimedia visual arts exhibitions, radio and video documentaries, including the Louisiana Voices Educator’s Guide, a groundbreaking program which was awarded the 2000 Dorothy Howard Award from the American Folklore Society for the best folk arts in education project.
Owens served as assistant producer and researcher for the video documentary Dance for a Chicken: The Cajun Mardi Gras, recipient of the 1993 American Anthropological Award of Excellence and the 1993 American Association for State and Local History Award of Merit. In 2015, she received the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public folklore from the American Folklore Society.
She is co-editor of Swapping Stories, Folktales from Louisiana, which won the LEH Humanities Book of the Year award in 1999. Subsequently, she co-produced the Swapping Stories website by Louisiana Public Broadcasting.