Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Harold Burnham Wins NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award

Well, we finally have the chance to announce the awesome news that Harold Burnham received a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship...particularly in the folk and heritage arts. So, we see that the announcement was made today. Harold is really, really happy about this coveted award and he had a lot of great people over the years rooting for him to win this lifetime achievement award. On Oct. 1, he will go to Washington, D.C. to receive the award from ... well, maybe from the First Lady .... followed by a dinner at the Library of Congress and ending with a big concert/show with the other recipients. We hope you will join me in congratulating Harold. On the NEA website, there is a great video of the building of the schooner FAME. Enjoy! 

From the National Endowment of the Arts Website

A master craftsman and dedicated student of design, Harold Burnham is the 28th member of his extended family to run an Essex shipyard -- a tradition that dates back to 1819 and includes 11 generations of his family.
Essex is a shipbuilding mecca -- a small town where the time-honored craft of traditional wooden boat building has been alive and well since the early 17th century. In the last 400 years, the town has produced more than 4,000 ships. In today's age of fiberglass boat construction, Burnham is widely considered to be the expert on working with wood. His designs are frequently praised for blending the traditional wood craftsmanship with today's safety and design standards.

In 1996, Burnham was commissioned to build a 65-foot charter schooner, theThomas E Lannon. The success of this project led to several other large commissions, including the Lewis H. Story, a boat that travels throughout New England representing Essex's maritime tradition.

Not only is Burnham a highly skilled craftsman, but he also has extensive experience operating and studying ships and marine life. He graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

With deep roots in his community, Burnham is passionate about sharing his extensive knowledge with those he works with. In 2001, he received a Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) grant in the traditional arts, and in 2003 received a MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant. Harriet Webster, executive director of the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, praised Burnham's community involvement, "When Harold undertakes a project, it inevitably becomes a community project. He involves both skilled craftsmen and enthusiastic community members in the work, demonstrating and teaching as he goes. In the process, not only does he build fine boats, but he nourishes a community of individuals that develops an appreciation for and understanding of this traditional art form -- and determination to help keep that tradition alive."

In a 2011 interview with the Cape Ann Beacon, Burnham said, "Up into the last few years I considered building boats something that I wanted to do, and now I feel like it is something I want to preserve. Like an endangered species, once it's gone it can't be recreated. And so, I am happy to share what I have learned with anyone who takes an interest in the hopes that these skills will be carried on long after I am gone."
Sailing ship at sea

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