Thursday, October 28, 2010

Meet The 2011 Traditional Arts Masters

Four Maine artists have been awarded the title of Traditional Arts Master through the Maine Arts Commission’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program. These masters will seek to preserve Maine’s cultural traditions by teaching them to apprentices in the coming year.

Ellen Gawler, a fiddler and caller from Belgrade, Harry Richter, a violin maker from Waterville, Brian Theriault, a snowshoe maker from Fort Kent, and Cindy Larock, a Franco stepdancer from Lewiston, each received $4,000 in order to facilitating the handing down of Maine’s treasured traditions to a new generation.

The 2011 Traditional Arts Masters:

Ellen Gawler, fiddler and caller, (Belgrade)
Camdyn and Marissa Heikkinen, apprentices

Maine’s unique legacy of fiddle music is a blend of styles from England, Ireland, the Maritimes and French Canada. Traditionally passed down in such community settings as dances and family get togethers, it is best acquired by ear. Ellen Gawler, this year’s master fiddler will be doing just that when she teaches calling and fiddling for contra dances to her apprentices Camdyn and Marissa Heikkinen. A long time fiddler and caller for contra dances throughout New England, Gawler learned the art of fiddling and calling from master old time fiddlers as Alfred Omar and Lucien Mathieu.

Harry Richter, violin maker (Waterville)
Nate Rudy, apprentice

Harry Richter can be found at Somerset Violin building, repairing and restoring violins. A busy place, many of his regular customers play in orchestras throughout Maine. Richter came to violin making later in life and studied with Karl Roy in Mittenwald, Bavaria, Germany as well at the Violin Craftsmanship Institute in New Hampshire where he learned violinmaking, violin repair, bow repair and rehairing. In 1994, Richter opened his first shop in Waterville, Maine. As a first year Master artist in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program, Harry Richter will be sharing his skills with apprentice Nate Rudy.

Brian Theriault, snowshoe maker (Fort Kent)
Glenn Labbe, apprentice

Continuing a Native American tradition that began centuries ago, Brian Theriault has been making one-of-a-kind snowshoes for over 35 years. As a young man, his father, Edmond Theriault taught him how to both make and repair snowshoes. Brian Theriault continues the family tradition of this endangered art. Based in Fort Kent, Theriault specializes in hand made, custom designed snowshoes perfect for exploring the snowy northern woods. As a master artist, Brian has taught several apprentices including his current apprentice, Glenn Labbe of Fort Kent.

Cindy Larock, Franco step dancer (Lewiston)
Emma Jacques, apprentice

Cindy Larock is a master folk dancer who specializes in traditional French Canadian step dancing (la gigue) and social dancing (contre danse, quadrille, etc.). In the early days of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program, Cindy studied for many years with master French Canadian step dancer Benoit Bourque of Quebec. Now an accomplished dancer, Cindy is also a great cultural advocate, eager to pass these important dance traditions down to younger members of Maine's Franco-American community. Cindy Larock is the founder of the Les Pieds Rigolants (The Giggling Feet) and actively organizes community dances in Lewiston. She is taught several apprentices and is currently working with Emma Jacques.

As this is the 20th year of the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship program, the Maine Arts Commission is presenting an awards showcase at Bangor’s Gracie Theatre at 6:00 pm on Friday, October 29 that will feature some of this year’s Masters, and some from previous years. This event is free, for more details please visit

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