Kurt Dewhurst

Photo of Kurt Dewhurst
Kurt Dewhurst

Director of African Projects


C. Kurt Dewhurst, Ph.D., is the Director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and Senior Fellow, University Outreach & Engagement at Michigan State University; Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage & Director Emeritus at the MSU Museum and Professor of English at MSU. He coordinates a variety of folklife research, collection development, digital humanities, and outreach & engagement programs He is the author or co-author of a variety of books and exhibition catalogues, including: Artists in Aprons: The Folk Arts of American Women; Reflection of Faith: Religious Folk Art in America; Michigan Folk Art: Its Beginnings to 1941; Rainbows in the Sky: The Folk Arts of Michigan in the 20th Century; Traditions at Work: Grand Ledge Folk Pottery; Michigan Hmong Arts; and MSU Campus: Buildings, Spaces, Places, and Siyazama; and Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa. He is also the co-editor of the Michigan Folklife Reader and To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions. He is co-author of several forthcoming publications: Michiganders: Michigan Folk Traditions, The MSU Campus Guide, and ‘Ike Ulana Lau Hala: Lau Hala Weaving in Hawaii.

His research interests include folk arts, material culture, ethnicity, occupational folk culture, cultural economic development, and cultural heritage policy. As a Professor in the Department of English at MSU, he teaches courses in folklife, material folk culture, and museum studies. He currently serves Chairperson of the Board of the Board of Trustees for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress; and is past President of the American Folklore Society. He also is an advisor to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, South Africa and an advisor for the development of the new Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Museum Center on Non-Racialism in Lenasia, South Africa. He has served as an advisor to the development of the National Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand and the National Heritage & Cultural Studies Center at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa. He serves as a senior reviewer for the Accreditation Program of the American Alliance of Museums.

He is a past recipient of a Fulbright Grant to work in Thailand with the National Culture Commission of Thailand and participated in a French-American Foundation Arts Administrators Exchange Program. He was honored with the 2004 Américo Paredes prize by the American Folklore Society for excellence in integrating scholarship with engagement with communities.

In the past decade he coordinated a major Cultural Heritage Training program in South Africa; served as co-curator of the 2006 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program, Carriers of Culture: Native Basket Traditions; co-curator for the major international exhibition, Dear Mr. Mandela, Dear Mrs. Parks: Children’s Letters, Global Lessons (in South Africa and the U.S.) and Ahmed ‘Kathy’ Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy. He recently completed a Fulbright Grant at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa where he assisted on the re-development of the Museum of Anthropology. He is also leading a US-China Folklore and ICH Program that involves US and Chinese ethnographic/folk museums.