Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts


Through fascinating profiles of five National Heritage Fellows, folklorist
Alan Govenar celebrates the cultural democracy that is America — and honors the endurance of traditional crafts and methods.

In bustling midtown Manhattan, Qi Shu Fang applies the elaborate makeup and headwear required for her role as a Chinese opera singer,
an impressive art she learned in her native Beijing. Overlooking a quiet little...

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Through fascinating profiles of five National Heritage Fellows, folklorist
Alan Govenar celebrates the cultural democracy that is America — and honors the endurance of traditional crafts and methods.

In bustling midtown Manhattan, Qi Shu Fang applies the elaborate makeup and headwear required for her role as a Chinese opera singer,
an impressive art she learned in her native Beijing. Overlooking a quiet little garden in Nyssa, Oregon, Eva Castellanoz starts her day as a maker of paper-and-wax coronas, delicate tissue-paper flower wreaths she learned to make in Mexico, her childhood home. Meanwhile, Ralph W.
Stanley keeps the craft of boat building alive in his coastal Maine town,
and Dorothy Trumpold carries on the rug-weaving technique her grandfather taught her in Amana, Iowa. And for fifty-two years, the late
Allison "Tootie" Montana designed magnificent beaded-and-feathered regalia to show off as Mardi Gras Indian suits.

Each of these artists is a recipient of a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts. And all come wonderfully alive through candid interviews with renowned folklorist Alan Govenar and captivating full-color photographs, highlighting their life stories, their art forms, their culture, their individuality, and their inspiration. These people may be ordinary in that they remind us of our neighbors, our families, or our friends. Yet all are extraordinary in their passion for their work and in their commitment to artistic excellence and to its importance in all of our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Lynn O'Connell
Five American artists who practice unique traditional art forms are featured in this ninety-six-page nonfiction work, which is filled with beautiful photographs. One of the five is now deceased (Allison Montana), and the others are all older adults. Each of the five artists is a recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship, an annual award given by the National Endowment for the Arts. Qi Shu Fang—an expert in singing, makeup application, and martial arts—performs Beijing opera in New York City. Ralph Stanley builds wooden boats on the coast of Maine. Eva Castellanoz, of Oregon, makes coronas, which are paper-and-wax flower crowns worn by Mexican-American girls at their "quinceaneras" (fifteenth birthday celebrations). Dorothy Trumpold carries on her grandfather's rug-weaving tradition in an Amana community in Iowa. Allison "Tootie" Montana designed and sewed costumes for Louisiana's Mardi Gras for fifty-two years, until he died in June of 2005. Author Govenar interviewed and photographed each of the five featured artists in the book. Perhaps best for use in research and as an introduction to American folk art and crafts, this book would be a wonderful addition to a school library's cultural-arts collection.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-The featured artists all live in the United States but come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. The art forms they practice include singing with the Bejing Opera, boat building, wax-flower making, weaving, and performing at Mardi Gras. Govenar's interviews with them not only explore their art, but also their history. He includes interesting homey details that show the subjects' personalities and help readers connect with them as individuals. High-quality color and black-and-white photographs appear throughout. Some of the images are archival, while others show how these modern artists accomplish their crafts. The photographs, coupled with the engaging narrative, give readers the impression that they are actually visiting the homes and workshops of these artists. This extraordinarily handsome title is an outstanding addition to cultural-arts collections.-Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Each of the five people profiled in this fascinating collection has won a National Heritage Fellowship, but young readers probably won't care about that. What they will be mesmerized by is the work they do. Qi Shu Fang performs Beijing Opera in New York City, and in both photos and text readers can see the layers of makeup, the heavy costumes and a glimpse into an almost unknown art form. Ralph Stanley has built boats by hand in Maine for decades; Eva Castellanoz, now of Oregon, has made a career out of creating the beautiful wax and paper flowers and flower crowns for Mexican weddings, baptisms and burials. Dorothy Trumphold, of a small Lutheran sect in Iowa, weaves stunningly patterned rag rugs, and "Tootie" Montana, who, alas, died last year, partnered with his wife to make the extraordinary feathered and beaded costumes of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Govenar tells their stories simply, using mostly their own words, making a great tapestry of images with the multitude of color pictures. A fine nonfiction collection, marred only by its rather odd title. (bibliography) (Nonfiction/collective biography. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763620479
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 7/11/2006
  • Pages: 96
  • Age range: 10 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.35 (w) x 10.23 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

ALAN GOVENAR is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and folklorist, as well as the author of numerous books, including the award-winning OSCEOLA: MEMORIES OF A SHARECROPPER'S DAUGHTER, illustrated by Shane W. Evans. "EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY PEOPLE is a journey across America through the lives and creativity of five individuals," he says. "These artists are innovators and teachers, eager to share their skills and knowledge. Their stories — relayed mostly through their own words — speak to the importance of determination, perseverance, and humor." Alan Govenar is the president and founder of Documentary Arts, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded to broaden public knowledge and appreciation of the arts of different cultures. In addition, he is the producer of MASTERS OF TRADITIONAL ARTS, a multifaceted project focusing on more than twenty years of the National Heritage Fellowship program.

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