C. Kurt Dewhurst

C. Kurt Dewhurst

Director, Arts and Cultural Initiatives
Curator of Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Michigan State University Museum
Professor, Department of English
University Outreach and Engagement Campus Senior Fellow


Department Web page: /about/departments/arts

C. Kurt Dewhurst serves as the director of Arts and Cultural Initiatives and as a Senior Fellow, University Outreach and Engagement (UOE). He is director emeritus of the Michigan State University Museum, as well as a curator of folklife and cultural heritage and a professor of English. Dr. Dewhurst directs and coordinates a variety of arts and cultural programs for University Outreach and Engagement. The author or co-author of numerous books, articles, and exhibition catalogues, he has also curated over 60 exhibitions and festival programs. He teaches courses in folklife, material folk culture, and museum studies. He currently serves as chairperson of the Board of Trustees for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. He has also served as president of the American Folklore Society, chair of the Advisory Council—Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, chair of the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, vice-chair of the Michigan Humanities Council, and president of the Michigan Museums Association. He is an advisor to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, South Africa, and planner for the development of the new Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Museum Center on Non-Racialism in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. He has served as an advisor to the development of the Nokomis Learning Center, Okemos, MI; the National Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand; and the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Center at the University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa. He also serves as a senior reviewer for the accreditation program of the American Alliance of Museums.

Dewhurst 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 in France. He was honored with the Américo Paredes Prize by the American Folklore Society for excellence in integrating scholarship and engagement with communities. In addition, the Great Lakes Folk Festival was recognized in 2004 as the best project in the 30-year history of the Michigan Humanities Council.

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; was co-curator for the major international exhibition, Dear Mr. Mandela, Dear Mrs. Parks: Children's Letters, Global Lessons (in South Africa and the US) and Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada: A South African Activist for Non-Racialism and Democracy in the US. He was awarded 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 one of the leaders for the US-Africa Cultural Heritage Strategic Partnership and a US/China Folklife and Intangible Cultural Heritage Partnership project involving museums from both countries. He has served as curator for an exhibition in 2015 on living Native Hawaiian lauhala weaving traditions with the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program, Campus and Community: Public Universities and the USDA at 150.

Research interests include:

  • Cultural economic development
  • Cultural heritage policy
  • Intangible cultural heritage
  • Intellectual property
  • Folk and traditional arts
  • Ethnicity
  • Occupational folklore
  • Museology theory and practice
  • Cultural facilities planning

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Recent Publications

Dewhurst, C. K. (2017). Folklife and museum practice: An intertwined history and emerging convergences. In C. K. Dewhurst, P. Hall, & C. Seemann (Eds.), Folklife and museums: 21st century perspectives. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Dewhurst, C. K., Hall, P., & Seemann, C. (2017). Folklife and museums: New perspectives for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Press.            

Dewhurst, C. K., & MacDowell, M. (2016). Introduction. In O. Cadaval, S. Kim, & D. N'Diaye (Eds.), Curatorial conversations: Cultural representation and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (pp. 3-10). Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.

Dewhurst, C. K., & Swanson, L. (2016). A commitment to textile traditions: The Michigan State University Museum. In M. MacDowell & L. Zhang (Eds.), Quilts of Southwest China (pp. 62-65). Nanning: Guangxi Museum of Nationalities with Michigan State University Museum and Indiana University Museum (US distributor). . 

Dewhurst, C. K., & MacDowell, M. (2016). Michigan Traditional Arts Program: Michigan State University Museum and Michigan Council for the Arts [Special issue]. Journal of Folklore and Education, 3, 119-126. Retrieved from

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Recent Presentations

  • (January 2015)

    Nani I Ka Hala: The vibrancy and vitality of Lau Hala weaving in Hawaii

    Dewhurst, C. K.

    Exhibit at the Bishop Museum and Maui Arts and Cultural Center

    Honolulu, Hawaii

  • (January 2013)

    Ahmed Kathrada: A South African activist for non-racialism and democracy

    Dewhurst, C. K.

    Exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum

    East Lansing, Michigan

  • (January 2013)

    Sun-up to sundown: Selections from the Our Daily Work/Our Daily Lives collection

    Dewhurst, C. K.

    Exhibit at the Michigan State University Museum

    East Lansing, Michigan