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Arts Board to Send Representatives to Midwest Folklife Festival

The Wisconsin Arts Board is proud to announce that storyteller Tejumola Ologboni of Milwaukee and sturgeon spearers Mary Lou Schneider and daughter Betty Schneider of Fond du Lac will represent Wisconsin at the 2012 Midwest Folklife Festival. The Festival is August 4 and 5 in Bishop Hill, Illinois.

Tejumola Ologboni of Milwaukee has a family legacy of storytelling. His parents, his grandmothers, one grandfather and a great-grandfather were storytellers.  His repertoire includes personal experience narrative, traditional African American tales, and African stories performed with the inclusion of hand drums. Teju has served twice as a master artist in the Wisconsin Art Board’s Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program, most recently in 2011. The National Association of Black Storytellers (NABS) recognized Teju’s work in oral tradition by awarding him the 2002 Zora Neale Hurston Award for contributions to the field of storytelling and folklore. In 2006 he was awarded the Tradition Keepers Award by the Chicago Association of Black Storytellers.  See www.tejuthestoryteller.com.




Mary Lou Schneider of Fond du Lac has speared sturgeon on Lake Winnebago for more than 60 years, starting at age 13. Mary Lou comes from a family of spearers; her father and all her uncles speared, as well as her brother, her husband and their six children. This family is not alone on Lake Winnebago. Wisconsin DNR reports that 12,182 sturgeon licenses were sold for the 2012 spearing season. That translates to a vibrant community of spearers moving onto the 30-mile-long lake in their shanties each February. Sturgeon are ancient fish native to the Great Lakes that have been carefully brought back from the edge of extinction in Wisconsin. Credit is due to community citizen groups like Sturgeon for Tomorrow working in partnership with government managers and university researchers. The main chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow was founded by Bill Casper, Mary Lou’s brother. Wisconsin DNR now estimates that Wisconsin’s sturgeon population is the largest in the world. Along with fishing, Mary Lou has earned a well deserved reputation as a decoy carver and maker of caviar, skills she will demonstrate during the Festival. Mary Lou is featured in the book People of the Sturgeon: Wisconsin’s Love Affair with an Ancient Fish.

The Midwest Folklife Festival is a showcase for the rich cultural arts and traditions of the Upper Midwest.  Over two days, visitors can experience some of the best traditional folk arts in the region in engaging, educational and interactive ways.  The Festival celebrates the aesthetic traditions of the Upper Midwest’s diverse cultures including Native Americans, descendants of 19th century European immigrants, African American families in the great migration from south to north, and recently relocated refugees.

Since 2001, the Festival has been a joint project of the folk arts programs and state arts agencies of Midwestern states including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The Festival rotates annually between the partnering states.  This year’s festival in Bishop Hill, Illinois is organized around the theme “Labor and Leisure.”  Other performers include tamburitza musicians T-Rroma, country singers The Hoyle Brothers, Mexican musicians Juvenato and many more. Other participants include hair sculptor Amazon Peyton Smiley from Chicago, rolle bolle maker Roy DePauw of Geneseo, IL, and beadworker Cheryl Minnema of Milaca, MN, among others. For a schedule of the program and a complete list of artists at this year’s festival, see www.midwestfolklifefestival.org.

The Wisconsin Arts Board is a founding partner of the Midwest Folklife Festival.  The Arts Board is the Wisconsin state agency which nurtures creativity, cultivates expression, promotes the arts, supports the arts in education, stimulates community and economic development and serves as a resource for people of every culture and heritage. See