Explore 50 years of history


MSAC hires first folklorist at a state arts agency


First state folk festival in the United States

July 11: Maryland Arts Council opens the first state folk festival in the US, at The Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, MD Blacksmiths, gunsmiths, goldsmiths, instrument makers, decoy carvers, sail makers, weavers, crab and clam pickers, musicians, and practitioners of traditional cookery from across the state are featured at the three-day event. The festival brings to fruition the research of Maryland State Folklorist, Dr. George Carey, building on the body of research created by the Smithsonian Institution when Maryland is featured at the National Folklife Festival in 1975.  Of the event, Maryland Arts Council executive director James Backas says, “We wanted authentic craftsmen, musicians, dancers, storytellers, cooks... The real article, people who have had traditional crafts passed down to them in traditional ways. ... We had a double purpose—to [...] give some dignity to traditional folk artists and craftsmen, and also to amplify their activities so the rest of the people of the state could learn about them and see what they [are] doing. Festival director Timothy Lloyd, who came from Ohio to take on the project, has included a broad spectrum of indigenous Maryland traditions and cultures, both urban and rural".


Community Arts Development Program established

Maryland is one of the first states to have county arts councils appointed by local governments. In most cases these local organizations are non-profit corporations, while in other cases they are governmental entities. There are 24 of these groups in all (23 counties, plus Baltimore City). The Community Arts Development program establishes a network of those local arts organizations, which also comprise the County Arts Agencies of Maryland, a non-profit statewide assembly of country arts organizations. The CAD program provides funds and tech assistance to them, ensuring that MSAC support reaches the entire state.


Maryland Citizens for the Arts founded

Judge Francis Murnaghan, Jr. founds Maryland Citizens for the Arts as “a statewide, umbrella organization under which arts organizations from every county and Baltimore City could unite their campaigns for state arts funding.”  With the slogan, “One Voice for All the Arts in Maryland,” MCA becomes the chief lobbying organization for MSAC and the arts across the state. In 1989, the MCA Foundation is established to broaden funding scope. Due to MCA’s networking and advocacy, funding for the arts in Maryland has grown from about $475,000 annually to over $20 million in 2017. 

Established statewide network of designated local arts councils in all 24 Maryland jurisdictions


New Name

April 6, 1979: The Maryland Arts Council changes its name to the Maryland State Arts Council. 

Continue to the 1980s