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Jon Kay named interim executive director for arts and humanities

By Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President

May 29, 2024

Jon Kay, associate professor of folklore and ethnomusicology and director of Traditional Arts Indiana, has been named interim executive director for arts and humanities at Indiana University Bloomington, effective June 1.

“In his decades of folklore research and community engagement, Jon has demonstrated a commitment to building and tending a breadth of creative collaborations,” IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Rahul Shrivastav said. “In this moment of accelerating change, I trust he will uphold arts and humanities as essential parts of our campus’s identity and mission, growing local and global recognition and partnership.”

Jon Kay headshot Jon Kay. Photo by Indiana UniversityKay is the first to lead in this position, which will collaborate across IU Bloomington’s rich arts and culture landscape to form a comprehensive, future-facing vision for the arts and humanities on campus.

The author of “Folk Art and Aging: Life-Story Objects and Their Makers” and “The Expressive Lives of Elders: Folklore, Art, and Aging,” Kay has a long history of creating exhibitions, public programs and documentaries about traditional arts in Indiana.

“I look forward to supporting and championing the arts and humanities on our campus and beyond,” Kay said. “The arts and humanities have long been a strength at IU, and today they are needed more than ever as we work to understand and solve the world’s most pressing problems.”

Kay’s research centers on Indiana folklore, arts and aging, material culture and public folklore. His involvement was crucial in expanding curriculum offerings and creating practicum and lab courses for the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology’s public practice concentration.

Through Traditional Arts Indiana, Kay mentors students while managing a statewide apprenticeship program, a traveling exhibition network and Indiana’s Heritage Fellowships. Under his direction, Traditional Arts Indiana was recognized by the Indiana General Assembly as the official folk and traditional arts service organization for the state in 2007 and received a Governor’s Arts Award in 2013.

With an eye on the future, Kay played a key role in developing the IUB 2030 and Indiana Arts Commission strategic plans and has worked extensively with the Graduate Affairs and Public Practice committees.

Before moving back to his home state of Indiana in 2004, Kay worked with folklife programs and festivals across Kentucky and Florida, including as the director of the Florida Folk Festival.

Kay received IU’s Mary Burgan Distinguished Service Award in 2023 and a Bicentennial Medal in 2020. In 2022, Indiana Humanities — for which Kay is a member of the board — honored him as a “Humanities Hero” for his work documenting and supporting traditions in the state.

Originally from Brown County, Kay completed his undergraduate education at IU Bloomington, earned a master’s degree in folk studies at Western Kentucky University and obtained a doctorate in folklore from IU in 2014.

The search for an executive director for arts and humanities will be revisited in fall 2024.