Secretary of State Michael Ertel announced today the recipients of the 2019 Florida Folk Heritage Awards. The Folk Heritage Awards are given to outstanding folk artists and advocates who have made longstanding contributions to the folklife and cultural resources of Florida. In the category of Folklife Advocate, the award recipients are James Billie, former chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Tina Bucuvalas, Curator of Arts & Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs. In the category of Folk Artist, the award recipients are Jane Wells Scott, fiddler in Tallahassee, and Michael Usina, Minorcan cast net maker in St. Augustine. Awards will be presented to the recipients in a ceremony at the Word of South Festival in Tallahassee on April 13, 2019.
“Folk artists and advocates help keep important traditions alive so they can be passed down and shared from generation to generation,” said Secretary Ertel. “The Department is honored to recognize these four individuals for their commitment to fostering Florida’s folk arts and cultural heritage.”
2019 Florida Folk Heritage Awardees (L to R): James Billie (courtesy of The Seminole Tribune), Tina Bucuvalas (courtesy of Bucuvalas), Jane Wells Scott (courtesy of Scott) and Michael Usina (courtesy of Usina).
Born of the Bird Clan in Dania, James Billie rose from humble beginnings to serve as Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida from 1979 to 2001 and from 2011 to 2016. In addition to championing tribal sovereignty, he established himself as a songwriter and promoted the preservation of Seminole traditional culture and language.
For more than 30 years, folklorist Tina Bucuvalas has advocated on behalf of Florida’s folk and traditional arts and artists. She established the South Florida Folklife Center at HistoryMiami, served as State Folklorist with the Florida Folklife Program and has continued to lead cultural and historic preservation efforts as Curator of Arts and Historical Resources for the city of Tarpon Springs.
Jane Wells Scott
As a musician, scholar and mentor of traditional old time and Irish fiddle, Jane Wells Scott has played a key role in the dynamic exchange of folk music traditions in North Florida, learning from masters, sharing techniques and preserving those skills for new generations. Regarded as an important fixture in the community, her work elegantly reflects the rich quality of Florida’s folk music legacy.
St. Augustine native Michael Usina celebrates his Minorcan heritage by crafting hand-made cast nets using techniques passed down by his ancestors who settled St. Augustine in the 18th century. Driven by a desire to promote Minorcan folk arts, Usina has shared this tradition in one-on-one apprenticeships, a documentary and at a variety of public events including the Florida Folk Festival.