Maida Owens

Maida Owens, Folklife Program Director, is a cultural anthropologist specializing in Louisiana traditional cultures.

Owens has been with the Division of the Arts since 1986, during which time she has worked with organizations and researchers across the state to identify one of Louisiana's most important assets—its traditional folk artists—to determine the most innovative and effective ways to present Louisiana's folk musicians, storytellers, and craftsmen to Louisiana citizens and the world. She was director of the Louisiana Crafts Marketing Program from 1986 until it ended in 2008.

In 2019, she received the Charles E. Dunbar, Jr. Career Civil Service Award from the Civil Service League for local, state, and municipal civil service employees for service to the citizens of Louisiana. In 2017 she received the James William Rivers Prize in Louisiana Studies from University of Louisiana, Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies. In 2015, she received the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public folklore from the American Folklore Society. In 2021, she was recognized as a Wetlands Warrior by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection, and Restoration Act (CWPPRA).

Owens has been involved with folklife surveys to document the region's folk traditions systematically and teach community members to document their own traditions. After working with the Louisiana Folklife Festival and other projects, she has worked with hundreds of folk artists from Louisiana's diverse cultures.

Owens works with the Louisiana Folklore Society on the Bayou Culture Collaborative to help coastal Louisiana sustain their traditional cultures by offering workshops and supporting local efforts.

Owens was the project director of the Baton Rouge Folklife Survey, a multi-year initiative focusing on the state's capitol city. Professional folklorists documented community traditions, art forms, or events and then provided essays and photos for the Folklife in Louisiana website,

Owens co-edited the "virtual book" Delta Pieces: Northeast Louisiana Folklife (2014) with Susan Roach. This project is the compilation of research conducted over 20 years that offer a glimpse at 12 northeast Louisiana parishes with 68 multimedia essays featuring the people who work, play, cook, tell stories, worship, and play music in the Delta.

As Project Director for the New Populations Initiative (2005-2014), Owens reached out to the state's immigrant and refugee communities to document their traditions and communities and mentor immigrant organizations. The project resulted in the online publication of the essay, The Many Faces of the Bayou State: New Populations in Louisiana (2012), which she co-wrote with Laura Marcus Green, and 43 articles. The project culminated with production of the traveling exhibit, A Better Life for All: Traditional Arts of Louisiana's Immigrant Communities (2013).

Owens is the Project director of Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide, an innovative and pioneering online education guide that provides rich teaching resources on Louisiana folk and traditional arts and culture. This groundbreaking program was the recipient of the 2000 Dorothy Howard Award from the American Folklore Society for the best folk arts in education project. Educators and folklorists in other states and other countries have widely adapted it.

Owens curated renovation of The Creole State: An Exhibition of Louisiana Folklife (1995) located in the State Capitol from 1985-2001 and 2013 to the present, edited the publication Fait à la Main: A Sourcebook of Louisiana Crafts (1988), co-edited Keeping It Alive: Cultural Conservation Through Apprenticeship, A Review of the Louisiana Apprenticeship Program (1993), and co-edited the publication Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana (1997) and served as co-producer/researcher of its companion video program (1997).

Owens served as assistant producer and researcher for the video documentary Dance for a Chicken: The Cajun Mardi Gras, recipient of the 1993 American Anthropological Award of Excellence and the 1993 American Association for State and Local History Award of Merit.

She was a fieldworker for the Florida Parishes Folklife Survey which resulted in the publication, Folklife in the Florida Parishes (1988). Other research has focused on food traditions (2000), midwifery (1985), roadside memorials 2006), and labyrinth workers (2009). And her essay on Louisiana's traditional cultures (1997) provides an overview of the entire state.

She produced the Fait à la Main and Folklife in Louisiana websites and coproduced the Swapping Stories website by the Louisiana Public Broadcasting.