Traditional Arts Indiana was founded in 1998 by Inta Carpenter, the director of Special Projects in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University (IU). She approached Dorothy Ilgen of the Indiana Arts Commission about creating a program to support the identification, documentation, and presentation of the folk and traditional arts of Indiana. Soon they hired Erin Roth to manage the project and TAI began its work documenting and promoting Indiana’s traditions. When Roth left the agency in 2004, Indiana University hired Jon Kay to direct Traditional Arts Indiana.
In 2007, the Indiana General Assembly recognized TAI as the official folk and traditional arts service organization for the state. This honor encouraged TAI to continue its work in underserved communities in Indiana through the strategic documentation of traditional arts, innovative public programs, and exemplary interpretation of the state’s folklife and traditional arts resources. In 2013, TAI received a Governor’s Arts Award for its years of service.
From 2014 to the spring of 2020, TAI operated within IU’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures. When the museum closed for major remodeling, TAI moved to a new home in the Cook Center for Public Arts and Humanities in IU’s historic Maxwell Hall in the heart of the university campus. Housed with the IU Arts and Humanities Council, IU Center for Rural Engagement, and other public facing units at the university, TAI works to support the state folk and traditional arts through apprenticeships, heritage fellowships, traveling exhibitions, and strategic projects. Moreover, TAI actively chronicles Indiana’s community traditions through ethnographic fieldwork, folklife interviews, and photographic documentation.