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. 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.
TAI was recognized in 2007 by the Indiana General Assembly 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.
In 2014, TAI became a special program within Indiana University’s Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Today, TAI continues to chronicles Indiana’s traditional arts and artists through interviewing, recording, and photographing individuals and groups throughout the state about their folk arts, crafts and traditions. This unique organization champions the arts as part of everyday life, and promotes the merit and value of Indiana’s traditional arts through a variety of public programs, exhibits, and educational activities.
In 2016, TAI createdIndiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation, a traveling exhibition to commemorate Indiana’s Bicentennial. The exhibit featured the work of more than fifty artists, toured to twenty venues throughout Indiana, and was seen by upwards of 300,000 people. In 2017, TAI began a new apprenticeship program to fund the teaching practices of traditional artists as they train the next generation musicians, dancers, makers, and tradition bearers. Based upon the success of the exhibition and the new apprenticeship program, TAI initiated the Indiana Heritage Fellowships, a program to honor the lifetime achievements of a folk and traditional artist in Indiana.