For more than forty years as a director of three cultural agencies and as a national arts leader, Albert B. Head has advocated for the importance of the traditional arts and the necessity of providing state support for this field. The only state arts director to start folk arts programs in three states -- Florida, Louisiana and Alabama -- Head has striven to show how important the folk and traditional arts are to defining and giving life to a community.
A native of Andalusia, Alabama, Head was raised in a family of art enthusiasts, and his great-grandmother was an accomplished painter. He earned his undergraduate degree in art history and aesthetics from Troy State University, where he was a star quarterback on the 1968 NAIA national championship football team. He received his MA, with a concentration on Southern literature, from Auburn University at Montgomery. In 1974 he received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship to attend Harvard's Arts Administration Institute. He has played an integral part in the state arts field since accepting his position in 1972 with the Fine Arts Council of Florida. Head served as executive director at the Stephen Foster Folklife Center (1975-77) and the Louisiana Division of the Arts (1977-85) before becoming executive director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts, a position he has held since 1985.
Head also served two terms on the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) board, and in 1998 NASAA presented him with the Gary Young Award for his leadership and achievements in promoting the arts nationally. Head has also served as a member of the South Arts board for more than 35 years, presiding as its chair from 1983-85.
Described by Peggy Bulger, former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, as "one of the most important pioneers in arts administration to recognize and embrace the folk and traditional arts," Head has mentored a number of folklorists and was instrumental in creating a network of state folklorists in the Southern states' arts agencies. He initiated the establishment of the Florida Folk Arts Center in White Springs in 1975 and the Louisiana Folklife Commission in 1981. In 1990 he established the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture (ACTC) as a division of the Alabama Council on the Arts dedicated to research and presentation of the state's cultural traditions. Today, ACTC provides funding assistance for folklife projects, technical assistance, folk art apprenticeships and the presentation of folk artists. In addition, ACTC collaborates with the Alabama Folklife Association and other organizations that share the goal of interpreting and documenting Alabama folk culture.
He has been part of the nomination process leading to both Alabama and Louisiana artists' receiving NEA National Heritage Fellowships, including musicians Dewey Balfa, Clifton Chenie and the Birmingham Sunlights; quilters Mozell Benson, Nora Ezell, and Bettye Kimbrell; and potter Jerry Brown, among others.
Harrison, Thomas B. "Al Head: 25 years and counting as director of the Alabama State Council on the Arts." March 1, 2010. http://blog.al.com/entertainment-press-register/2010/03/al_head_25_years_and_counting.html
"Albert Head serves state with passion for arts." Montgomery Advertiser, June 27, 2010. http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com /article/20100627/NEWS01/6270319/Albert-Head-serves-state-passion-arts
Albert B. Head interviewed by Nicholas R. Spitzer, 2012 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts
Albert B. Head answers the question 'How did you get involved in the work you do?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head answers the question 'Did you feel a connection to folk and traditional arts growing up?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head answers the question 'What was your strategy to get your agencies to recognize folk art as an important area?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head talks about the importance of supporting the folk arts at the government level, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head answers the question 'What have you been doing in Alabama to foster the folk and traditional arts?' Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head talks about how folk arts are part of the fabric of everyone's life, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head talks about how the change in culture is bittersweet, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar
Albert B. Head talks about using technology to reach young people, Washington, D.C., 2012, interview by Alan Govenar