Keeping the Circle Unbroken: Trouble at the Carter Fold

My previous post looked at the difficulties facing the Museum of Appalachia, whose founder, John Rice Irwin, hopes to strengthen his creation before handing it off to his descendants. Now, from the Bristol Herald Courier, comes a sad story of strife at the Carter Family Fold. Seems that the board of directors of the Fold have voted Dale Jett, son of the late Jeanette Carter, off the board.

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow. Photo by Larry Smith

The late Jeanette Carter

The divisiveness came to a head over a collection of tapes of Carter Fold performances. Dale Jett apparently handed over 1,500 hours of tape-recorded Fold concerts to the Southern Folklife Collection at University of North Carolina for much-needed preservation. The dispute centers on whether Jett was authorized to do that. Maxine Kenny supported Jett’s action in an op-ed in the Herald Courier. Ms. Kenny and others also plead their case on this site.

It’s hard to sort out this struggle. The Carter Fold tapes need preservation, and a look at the documents seems to suggest that the board knew what Jett was doing. You can see the exchange of emails here. (Scroll down.)

The Fold seems to have a decent board. Here, from the organization’s website, is some background on the board chair:

Howard Klein has had a long association with the Carter Family Memorial Music Center (CFMMC). He was formerly Director for Arts at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, and was instrumental in helping Janette Carter found CFMMC as a not-for-profit organization in 1979.

He continued to work with Ms. Carter over the years and, after her death, in January, 2006, Mr. Klein volunteered to work with the organization as a consultant.

Howard Klein has degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York and was a music critic for the New York Times. As arts grants officer with the Rockefeller Foundation for 20 years, he helped found 46 not-for-profit arts organizations, including the Sundance Institute, the Eliot Feld Ballet, New World Records and Maurice Sendak’s “In The Night Kitchen” Children’s Theater.

He has consulted for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Reader’s Digest Foundation, Opera America and the American Symphony Orchestra League. He was a Management Consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts Advancement Program for five years.

It’s sad to see this fighting among the heirs, actual as well as governing, of the Carter Fold. These are the kinds of struggles that kill off organizations.

The Museum of Appalachia and the Carter Fold are wonderful interpreters of Southern Appalachian culture in unique ways. Here’s hoping that both can survive and thrive.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

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