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Natalie Merchant, Martha González and Ricardo L. Punzalan Appointed to American Folklife Center’s Board of Trustees

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Head and shoulders portrait of Natalie Merchant
Natalie Merchant has been appointed to the AFC board of trustees. Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff

The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress is pleased to announce the appointment of platinum-selling recording artist Natalie Merchant, musician and Macarthur Fellow Martha González, and community archiving scholar Ricardo L. Punzalan to the American Folklife Center Board of Trustees. We are also happy to report that legislative liaison Jean Dorton and theater professor John Patrick Rice have been reappointed to the board.

Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer appointed Merchant, an alternative rock singer-songwriter. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed González, a Chicana musician and scholar, and Punzalan, a Filipino archivist and scholar. Under the authority of the legislation that established the American Folklife Center in 1976, the Librarian of Congress can appoint four members of the Board of Trustees and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate can each appoint two members. The remaining members are appointed by the President of the United States and the majority and minority leaders in the House of Representatives.

Natalie Merchant, 59, began her musical career in 1981 as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the pop band 10,000 Maniacs. Since leaving the band in 1994, her solo career has involved recording her own songs as well as traditional folk songs inspired by archival collections. As an artist-in-residence with the Head Start Program in Troy, NY, Merchant created a multidisciplinary arts curriculum for preschoolers called The Mother Goose Project (2018-2019). She has served on the New York State Council on the Arts, and has won The Library Lion Award from the New York Public Library, The American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers Champion Award, and The John Lennon Real Love Award.

Martha Gonzalez, Musician, Scholar, and Artist/Activist, 2022 MacArthur Fellow, Claremont, CA
Martha Gonzalez, Musician, Scholar, and Artist/Activist, 2022 MacArthur Fellow, has been appointed to the AFC Board of Trustees. Photo Courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation.

Martha González, 49, is a 2022 MacArthur fellow also known for her work as a Chicana “artivista” (artist/activist), combining her passions as a longtime musician, feminist scholar, and activist. Born in Los Angeles to Mexican immigrants, González teaches Chicano/a Latino/a studies at Scripps College and is currently the 2022-2023 Scripps Humanities Institute director. She has been a Fulbright Scholar (2007-2008), a Ford Fellow (2012-2013), a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (2016-2017), and United States Artist Fellow (2020), and her academic interests have been fueled by her work as a vocalist, songwriter and percussionist for Grammy-award (2013) winning rock band Quetzal. (Quetzal appeared in AFC’s Homegrown Concert Series in 2011, and you can see the video here.) González published her first book, Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles, in 2020.

Head and shoulders portrait of Ricardo Punzalan
Community Archiving Scholar Ricardo Punzalan has been appointed to the AFC board of trustees. Photo courtesy of Ricardo Punzalan.

Ricardo Punzalan, 47, is an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Information and is on the faculty of the Museum Studies Program at the institution. Punzalan’s research has raised the profile of a critical challenge faced by underserved and Indigenous communities and created dialogues between communities and cultural institutions. He has held elected leadership posts in the Society of American Archivists, including chair of Native American Archives Section (2017-2018) and council member (2018-2021), the highest governing body of the society. He co-chairs the Archival Repatriation Committee of the Society of American Archivists.

Jean Dorton, who was reappointed by Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, is the Community and Legislative Liaison of Big Sandy Community and Technical College in Paintsville, Kentucky. Dorton has served as a board member for various organizations, including as a member and chair of the Kentucky Folk Art Museum, the Kentucky Arts Council, East Kentucky Concert Series, and the Apple Festival Arts and Crafts Board.

John Patrick Rice, who was reappointed by Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer, is a professor of theatre at Great Basin College in Elko, Nevada. He served on the Board of Trustees of Nevada Humanities for six years, the last two as its chair. As a member of the Elko City Council, he established the city’s Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee, which has recommended and funded several public art projects and humanities forums. He is a frequent host at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. As an actor he performed Off-Broadway and in regional theatres throughout the nation, including Boston and Washington, D.C. He also played roles in several New York-based daytime television series.

About the American Folklife Center

The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress was created by Congress in 1976 and designated as the national center for folklife documentation and research. The Center documents and shares the many expressions of human experience to inspire, revitalize and perpetuate living traditions, and is charged with stewardship of archival collections, creation of publications and public programs, and the exchange of knowledge and expertise. The Center’s work demonstrates and encourages diversity of thought and expression, which is an inherent part of the human experience, and fosters community participation in the collective creation of cultural memory.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at; and register creative works of authorship at

For more information and photos, visit the Library of Congress Newsroom!


  1. Ask suggestion, you should consider giving some type of award to one of the greatest folk songwriters in America today Tom Russell.


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