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Robert Pitt Jr.

Florida Folklife asked our artists a series of questions to learn more about their traditions and how those traditions have impacted their lives and the lives of those around them. Take a look at the answers we got from Robert Pitt Jr. below.

 Photo of Robert Pitt Jr.

What folk tradition(s) or traditional art(s) do you practice?

The skill area that I have worked in since I was 18 is traditional boatbuilding.

How did you learn those traditions?

I learned this trade from a third generation Welsh shipwright, who I served an apprenticeship for about 2 1/2 years. After that, I worked for myself doing boat repairs and new construction. I remembered back in my childhood of messing around a bunch of Manatee County boatyards and tried to recall the boats and construction methods. I have since spent many hours with local builder and fisherman, and attempted to continue Florida's proud boatbuilding traditions.

Why is it important to maintain folk traditions?

Keeping folk traditions in all fields is of great importance, as with the skills passed down in the time proven manner, is just or more effective to prevent a total loss of these skills as the products they create disappear. Especially with boats, it requires oodles of money to preserve vessels, the skill is the way they can be continued.

How did you first get involved with the Florida Folklife Program?

I was first made aware of the Folklife Program by Tina Bucuvalas in Tarpon Springs. When I ran the boatbuilding program for Manatee County, we would bring our boats to her Gulf Maritime Festival. This was a wonderful event and I met many craft/trades people there that I still regard as friends. There are few events where likeminded people can gather and shape our Florida experiences.

What Florida Folklife Program projects have you participated in and/or what folklife awards have you received?

In 2014 I received the Folk Heritage Award for being a traditional Florida boat builder. Florida boats are different than boats built in other parts of the U.S., they have stronger ties with Cuba, Bahamas and Hispaniola. I participated in the Folk Festival after that to demonstrate some of the building methods. I learned so much from the other presenters and public. It is hard to find an event with a mainly Florida focus without having to hear how they do things up North.

How has the Florida Folklife Program benefited you or what value does the program have?

The program has shown to me how important preserving what is left of Florida, so people can still imagine what a paradise it was like to grow up in. Having never lived outside the state has made me kind of selfish, but I am willing to share our history with others.

How can the Florida Folklife Program better serve you?

The best thing the program can do is to let people know that it exists. I only heard about it from Tina, who has helped many other deserving people get recognized.