Published Jul/Aug 2005

Top: Quilters create in the Ozarks.

Above: A folk art toy by Kentucky artist Don Torpey. George Oxford Miller photos

Below: An artisan carves spoons at the Louisiana Folklife Festival. LA Tourism photo

Before You Go
For more information, contact:

• Kentucky Tourism,
1-800-225-8747, www.kentuckytourism.com;

• Arkansas Parks and Tourism,
(800-628-8725), www.arkansas

• Louisiana Office of Tourism,
(800-994-8626) www.louisianatravel.com;

• Mississippi Development Authority,
(866-733-6477), www.visitmississippi.org.

To plan a Southern folk art shopping trip, stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. A list of offices to serve you is at www.aaa.com.

Order free information about Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi complete the online Reader Service Card.

Find folk art treasures and great getaways throughout the south.
By George Oxford Miller

Folk art in the South dates back to the first settlers who carved their life out of the wilderness. Everything from farming implements and household necessities to clothes and toys had to be handmade from available resources.

Today, traditional and folk art centers and festivals in Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi offer high-quality crafts, living-history demonstrations and weekend workshops.

Carve out a
Kentucky getaway

A drive from Lexington through eastern Kentucky covers some of the best art centers in the state. Berea is known as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky. With more than 40 shops and galleries and the Kentucky Artisan Center, the historic town showcases contemporary and traditional crafts in glass, pottery, wood and more.
In Hindman, the Kentucky Appalachian Artisan Center features pottery, baskets, dolls, ironwork, jewelry and paintings from dozens of artisans.
The adjacent Kentucky School of Crafts, a branch of Hazard Community & Technical College, keeps the tradition of artisan training alive. Students enrolled in wood/furniture and jewelry/metals programs create furniture, jewelry and one-of-a-kind objects. Necessary business skills also are taught.

Folk art in Arkansas

To help preserve the rich heritage of traditional crafts in the Ozark region, Arkansas established the Ozark Folk Center State Park near Mountain View in 1973. The park, dedicated to traditional crafts and music of the 19th and early 20th centuries, features a crafts village with 24 shops. Artisans demonstrate the homestead crafts and pioneer skills that were essential to the early settlers.

From May through October, the center offers craft and music workshops with one-on-one instruction by the artisans.

The nearby Arkansas Craft Guild Gallery, located on Main Street in Mountain View, was organized in 1960 as a cooperative to help revive traditional crafts in the Ozarks.

“We represent more than 200 of the best artists in the region,” says Joy Harp, the store manager. “We have pottery, wood working, jewelry, glass, leather, quilts, baskets, weaving, toys, candles, paintings and hook rugs.”
Each year on the first weekend in December, the guild sponsors a Christmas Show at the Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center.

Traditional arts
are alive in Louisiana

Since 1980, the Natchitoches/ Northwestern State University Folk Festival (July 15 and 16) has developed into one of the major festivals in the South. Each year, 40 artisans display their arts as a major component of the festival. Traditional music is played on three stages. Stories and food demonstrations also are offered.

The Louisiana Folklife Festival, held Sept. 10 and 11 in Monroe, is considered the state’s premier folk festival. From crafts to cooking and music, the festival focuses on living traditions. More than 35 artisans display crafts that range from African-American walking sticks and Cajun Mardi Gras masks to baskets and boats.

Mississippi’s folk heritage

Mississippi celebrates its traditional and folk art heritage with museums, galleries and festivals across the state. The Mississippi Crafts Center, located on the Natchez Trace Parkway in Ridgeland, and the Chimneyville Crafts Gallery in Jackson feature crafts by artisans from the Craftsmen's Guild of Mississippi. The galleries sell woodcarvings, pottery, Choctaw cane baskets, quilting and jewelry in traditional and contemporary styles.

The Mississippi Crafts Center sponsors the Pioneer and Indian Festival on Oct. 29 in Ridgeland.

The Chimneyville Crafts Gallery offers Saturday demonstrations from March through October and a craft festival Dec. 3–4. More than 150 booths showcase the finest talent in the region.

With a strong heritage in folk and traditional arts, Kentucky, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi offer crafts with an authenticity missing from shopping center merchandise.

George Miller is a new contributor from Clarksboro, N.J.

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