Tradition—Tennessee Lives and Legacies

SEP 26TH - DEC 5TH, 2010

Tradition—Tennessee Lives and Legacies highlights the state’s folk heritage through profiles of 25 subjects across Tennessee who preserve arts and culture distinctive to their families, communities, or places. The exhibition will be on view at the Hunter from September 26 through December 5 in the Museum's lobby hallway gallery.

The exhibition evolved from a book which is a collaboration between Dr. Robert Cogswell, Director of the Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program, and Nashville photographer Dean Dixon. Cogswell drew on his 25 years of fieldwork experience with Tennessee folk culture to select subjects for the project, and Dixon photographed them over a period of a year and a half. Books are available for purchase after Oct. 15, 2010 from Tennesseans for the Arts. Tradition is organized by the Tennessee Arts Commission, with support from the Hunter Museum of American Art. After the Hunter show, the exhibition will travel throughout the state for three years to a variety of venues.

The exhibition and book testify to the strength and diversity of Tennessee’s grassroots cultural life, and to the importance of everyday people who continue to sustain its art forms and practices through their mastery and dedication. The subjects—most individuals, but a few pairs and trios of people—represent different parts of Tennessee, different ethnicities, and different cultural specialties—from music and crafts to cooking and marble-playing. Dixon’s photographs capture the personalities of these interesting and mostly unsung people in settings significant to them.

For example, Charlie Acuff shined in the shadow of his famous cousin Roy by staying in the Knoxville area and becoming its best-loved old-time fiddler. He balanced his constant playing at shows and dances with a long work career in Alcoa. He’s kept the old local tunes alive, along with stories and recollections about them, and his warm personality has drawn friends and fans as well as new players to the fiddle.

A native of Michoacán, Mexico, Celia Garduño came to Chattanooga in 1998. Like many Latino immigrants in Tennessee, Celia still practices the traditional arts of her home region. Celia learned the art of Mexican needlework from her mother, beginning with the easier punto de cruz (cross-stitch embroidery) and crochet, then mastering the delicate deshilado (openwork).

Brothers Junior and Malcom Strong, who live near Moss in Clay County, are serious adult players of traditional marble games and makers of flint marbles. They grew up learning the skills and strategies of Rolley Hole on a packed-dirt yard outside their mother’s general store, mastering several old ways of hand-grinding the game pieces.

Tradition speaks to the reality, dignity, and vibrancy of Tennessee folklife in ways not often represented in our institutional culture or mainstream arts circles.

Jean Horner, Fiddle, Collection Tennessee State Museum, 1996.91