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Tradition/Innovation: American Masterpieces of Southern Craft & Traditional Art Opens
Richard Jolley (Resides in Knoxville, TN), Translating Substance #30, 2007, glass, 56 x 20 x 17 inches. Courtesy of the Southern Arts Federation. Photo credit: Louis Quiles. Copyright 2007.
ASHEVILLE, NC.- The Asheville Art Museum is will present Tradition/Innovation: American Masterpieces of Southern Craft & Traditional Art from Friday, May 22 to Sunday, August 23, 2009. The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibition with regional artists on Friday, May 22, 2009 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Tradition/Innovation, a project of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Southern Arts Federation, features more than 100 artworks created by historical masters and artists living and working in the South today. Visitors to the Asheville Art Museum will view works in glass, clay, fiber, metal, wood, paper and mixed media. Among the works on display will be wooden books, a Mardi Gras Indian costume, a set of silver mint julep cups, ceramic face jugs, white oak and sweetgrass baskets, an iron apron, miniature teapots, glass sculptures, traditional quilts, a wooden half hull boat model, ceramic goblets and a sponge diving helmet.

The combination of contemporary craft and traditional art in this exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to explore the “threads” between two different approaches to creating artwork, and also to compare the approaches of traditional and contemporary artists. According to co-curator Kathleen Mundell, “Some of the artists featured in Tradition/Innovation are rooted in a respect for traditional technique, materials and a connection to a specific place or culture. Others explore and expand ideas of form, function and community. Whether it be in the studio or at the kitchen table, each artfully balances skill, vision and tradition.”

Tradition/Innovation, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts, is a major program to acquaint Americans with the best of their cultural and artistic legacy. “Through this exhibit and the online and educational materials that we’ll present, we want to introduce people in the South to master artists and craftspeople living and working in their own communities,” said Gerri Combs, Executive Director of the Southern Arts Federation. “The incredible diversity of these individuals and the objects they create will give people a new window into the traditions of the South’s many cultural communities and the vibrant contemporary craft movement in the region.” Among the artists in the exhibit are six recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship, the country’s highest honor for traditional artists.

Works by 58 master traditional artists and contemporary craftspeople from the Southern Arts Federation’s nine partner states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) are accompanied by a rich array of artist interviews, stories, and background information on the artists and their process. Visitors will experience the artwork, photos and stories of the artists, and an audio tour featuring interviews with the artists. The exhibition Web site,, includes a “virtual gallery” with images of the artwork; information, stories and interview excerpts with the artists; and a section of learning activities for teachers and families. The Asheville Art Museum is the only North Carolina venue for this exhibition which will tour to nine museums throughout the Southeast through 2010.

This exhibition was organized by the Southern Arts Federation. This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation and Mr. William P. Massey.

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