Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South Press Page

Open your eyes to the changing role of folk art as it influences Southern culture through a collection of 500 artifacts ranging from pottery to musical instruments.

Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South

“The changing role of folk arts, once central to the lives of ordinary southerners, offers fresh insights into the region’s social history,” said John Burrison, guest curator of this Atlanta History Center permanent exhibition.

Throughout the exhibition, videos present folk art processes and are complemented by touchable examples of highlighted works. Two enclosed rooms create listening environments for visitors to hear folk storytelling, singing, and instrumental music.


  • Pottery by David Drake (1801-late 1870s), the best-known enslaved African American potter, known simply as Dave until Emancipation. He learned the craft at Pottersville in Edgefield District, South Carolina, and was given the limited freedom of signing his pots and inscribing them with his own poetry
  • A significant collection of Appalachian folk pottery assembled by guest curator Burrison, author of Brothers in Clay and From Mud to Jug: The Folk Potters and Pottery of Northeast Georgia.
  • Sacred and secular music listening rooms
  • Props from the celebrated folk drama Heaven Bound, performed annually since 1930 at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • A changing display of quilts from the Atlanta History Center’s collection
  • Videos featuring the Meaders and Hewell family pottery makers, chair-maker Walter Shelnut, Cherokee basket-maker Lucille Lossiah, the Reeves family of basket makers, story quilter Harriet Powers, and blacksmith Philip Simmons
  • Southern-made furniture as found in the catalog Neat Pieces: The Plain-Style Furniture of Nineteenth-Century Georgia
  • Musical instruments including dulcimers, banjos, mandolins, and guitars
  • Displays of Southern foods and foodways including grits, gumbo, and hot pepper sauce
  • Display of contemporary folk traditions including duck decoys, Hmong textiles, Seder celebrations, and more


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