Spectrum of Art Part 5: Folk/Traditional Arts

This section of the Spectrum of Art explores the traditional art forms of native Kentuckians, as well as those who have moved to Kentucky and brought their traditions with them.

Painting: Helen La France (Orr)

Mayfield artist Helen La France discusses her subject matter—images and memories of typical African-American life in the rural South—and reminisces about her childhood on her family’s farm in Kentucky. La France, now in her 80s, recalls a lifetime of experiences and observations of how the lives of black and white Southerners have developed over time and how these remembrances manifest themselves in her work.

Suggested Uses:
Use to spark a discussion about the artist’s methods and intentions as well as the creative process in general. Have students create art based on the video and your discussion.
Use in conjunction with a discussion of the purposes of art. Why might Helen La France be included in the folk/traditional arts section of Spectrum of Art?
Compare and contrast Helen La France’s approach to painting with those of other painters, such as those featured in the Looking at Painting segments in the “Subject Matter and Genres” section of Spectrum of Art.
Use in conjunction with the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM, finding other examples of painters who are self-taught and part of a traditional culture.
Use as part of a “careers in the arts” unit or as an introductory activity before an artist-in-residence visits your classroom.
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Wooden Animals: Minnie Adkins

Minnie Adkins tells viewers how she came to carve the roosters and other animals she’s known for and then demonstrates the process. She says that it’s “hard to find a really good stick for whittling because I’ve just about used them all up around here” in the Isonville area where she lives and works. After introducing viewers to some of her original creatures, including something she calls the “Roach Terminator,” she describes the evolution of A Day in the Country, an annual art event featuring traditional and folk artists and their work.

Suggested Uses:
Use to spark a discussion about the artist’s methods and intentions as well as the creative process in general. Have students create art based on the video and your discussion.
Use in conjunction with a discussion of the purposes of art from the point of view of a traditional artist.
Compare and contrast the techniques and methods different artists use in their approaches to the same medium (e.g., the “Wood Sculpture: LaVon Williams” segment on Through Artists’ Eyes).
Use in conjunction with the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM, finding other examples of Minnie Adkins’ work and the art of other self-taught artists working in wood.
Use as part of a “careers in the arts” unit or as an introductory activity before an artist-in-residence visits your classroom.

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Beatin’ and a-Bangin’: Wooden Shingles

Appalachian craftsmen William McClure and his son Randy discuss and demonstrate the old-fashioned techniques they use to render, or “rive,” wooden shingles. The shakes they produce using techniques handed down from grandfather to father to son are prized for durability and beauty. Randy McClure carries on the family business, catering to modern homeowners looking for the handcrafted appearance and durability of the shakes. He and his father also discuss the history and future of “riving.”

Suggested Uses:
Use to spark a discussion about the artists’ methods and intentions as well as the creative process in general. Have students create art based on the video and your discussion.
Use in conjunction with a discussion of the purposes of art. Are functional pieces “art”?
Use with other excerpts featuring traditional Kentucky arts and crafts to explore these traditions and their significance. (See “A Closer Look at Folk Art” in the “Art & Culture” section of the binder for more information.)
Find other examples of ancient art forms still practiced today in the Visual Arts Toolkit. Compare and contrast the techniques and methods of these art forms (e.g., “Ironhorse Forge”).
Use as part of a “careers in the arts” unit or as an introductory activity before an artist-in-residence visits your classroom.

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Baskets: Jennifer Heller (Zurick)

Jennifer Heller describes how she harvests willow bark, experiments with various twining techniques, and designs and creates fine baskets that are both functional and artistic. She also relates how most of her skills are self-taught, having developed over time, and explains that the completion of each new basket represents a spiritual connection with the material from start to finish.

Suggested Uses:
Use to spark a discussion about the artist’s methods and intentions as well as the creative process in general. Have students create art based on the video and your discussion. (See “Introduction to Basket Making Traditions” in the “Art & Culture” section of the binder for more information.)
Pair with the “Art of Craft: Rude Osolnik” segment on Responding to Art for a discussion of the purposes of art.
Use in conjunction with the Kentucky Virtual Art Museum CD-ROM, finding other examples of baskets. How does Heller’s description of her work help illuminate the processes and intentions behind the baskets students find in the museum?
Use with other excerpts featuring traditional Kentucky arts and crafts to explore these traditions and their significance. (See “A Closer Look at Folk Art” in the “Art & Culture” section of the binder for more information.)
Use as part of a “careers in the arts” unit or as an introductory activity before an artist-in-residence visits your classroom.

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Mehendi Maker: Indian Body Art

Following a centuries-old Indian tradition, Louisville artist Anupama Sahasrabudhe demonstrates how she designs elaborate mehendi on women’s hands for weddings and other special events. She also describes the community of Indian women in Louisville who meet to sing and play music preserving their traditions and heritage, showing the depth these cultural traditions have in their everyday lives.

Suggested Uses:
Use the segment to spark a discussion about the artist’s methods and intentions as well as the creative process in general. Have students create art based on the video and your discussion. (See the “Making Art” section of the binder for activities that use this medium or are based on the artist’s ideas and approaches to art.)
Use the segment in conjunction with a discussion of the purposes of art.
Explore how traditions such as mehendi help us better understand and appreciate other cultures. Why do the women featured in this segment feel it is important to continue these traditions in America? Have students identify traditions from their cultures that they are perpetuating and discuss why. (See the excerpt from the World of Our Own teacher’s guide in the “Art & Culture” section of the binder.)
Use as an introductory activity before an artist-in-residence visits your classroom.

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