From a posting to the Publore listserv by Lisa Higgins:

The Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Folk Arts Program and ExhibitsUSA partnered in 2006 and 2007 to create the traveling exhibit Work is Art and Art is Work: The Art of Hand-crafted Instruments, an American Masterpieces project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. American Masterpieces, as most of you know, is the Endowment’s coordinated effort to present “acknowledged masterpieces selected from a wide variety of art forms” in all fifty states.

The West Plains Council on the Arts kicked off the exhibit tour in June 2007 as a central feature of its 13th Annual Old Time Music and Ozark Heritage Festival. The exhibit then traveled around the state to Excelsior Springs, Farmington, Republic/Springfield, Kansas City, California (Missouri), and Chillicothe. The National Park Service at Van Buren hosted the exhibit’s grand finale this past June – July 2008, including a weekend installation at Big Spring during the annual Ozark Heritage Days festival.

In the exhibit, we featured six Missouri luthiers, all who had participated in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program: Bernard Allen, Naylor (fiddle); Don Graves, Lebanon (“walking cane” dulcimer); Luther Medley, Poplar Bluff (“doghouse” bass); Geoffrey Seitz, St. Louis (violin); Gregory Krone, New Haven (viola); and John Wynn, Ozark (mandolin). Each artist graciously loaned an instrument, as well as his time and skills to the project, demonstrating for hours for photographer Rita Reed. The exhibit not only focused on the20individual instruments but also revealed the artistic process in twenty-four high quality candid photographs and through several objects.

The exhibit was so well-received, and Rita Reed’s images are so awesome, that we have created an online version for our website, complete with short videos of each luthier. These interviews were conducted and filmed by University of Missouri graduate students Willow Mullins and Tahna Henson, who also edited the footage into a 30 minute video and edited the clips for the web. The exhibit itself was curated by Deborah A. Bailey.

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