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Ulmann's Photos Portray Craft Revival

“Movers and Makers: Doris Ulmann’s Portrait of the Craft Revival in Appalachia,” will be on display Sept. 1 – Oct. 17 in the Berea College Art Department Galleries. An opening reception with exhibit curator Anna Fariello is scheduled this Sunday, Sept. 4, from 3 – 5 p.m. The public is cordially invited.

Doris Ulmann portrait, circa 1933-1934 of a Virginia basketmaker (name and dates unknown). Possibly

The exhibition is a Berea College Sesquicentennial event, one of many during the 2005-06 year celebrating 150 years of learning, labor and service.

Featuring 24 photographs by Ulmann, “Movers and Makers” reinterprets a story that took place in the early part of the 20th century, the story of a craft revival and the people who made it happen. To tell that story, the exhibition examines the formation of Appalachian identity at the end of the 19th century, explores the role of mission and settlement schools in the movement, and looks at how the ideas concerning the “dignity of labor” were presented to people in Appalachia, black and white, in a fifty year period spanning the turn of the 20th century. Geographically, revival activities took place in southwestern Virginia, western North Carolina, and the eastern portions of Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Movers and Makers” is supported by grants from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. A 40-page catalog includes guest essays by Richard Kurin, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and Jean Haskell, co-editor of the forthcoming “Encyclopedia of Appalachia.”

The exhibition was organized by Curatorial Insight. Curator of the exhibition Anna Fariello, is a former Smithsonian research fellow. The exhibit makes use of materials and documents in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Archives of American Art, the Smithsonian American History Museum and regional craft schools to piece together the broad story of craftsmen and revival advocates. Lenders to the exhibition include Berea College and the John C. Campbell Folk School. “Movers and Makers” opened at the History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia in Roanoke and is currently on a two-year two.

Berea College has a special connection to Doris Ulmann. The New York photographer spent her summers from the late 1920's until her death in August of 1934, traveling and photographing in the mountains of Appalachia. In 1933 and 1934, Ulmann visited Berea staying several weeks and making hundreds of photographs for the book Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, a survey of mountain crafts. Ulmann fell ill in North Carolina while still on this mountain "expedition" and died a few weeks later in New York. In appreciation of the work Berea was doing, she bequeathed funds to construct a photographic gallery at the College to display her mountain portraits. Her gift was eventually realized in the Doris Ulmann Gallery, added to Berea College's Traylor Art Building in 1978. She also left a collection of several thousand of her photographic prints to Berea., several of which have been loaned for the “Movers and Makers” exhibition.

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