cover of book

A History Of Tennessee Arts: Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons
by Carroll Van West
contributions by Margaret Duncan Binnicker
University of Tennessee Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-1-57233-239-3 | eISBN: 978-1-57233-395-6
Library of Congress Classification NX510.T2H58 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 700.9768


The harmonies of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the measured brush strokes of painter Lloyd Branson, the intricate basket weaving of Maggie Murphy, the influence of the Agrarian literary movement, and the theater barnstorming of actor-manager Sol Smith—such are the sounds, images, and expressions of Tennessee’s arts legacy.

Through its interlocking themes of tradition and innovation, A History of Tennessee Arts: Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons traces the story of the arts in Tennessee from its formal, more academic side to its vernacular expressions of culture, self, and community. Both the formal and the vernacular contribute to an understanding of what the arts mean to Tennesseans and, in turn, what Tennesseans have to offer the culture of the state, the region, and the nation. A history of the arts in the Volunteer State becomes, then, an evolving barometer of not only where we have been as a culture, but also how we have matured as a society.

This richly illustrated book, cosponsored by the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Tennessee Historical Society, covers the varieties of art in Tennessee in five parts. The visual arts and architecture section includes chapters on vernacular and high style architecture, sculpture, painting and photography, while the section on craft arts celebrates folk arts such as woodcraft, silversmithing, pottery, and textiles. The section on Tennessee’s rich literary history includes such writers as James Agee, Robert Penn Warren, and Evelyn Scott, while the performing arts are represented by a wealth of storytellers along with two centuries of stage history. Finally, Tennessee is home to—and originator of—much of the music that we know as distinctively American. Contributors to the music section examine gospel, blues, rock, soul, and, of course, country music.

From prehistoric cave paintings to the “cow punk” of Jason and the Scorchers, from the elegant capitol building of William Strickland to Ballet Memphis, and from the unique cantilevered barns of East Tennessee to the chronicles of Alex Haley, the arts in Tennessee truly celebrate traditions and strive to expand our horizons.

The Editor: Carroll Van West is director of the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State University and senior editor of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly.

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