2013 Hoosier Outdoor Experience

Dani TippmannTraditional Arts Indiana will offer programs featuring local Indiana artisans and craftspeople Saturday, September 21st and Sunday, September 22nd from 10am to 6pm as a part of the Department of Natural Resource’s annual Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience event.

Traditional Arts Indiana has invited a number of Indiana artists to demonstrate and discuss their traditional art. The program will include drum maker and musician Tony Artis, drum maker and musician Roy Spight, hoopnet maker Larry Haycraft, plant tradition bearer Dani Tippmann, and limestone artisan and gravestone maker Casey Winningham. Come learn about local traditions and crafts directly from the wonderful people who do them.

The Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience is free, but by registering in advance you help the park plan for the future. We hope to see you there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Indiana Plants, Indiana Heritage

Traditional Arts Indiana will join the Warsaw Community Public Library to bring Dani Tippmann, a Miami plant tradition bearer from Whitley County, and Viki GrabeDani Tippmannr, a 4th-generation willow basket maker from Elkhart County, to share their knowledge of Indiana plants and what you can do with them. Sponsored by TAI and funded through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, this free event will showcase the work and knowledge of these two artists. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Stonecarving Demonstration with Matt Bruce

limestone carvingTraditional Arts Indiana is pleased to partner with the Zionsville Public Library to present a stonecarving demonstration featuring Indiana limestone carver Matt Bruce, who will not only be presenting his work in progress but also bring a giant, working stone hinge of his own creation. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Tell People The Story: The Art of Gustav Potthoff

Traditional Arts Indiana will present a special exhibition at the Millrace Center in Columbus entitled Tell People the Story: The Art of Gustav Potthoff. The exhibit shares the life and work of Columbus resident Gustav Potthoff, a memory painter who paints to remember his fellow prisoners-of-war who built the Burma Thailand Railway during World War II. Concerned that the more than 16,000 who died constructing the bridge over the River Kwai and the infamous Hellfire Pass would be forgotten, Gustav turned to painting to tell people his story and to make peace with his wartime memories. Featured in the award-winning documentary, Lest We Forget, the story and art of Gustav Potthoff is one of survival and healing. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Crafting Rifles in a Family Tradition: Marvin Kemper

Marvin Kemper, 2013-2014 REN

To see a large-size version of this panel, click here.
Find the library nearest you to see its REN Exhibit Schedule for 2013-2014!

TAI’s most recent Rotating Exhibit Network series includes a panel on southwest Indiana rifle maker Marvin Kemper. Working from his home workshop in Wadesville, Kemper builds Kentucky long rifles inspired both by historical examples as well as by the work of his father, career rifle maker Cornell Kemper.

I first heard of Marvin Kemper’s work while conducting survey fieldwork in Pike County in 2011. Many people in the region who take interest in pioneer arts look to Kemper as an example of excellence in rifle craftsmanship. Tom Talley, who makes hunting bows in Petersburg, suggested I get in touch with Kemper and gave me his phone number. Although Wadesville was outside of my focus area, I reached out to Kemper based on his outstanding reputation. We spent a few hours one evening at his workshop discussing his history as a rifle maker and the techniques he uses to produce his work. In the following excerpt from the interview, Kemper tells me about growing up as the child of a rifle maker and his transition into learning the craft:

Joe O’Connell: The first thing I wanted to ask you about was how you came about learning gun building. What was it like to be around your dad’s work, and how did that influence your learning?

Marvin Kemper: My dad, right after World War II became a cabinet maker for a period of years and through an acquaintance was encouraged to try his hand at basically re-stocking old original Kentucky long rifles–literally taking busted up rifles from the 18th century and the 19th century and taking all the parts off them and making new guns from them. So, that was taking place before I was even born. My dad was a full-time Kentucky rifle maker by 1952. I was born in ’59, so as a little boy playing out in his gun shop, he was very willing to allow me to just kind of hang around his shop and play in the dust and the dirt. I’ve even got his original gun bench. It has rat tail file grooves all around the edge. He would just let me stand there and file grooves and–I think back on that now–it’s a simple thing, but it’s a very meaningful thing. So I was just around it. My dad made over 3,000 Kentucky rifles in his lifetime so it was just something I was around all the time. You know, my true appreciation for it did not really surface, I would say, until I was in my early 20s, out of college and kind of living on my own. I thought, you know, I’ve been around this. I know it. It was something I wanted to try my hand at, so I got started on working with my dad somewhat at that point, back in the early 1980s. And then, over time, I started getting some orders and developed my skill at it. That’s how I, quite simply, was exposed to it–by growing up around it.

Our REN exhibit on Kemper showcases the intricate detail of his rifles, explores his technical processes, and discusses the place of his work in family and community tradition. The display can be seen at libraries around the state along with other exhibits in TAI’s current Rotating Exhibit Network series.

To see more of and learn more about Marvin’s work, please visit his Liberty Longrifles website:


Posted in Posey County, REN Panel Artists, Rotating Exhibit Network (REN) | Leave a comment

Sacred Chant at Saint Meinrad Archabbey

St Meinrad, 2013-2014 REN

To see a large-size version of this panel, click here.
Find the library nearest you to see its REN Exhibit Schedule for 2013-2014!

One of TAI’s most recent Rotating Exhibit Network panels focuses on sacred chant at St. Meinrad Archabbey, a Roman Catholic Benedictine monastery and seminary in Spencer County. For St. Meinrad monks, practicing this communal form of sung prayer grounds daily life in shared beliefs and a centuries-old monastic tradition.

On a visit to the archabbey in the fall of 2011, St. Meinrad public relations staff Mary Jeanne Schumaker introduced me to several monks who serve the community through creative work. I had the opportunity to interview Father Columba Kelly, a scholar and teacher of Christian chant; Brother Kim Malloy, who weaves and sews vestments worn by St. Meinrad priests; and Brother Martin Erspamer, who creates liturgical visual art in several media. Our conversations addressed the place of these practices in the coordinated, collective social life of the monastery.

Drawing on my meetings with the monks, our REN exhibit highlights chant as a form of music and prayer at the center of St. Meinrad’s monastic life. The monks organize their worship according to the Liturgy of the Hours, a regimen by which they gather at appointed times throughout the day in the St. Meinrad church. Within the liturgy, chant serves as the primary format of worship. This “sung speech,” as Father Kelly identifies chant, gives musical contour to scriptural texts and prayers. With organ accompaniment, the monks raise their voices in a unified expression of devotion. Primarily, chant functions as a form of worship. In the process, St. Meinrad monks define themselves as a religious community and articulate their place in Benedictine and Roman Catholic traditions.

Click below to listen to the monks chant The Lord’s Prayer at the Vespers service I attended in 2011:


Find more information about the St. Meinrad Archabbey at the following website:


Posted in Dubois County, REN Panel Artists, Rotating Exhibit Network (REN) | Leave a comment

Traditional Arts Indiana Receives 2013 Governor’s Arts Award

schoolman-gaa-award-imageTraditional Arts Indiana is one of six recipients of the 2013 Governor’s Arts Awards, and we at TAI are ecstatic that our organization is being recognized by the state.

“Having directed Traditional Arts Indiana at IU for the past decade, it is greatly rewarding to see our work documenting and promoting Indiana’s folk arts and traditions honored with a Governor’s Arts Award,” said Jon Kay, director of TAI and a research scholar in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. “From African American quilters and Amish20091017_SistersoftheCloth_Batcheller_359web buggy makers to bluegrass fiddlers and mariachi ensembles, Indiana is home to a diverse array of traditions. This award recognizes the value of the everyday creative lives of Hoosiers and TAI’s work supporting it.”

Established in 1998, Traditional Arts Indiana began as a partnership between IU Bloomington and the Indiana Arts Commission. Today, TAI  remains dedicated to expanding public awareness of Indiana’s traditional practices and works to identify, document, and understand more fully the many ways in which cultural values and the arts are embedded in daily life. Toward this aim, Traditional Arts Indiana conducts folklife surveys in counties throughout the state, creates traveling exhibitions about ethnic and community traditions, and presents Hoosier artists both regionally and nationally.


Other recipients of the 2013 Indiana Governor’s Arts Awards are philanthropist Christel DeHaan and music educator and vocalist Cynthia Hartshorn, both of Indianapolis; singer/songwriter John Hiatt of Nashville, Tenn.; Bloomington mayor Mark Kruzan; and the late director, producer, and actor Sydney Pollack of Los Angeles.

Conceived in partnership between the Indiana Arts Commission and the Office of the Governor, the biennial Governor’s Arts Award honors individuals, organizations, partnerships, businesses, and communities thathave made significant contributions to the arts in and beyond Indiana.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 3.49.47 PM

Gov. Mike Pence, first lady Karen Pence, and the Indiana Arts Commission will honor the recipients during an awards dinner and ceremony September 26th in Carmel, Ind. TAI Director Jon Kay is looking forward to receiving this award on behalf of our organization, as well as on behalf of all the artists and organizations across the state that have made our work possible.

Posted in Event, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Previous Events

Leave a comment

Blacksmithing Traditions in the Indiana Stone Belt

Limestone Blacksmiths, 2013-2014 REN

To see a large-size version of this panel, click here.
Find the library nearest you to see its REN Exhibit Schedule for 2013-2014!

The current TAI Rotating Exhibit Network series includes an exhibit panel on stoneworking tool blacksmiths in south-central Indiana’s limestone industry. The display highlights the work of two tool makers, Dan Roberts and Ed Bixler, who continue the practice of forging individualized chisels for cutting and carving locally-quarried building stone.

The Indiana limestone business figures prominently in the state’s social history. However, the work of quarrying and fabricating stone in the present day receives considerably less attention. TAI’s 2012 and 2013 survey fieldwork in the stone business put us in touch with many of the people who perform and perpetuate this work. In the course of interviews and visits to local quarries and mills, we sought to learn more about the specialized skills, knowledge, and experiences that Indiana stone craftspeople have shared within their professions for nearly 200 years.

Beyond extracting and shaping stone, Indiana businesses have also established themselves as leaders in stone tool and equipment production. While some stone work processes have change drastically with new technologies, others have remained relatively stable, requiring the same kinds of tools and equipment that craftspeople have used for generations. Two stoneworking tool makers in the area help meet the continuing demand for customized steel chisels for cutting and carving stone. Dan Roberts, manager of Bybee Stone Tools in Ellettsville, and Ed Bixler, an independent craftsperson in Spencer, use blacksmithing methods to craft these tools, heating steel in a gas forge and shaping it through a process of hand- and mechanized hammering. They learned these skills from older toolmakers like Vestal Barger and Otis Moore, who worked at a time when limestone blacksmiths represented a distinct trade within the professional structure of the industry.

Today, fewer tools necessitate the forging process, and only a handful of craftspeople possess blacksmithing equipment and experience. Perhaps as a result, Roberts and Bixler stay very busy, filling orders from around the Indiana stone belt—and from around the world—for specialized stoneworking chisels. “There aren’t a lot of hand-forged tools being made for the limestone industry,” Ed told me in an interview. “A lot of tools now are stamped out–machines that silver solder, holding the carbide on–it’s inserted into them. And it makes the tools, the actual cutting edge, thicker. And most all the stone cutters I make tools for, the tool has to be thin where they can get into these tight places and do their carving. They’ve got to have them thin. A lot of tools I make are special-made.”

Our REN panel on Roberts’s and Bixler’s work discusses the ongoing cultural and practical importance of the blacksmith role in the contemporary industry. The display also features photography of the toolmakers at work, the chisels they produce, and stone art and architecture that represent the industry’s toolmaking traditions.

Click below to listen to Ed Bixler discuss his apprenticeship under Vestal Barger:


Follow this link to visit the website for Bybee Stone Tools in Ellettsville: http://www.bybeestone.com/bst/index.php

Posted in REN Panel Artists, Rotating Exhibit Network (REN) | Leave a comment

Daviess County Amish Quilt Auction

Daviess County Quilt Auction, 2013-2014 REN

To see a large-size version of this panel, click here.
Find the library nearest you to see its REN Exhibit Schedule for 2013-2014!

TAI’s current series of Rotating Exhibit Network panels features a profile of the Daviess County Amish Quilt Auction. This annual event brings the area’s Amish and Mennonite community together with craft enthusiasts for a festive showcase of local quilting. Since 1987, the auction has helped support Amish home businesses and fostered fellowship among auction participants. The TAI exhibit panel presents photographs from the auction’s 25th anniversary and describes the ongoing importance of the event as a cultural collaboration between local groups.

The panel arises from TAI survey fieldwork in Daviess County in 2012. During this project, I met many quilters in the Amish community in and around Montgomery. Among them were David and Anna Wagler, a husband and wife quilting team who also operate a shop called Wagler’s Quilts. Like many Amish businesses in the area, Wagler’s Quilts is a modest outbuilding on the owners’ property. The Waglers sell locally-made Amish quilts and a variety of other crafts, often to tourists who visit by bus. The shop also functions as a quilting workshop and gathering place, where David and Anna work and other members of their family and community sometimes meet to stitch or piece together. David and Anna stressed to me the importance of attending the annual Daviess County Quilt Auction, an event that they have helped organize since its inception.

Over Labor Day weekend in 2012, Kelley Totten, Will Claytor, and I visited the Simon J. Graber Community Building in Montgomery to document the auction. We took photographs of the quilts up for auction, recorded auctioneer patter, and talked to many participants about their perspective on the event. Our REN panel draws on the media we gathered and conversations we had that day, highlighting the local significance of the auction experience as well as the aesthetics of the quilts themselves.

Click below to listen to J. Yagle auction off a “Peaceful Retreat” pattern quilt at the 2012 auction.


To learn more about future quilt auctions and other upcoming public events in the Daviess County Amish and Mennonite community, please visit the county’s website:


The TAI staff and contributors would like to express our condolences to the family, friends, and community of Daviess County Amish Quilt Auction founder and organizer Lucille Dillon, who passed away in 2013.

Posted in Daviess County, REN Panel Artists, Rotating Exhibit Network (REN) | Leave a comment