The Folk Artists Gallery showcases folk and traditional artists from Dauphin, Lebanon, and Cumberland Counties. During our first year as a PCA Folk Arts Center, we will present twelve artists in this gallery. In an article below the list of artists, folklorist Amy Skillman puts this project into a regional context.
About this Project
by Amy E. Skillman, Folklorist
Many Histories, Many Stories
History is written in the artistic traditions of a place. The story of the landscape is woven into the objects: baskets in the woodlands, pots in the red clay river bottoms. Beliefs are embedded in the lyrics of a chant, a ballad, a hymn or a hip-hop song. Migration patterns are inscribed in the meals we enjoy, the restaurants we discover, and the grocery stores we frequent.
Central Pennsylvania is a place of many histories, many stories — from the farms of the Susquehannocks on whose land Europeans settled, to the gardens of our most recent immigrant neighbors. And while history is often written by and about the victors, drowning out less powerful voices, our community's full history includes all those peoples.
The Susquehanna Folk Arts Center aims to amplify and celebrate all the cultures of our diverse region — the artistic traditions that individual communities enjoy, learn, create, and value enough to pass on to their children.
Our region for the Folk Arts Center [Cumberland, Dauphin, and Lebanon counties, located near the capital city of Harrisburg in southeastern Pennsylvania] is a crossroads of change. The rich farmland and river valleys supported indigenous peoples and attracted European colonists; abolitionist values drew many Blacks northward looking for dignity and employment; the Industrial Age invited Eastern Europeans seeking jobs in the steel mills; and strong support for immigration makes our region welcoming for newcomers to this day. All have etched their patterns and symbols on the landscape.
This three-county region is home to thriving communities of African Americans (just over 11%), Latines (nearly 8%), Asian Americans (3%), and traces of Indigenous and Pacific Islanders. [These numbers are from the 2018 Census.] The region's White population (about 78%) includes strong ethnic sub-communities such as Croatian and Serbian. Of course, population numbers vary within the region; our cities have more people of color than our rural communities. But all of these demographic groups have cultural and artistic traditions that enrich our region.
The music from the Baptist church, the aromas from the Puerto Rican bakery, the dance tunes from an Irish music session, and the rhythm of the beater on a loom, all entwine to define our larger community.
Sustained by Artists
Within these Artist Profiles you will meet remarkable people who are passionate about sustaining the songs, stories, recipes, dances, rituals, and art forms of their culture — practices that express deeply rooted cultural meanings and aesthetics.
They are practitioners of folk and traditional arts learned through immersion, participation, years of dedication, and a love of these cultural gifts that have been handed down to them through the years.
They believe in the importance of sustaining their own cultural identities in order to more compassionately welcome and understand others.
They are masterful artists highly skilled in the techniques. Working within the frames of tradition, they are also resourceful and innovative, adapting their aesthetics as new experiences move them.
We invite you to explore and learn, to engage and be inspired. We also invite you to ask yourself: What artistic traditions matter to me?
What's YOUR Culture?
As you meet these amazing artists — who are everyday people just like you — we invite you to look at your own community with fresh new eyes. What do you cherish about your community, your culture? How do your aesthetics shape who you are today?
Who in YOUR community has a story to tell?
Please introduce them to us! Email firstname.lastname@example.org