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See the best traditional artists in America
For those who read or want to write for the magazine
Building on the Past
In the midst of producing this issue, my husband and
I took what likely will become a once-in-a-lifetime
vacation to Italy, home of my paternal great-grandparents,
who immigrated to America in the 1880s.
Although our itinerary didn’t take us near the
small villages they left behind, I felt a strong connection
to their heritage as we toured Rome, Florence,
Venice, and the lush agricultural region of Tuscany.
We were awed by the magnificent architecture of the
Colosseum, the many cathedrals and basilicas that serve
as focal points in the government seats of previously independent
nation-states, and the fortress walls that enclose
many of the hilltop towns of Tuscany. (Until 1861, when
the states united as a single country, many had been at war
with each other, often for centuries.)
We were inspired by the artifacts in the archaeological
and art museums we visited, which hold magnificent
examples of our ancestors’ ongoing quest to beautify the
spaces in which they lived, worked, and worshipped.
Although America’s history spans barely a blip in
time compared to Italy’s roots in ancient Rome, those who
populated what became the United States brought a similar
desire for beauty with them, informed and inspired by
their native cultures.
For 37 years, our August issue has celebrated today’s
traditional artisans, whose work pays homage to the handcraftsmanship
of settlers who brought their artistic sensibilities
here and made them uniquely American.
Basket makers, carpenters, metal workers, painters,
weavers, and countless others likely would be astounded
to learn that so much of what they created to ease daily
chores or brighten interior spaces has been preserved and
treasured as relics of a noble past.
We expect that much of the new work this issue highlights—
photographed at the museums of Conner Prairie
in Indiana—will endure as the cherished antiques of
On Cape Cod, the Cahoon Museum of American Art
takes a fresh look at scrimshaw, made by sailors from the
waste products of whaling during long voyages. Left alone
with only their imagination and rudimentary tools, sailors
created beautifully carved and ingeniously assembled household
objects the museum rightfully defines as an art form.
Rhode Island homeowners Jonathan and Erin Chapman
built on the past in deciding to restore—rather than
demolish—an 1892 mill building as their new home. They
kept original posts, beams, and pulleys intact as they maximized
the small space and expanded views of its idyllic
setting along Mint Water Brook on Aquidneck Island.
Similarly, ardent preservationists in Dartmouth, Massachusetts,
restored the 1762 Cape built by the Akin family
as a museum that tells of the family’s role in the area’s
history through 241 years of ownership. The restoration
purposely exposed much of the home’s original fabric,
including fireplaces, posts and beams, and early wallpaper.
Turning to the outdoors, Camilla Wilcox examines
how 19th-Century homeowners looked to their gardens
as sites of pleasure. In creating pathways to connect
planted beds, they combined the formality of European
gardens with the beauty of America’s natural landscape.
We invite you to recognize the beauty, creativity, and
ingenuity of the past that inform the objects and spaces
that surround us—and to appreciate that all of us possess a
gift for artistic expression..