East Central and Southeastern Illinois Folk Arts Surveys Collection, 1976-2003

Summary Information

Collection Summary

Title: East Central and Southeastern Illinois Folk Arts Surveys Collection
Dates: 1976-2003

  • Eastern Illinois University. School of Fine Arts
Unique Identifier: CSUMC0029-CG

Contents: Tarble Arts Center: 21 folders, 6 binders, 2 filing cabinets, 400 sound recordings, 4,398 color slides, 34 videocassettes, and 1 film

Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures
432 East Campus Mall, Room 332
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Web site: http://csumc.wisc.edu

Archival Location:
Tarble Arts Center (Map)

Records from three surveys of southeastern Illinois folk arts, conducted by half a dozen fieldworkers through the Eastern Illinois University (EIU) School of Fine Arts, document over 150 traditional artists and musicians. The first survey (1976-1977) canvassed the southeastern sixth of the state and resulted in a 1977 EIU Sargent Gallery exhibition that included artist demonstrations. Many of the featured artists also appeared in the 1977 Festival of the Arts Celebration on the Charleston, Illinois campus. A follow-up survey (1978-1980) narrowed the view to traditional artists within a 50-mile radius of campus and contributed to EIU's 1979 Festival of the Arts Celebration. The third survey (1983-1985) focused on traditional musicians and folk artists chiefly in and around Danville and Decatur in Vermilion and Macon counties. Documentation from the surveys, now housed at the Tarble Arts Center on the EIU campus, also informed a 30-minute TV documentary about three of the region's folk artists.

Language: Survey records are in English.

URL to cite for this finding aid: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-csumc-csumc0029cg
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Collection Concordance by Format
Quantity Physical Description Location
Manuscript Materials
21 folders Tarble Arts Center
6 binders Tarble Arts Center
2 filing cabinets Tarble Arts Center
Sound Recordings
205 audiocassettes Tarble Arts Center
1 compact disc Tarble Arts Center
194 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes Tarble Arts Center
Graphic Materials
4,398 35 mm color slides Tarble Arts Center
Moving Images
25 beta videocassettes Tarble Arts Center
9 VHS videocassettes Tarble Arts Center
1 8 mm film Tarble Arts Center


Staff for the first two folk arts surveys included folklorist Jens Lund and traditional music fieldworkers Garry Harrison, Dave Miller, and Lynn Smith. Folklorists Judith McCulloh, Roger Welsch, and Sandy Ives served as consultants, while Vaughn Jaenike, then Dean of the School of Fine Arts at EIU, was principal investigator.

For the third survey, folklorist Jan Laude investigated folk artists and the human landscape, while folklorist Paul Tyler, assisted by John Holliday, focused on musical traditions. The principal investigator was Phillip M. Settle, then Assistant Dean of the School of Fine Arts at EIU.

Project History

The first broad reconnaissance survey of folk artists and musicians covered the southeastern quadrant of Illinois. From September 1976 through March 1977, folklorist Jens Lund canvassed Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Effingham, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lawrence, Marion, Massac, Richland, Saline, Wabash, and Washington counties, and crept over into Clinton, Jackson, and Union counties to the southwest. He interviewed nearly 100 people, filing reports on roughly half of them (c. 58), and documenting them through color slides and black and white photography. They included a preponderance of quilters and rug makers (braided, hooked, and woven); a range of needleworkers, woodcarvers, woodworkers, and furniture makers; basket- and broom-makers; chair caners and doll makers; blacksmiths, harnessmakers, and wagon builders; commercial fishermen, builders of johnboats, reelfoot boats, hoop nets, and slat traps; decoy carvers and rifle builders; and a number of miniaturists, mixed media sculptors, and yard ornament fashioners. The field documentation and artifacts gathered during this first, broad survey supported a 1977 exhibit in EIU's Sargent Gallery, which also featured artist demonstrations. Many of the artists who performed at the exhibit were also invited to demonstrate at the Festival of the Arts Celebration '77.

The second survey that began in 1978 sought greater documentary depth and focused on fewer traditional artists, most within a 50-mile radius of Charleston, including a hooked rug maker, a landscape painter, furniture makers, woodcarvers, rifle makers, broom makers, commercial fishing johnboat and gear builders, and foragers. Jens Lund interviewed ten artists, revisiting some from the prior survey, in Cumberland, Edgar, Lawrence, and Montgomery counties; he canvassed a range of Amish woodworking, weaving, and machine shops in Douglas and Moultrie counties, and inspected three major quilt collections in Edgar County. Some of these artists performed at EIU's Festival of the Arts Celebration '79. A traveling exhibit and catalog, Folk Artists and Folk Arts in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile, drew on the field research from 1976 to 1983 and featured more than 90 artists, “painters, carvers, poets, musicians, builders [johnboats, cupolas, models, toys], makers [baskets, carvings, lace, paintings, weaving, dolls, leather work, blacksmithed ironwork, constructions], stitchers [quilts, cushions, pillows, embroidery], knitters, and weavers.” A slide-tape program of the same name, “Folk Artists in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile,” was also produced in 1984.

The third survey, conducted from 1983 through 1985, focused on folk artists and traditional musicians primarily in the cities of Decatur and Danville, with some documentation in the rural areas of the surrounding counties. From June through September 1983, folklorist Jan Laude interviewed and photographed 29 folk artists and documented 5 “vision painters,” a Macon County Historical Society women's folk art group, the Kickapoo Karvers woodcarving group, Decatur's Yesteryear Fair, Danville's Little Vermilion Fair, and a range of public murals, business displays, and yard art. Her documentation includes tape recordings, notes, color slides, and black and white photography, and features quilting and a variety of needlework skills, rug braiding and hooking, a range of woodworking and woodcarving skills, toy, doll, marionette, and duck decoy making, blacksmithing, painting and china painting, folk medicine, narrative and singing traditions, and more.

Meanwhile, folklorist Paul Tyler and field assistant John Holliday surveyed the musical traditions in the two urban areas, the surrounding Macon and Vermilion counties, and small towns in nearby counties including Christian, Coles, Douglas, Fayette, Piatt, and McLean. They interviewed 45 individuals and 5 musical groups, and recorded musical events at bluegrass and country music jam sessions, a square dance, three church congregations, and a church camp meeting. They recorded most of these interviews and sessions, resulting in c. 85 tapes altogether. Tyler and Holliday found chiefly Anglo and Afro secular and sacred traditions common to the Upland South and lower Midwest, including traditional, “old-time,” “popular,” and “contemporary” idioms in blues, rhythm and blues, jazz, disco, bluegrass, country, gospel, spirituals, and hymns.

“Folk Artists of East Central Illinois,” a 30-minute video documentary, produced by EIU's Radio and Television Center, c. 1984, profiled artists documented during the surveys: Jennie Cell, a painter from Charleston; Harvey “Pappy” Taylor, a 91-year-old fiddler and woodworker from Effingham; and Susan Leyearle, a basket-maker from Kell. Under the direction of Philip M. Settle, the documentary project resulted in both an audiocassette and publication.

Several NEA Folk Arts grants, combined with funding from other public and private sources including the Charles E. Merrill Trust, supported the surveys, festivals, exhibitions, purchase of artifacts, and a variety of programs, between 1976 and 1992.

Scope and Content Note

The folk arts documentation consists of field reports, logs, correspondence, grant reports, administrative files, and sound and video recordings from the three surveys and related exhibits/productions. Also included is EIU festival documentation from 1989 to 1994. These records are housed in the Tarble Arts Center office and adjoining vault. Indexes and logs created by the fieldworkers provide access to most of the fieldwork in the collection. The majority of the documents remain in their original boxes, however some files related to the slide portion of the records have been integrated into the Arts Center's filing cabinets.

The sound recordings consist of 7-inch reel-to-reel tapes and audiocassettes. Most sound recordings, created on Sony portable stereo cassette and Nagra IV portable stereo equipment, contain field interviews and include live performances from EIU's annual Festival of the Arts celebrations. The reel-to-reel tapes are primarily from the first two surveys. Audiocassettes are mostly dubs, but also include: 11 commercially-produced tapes from the series “Showcase of Folk Arts” which contain profiles of traditional artists featured during EIU's 1992 festival; and 6 tapes which are copies of a 1988 radio/television show featuring folk artists produced by Western Illinois State University. Audiocassettes are housed in cases within old card catalog file drawers inside the vault, and reels (in original boxes) and BETA tapes (in polypropylene cases) are housed in a metal filing cabinet in the vault.

Color slides (35 mm), both fieldwork and studio shots, dominate the graphic images within this collection. Ten binders contain roughly 2,600 fieldwork and exhibit slides, and an additional 2,000 or so have been integrated into the Art Center's general slide collection, housed in a large slide cabinet. A slide tray holds images used in a c. 1984 presentation entitled “Folk Artists in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile.”

The 9 VHS videotapes relate to festivals held in the 1990s, while the 25 Beta videotapes primarily concern the 1992 festival. The one film is labeled “Collection of Wood Carvings Assemblage located at Tarble Arts Center by Ferd Metten, Teutopolis, IL. Prepared by Gene Wingler, summer 1984.”

Duplicates of a portion of this collection, interviews conducted with traditional artists from 1976 to 1979, were deposited at the American Folklife Center's Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress.

At the direction of Tarble Director Mike Watts, student workers have begun compiling data sheets, slides, clippings, and other research materials from across project collections into four binders, organized alphabetically by artist, labeled “Folk Arts Project Index.” Also, since 1995, Vaughn Jaenike, former Dean of the School of Fine Arts and principal investigator on the early projects, wrote a “Folk Arts Documentation & Collection Index” that serves as a broad guide to the folk arts collection.

Related Materials

The Tarble Arts Center Folk Arts [Artifacts] Collection, includes several works from east-central and southeastern Illinois artists, many of whom were documented in the field surveys.

Dear Old Illinois: Traditional Music of Downstate Illinois. Compiled and edited by Garry Harrison and Jo Burgess. Bloomington, Ind.: Pick Away Press. c2007.


Productions resulting from the described fieldwork were:

Folk Artists and Folk Arts in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile. Charleston: Eastern Illinois University? 1983?

“Folk Artists of East Central Illinois,” 30-minute video documentary, EIU Radio and Television Center, c. 1984.

Key Subjects

  • Banjo
  • Fiddle
  • Guitar
  • Harmonica
  • Mandolin
  • Piano
  • Saxophone
  • Tenor banjo


  • English language


  • Champaign County (Ill.)
  • Christian County (Ill.)
  • Clark County (Ill.)
  • Clinton County (Ill.)
  • Coles County (Ill.)
  • Cumberland County (Ill.)
  • Danville (Ill.)
  • Decatur (Ill.)
  • Douglas County (Ill.)
  • Edgar County (Ill.)
  • Effingham County (Ill.)
  • Fayette County (Ill.)
  • Franklin County (Ill.)
  • Gallatin County (Ill.)
  • Hamilton County (Ill.)
  • Illinois
  • Jackson County (Ill.)
  • Jefferson County (Ill.)
  • Lawrence County (Ill.)
  • Macon County (Ill.)
  • Marion County (Ill.)
  • Massac County (Ill.)
  • McLean County (Ill.)
  • Montgomery County (Ill.)
  • Moultrie County (Ill.)
  • Piatt County (Ill.)
  • Richland County (Ill.)
  • Saline County (Ill.)
  • Southeastern Illinois
  • Union County (Ill.)
  • Upland South
  • Vermilion County (Ill.)
  • Wabash County (Ill.)
  • Washington County (Ill.)


  • Eastern Illinois University. School of Fine Arts
  • Little Vermilion Fair
  • Macon County Historical Society (Ill.)
  • Sargent Gallery
  • Tarble Arts Center


  • Abundant Life Tabernacle
  • Ashby Family Group Singers
  • Bill Rutherford Dance Band
  • Mason Temple Church of God in Christ
  • St. John Missionary Baptist Church Choir
  • Sorghum
  • Male Voices, Mt. Zion Baptist Church Gospel Quartet
  • Memory Melodeers
  • Tennessee Street Travelers


  • African American music
  • Anglo-American music
  • Apple dolls
  • Ballads
  • Basket making, oak splint
  • Birdhouses
  • Blacksmithing
  • Bluegrass music
  • Blues music
  • Boatbuilding (johnboats)
  • Boatbuilding (reelfoot)
  • Broom making
  • Cabinetmaking
  • Chair caning
  • China painting
  • Church of God camp meeting
  • Commercial fishing boats
  • Commercial fishing industry
  • Commercial fishing nets
  • Country music
  • Crocheting
  • Disco music
  • Dollmaking
  • Duck decoy carving
  • Fagoting (Embroidery)
  • Fiddle contests
  • Fiddlers' organizations
  • Fiddling
  • Fisheries
  • Folk art
  • Folk craft
  • Folk music
  • Gospel music
  • Harness making and trade
  • Hoedown
  • Hymns
  • Jazz
  • Knitting
  • Lacemaking (hairpin)
  • Machine work
  • Model ship-building
  • Pentecostal hymn singing
  • Poetry
  • Popcorn stitching
  • Quilting
  • Rag rug
  • Relief carving
  • Religious carvings
  • Rhythm and blues music
  • Rosemaling
  • Round dances
  • Rug braiding
  • Rug hooking
  • Sacred music
  • Sculptors
  • Secular music
  • Spirituals (songs)
  • Square dance calling
  • Square dance music
  • Stick furniture
  • Swing (dance)
  • Tatting
  • Tin Pan Alley
  • Toy making
  • Turning
  • Visionary painting
  • Wagonmaking
  • WDZ radio
  • Weaving
  • Wheelwrights
  • Whittling
  • Wood-carving
  • Yard art, ornaments

Traditional Artists

  • Cell, Jennie
  • Jean, Laurel
  • Leyearle, Susan
  • Meek, Cora
  • Metten, Ferd
  • Ringo, Ernest
  • Taylor, Harvey “Pappy”
  • Walker, Arthur Ryan

In 1993, Phillip M. Settle, Assistant Dean of the School of Fine Arts at Eastern Illinois University, transferred records from the School of Fine Arts office to the newly-opened Tarble Arts Center. Some slides were integrated into the Center's image collection. As part of an equipment borrowing arrangement, duplicate reels from interviews conducted with traditional artists from 1976 to 1979 were deposited at the American Folklife Center's Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress.


Consent forms exist for the 1990s documentation but fieldwork conducted prior to that lacks permissions. Contact the Tarble Arts Center for access information.

Tarble Arts Center
Rehema C. Barber, Executive Director
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Avenue
Charleston, Illinois 61920-3099
Email: tarble@eiu.edu
Phone: (217) 581-2787
Web site: http://tarbleartscenter.org/folkarchives

Consult the Tarble Arts Center for specific information on use restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Please consult the Tarble Arts Center for guidelines. We suggest the following citation form when using direct quotes from a person documented: [Name of person documented]. [Date]. [Tape/video/other]-recorded interview by [Fieldworker name]. [Place interviewed]. [Name of collection/project]. [Repository, city, state]. When using a specific image: [Identify subject matter/people in caption]. Photo/image by [Photographer/fieldworker name]. [Date]. Courtesy of [repository]. To quote fieldworker, follow bibliographical style.

Collection Inventory and Description
Subseries: Administrative Files, Photographs, and Ephemera
Box   1
Folder   1
IMP [Illinois Music Project] correspondence
Box   1
Folder   2
[Field reports and correspondence]
Box   1
Folder   3
News releases and clipping
Box   1
Folder   4
Introductory pages [to the 1976-1977 NEA final report]
Box   1
Folder   5
Concordance [of 1976-1977 reels and audiocassette tapes, prepared by Jeri Hughes]
EIU-SFA-Folk arts project
Box   1
Folder   6
Collection I [1977 detailed inventory]
Box   1
Folder   7
Collection II [1979 detailed inventory]
Box   1
Folder   8
Collection III [1975-1977 detailed inventories]
Box   1
Folder   9
Field investigator's report by Jens Lund [includes only correspondence]
Box   1
Folder   10
Folk arts project financial report [NEA grant]; , [1985 May 23]
Box   1
Folder   11
Folk arts project NEA [administrative notes, correspondence, and sample data sheets], [1976-1978]
Box   1
Folder   12
Ozark State Folklore Society [correspondence and presentation notes]
Box   1
Folder   13
Southern Illinois University/Illinois Arts Council folk catalog
Box   1
Folder   14
Illinois Arts Council/Illinois Humanities Council videotaping folk artists [Illinois Arts Council grant proposal, correspondence], [1984-1985]
Box   1
Folder   15
Agency Acct. 1382, Folk Arts Project [administrative, correspondence, etc.], 1977
Box   1
Folder   16
Folk Arts Project [administrative, correspondence, etc.], 1978
Box   1
Folder   17
Folk Arts Seminar [at EIU], 1979 April 30
Box   1
Folder   18
Folk and the Folk Arts - #1017 NEA Grant, [1983-1984]
Office filing cabinet  
1.5 c.f. administrative files [a mix of files from the dean and more recently created]
Vault filing cabinet  
0.7 c.f. Mike Watts' administrative files from the Celebrate Festivals [includes slides, images, etc.], 1989-1994
Subseries: Logs and Registers
Binder   1
Illinois Folk Musicians Index [includes data sheets, clippings, and photos], [1976-1985]
Binder   2
Folk Arts Project Tape Log--Topical Analysis [Collections I, II, and III]
Binder   3
Folk Arts Acquisition Register, [1976-1983]
Binder   4
Folk Music Collection IV, 1983 June-1985 February
Binder   5
Concordance of Taped Interviews of Decatur Material Artists, 1983
Binder   5
EIU Folk Arts Project III
Binder   6
Tarble Arts Center Folk Arts Archives--Celebration Video and Audio Tapes, (1992-1993)
Folder   1
Folk Arts Projects Materials--Folk Music Tapes Listings
Subseries: Clipped documents
Folder   1
Photocopy of tape indexes, final report for NEA Grant, 1993 December 15
Folder   2
Folk Arts Tape Concordance, Celebration 1992, correspondence, final report, 1992-1993
Folder   3
List of artist contact information to begin artist database, 2003 August 26
Subseries: Audiocassettes
#   1-147
Copies from reels [see tape log binder for access]
#   1-38
Jens Lund fieldwork
#   1-11
Showcase of Folk Arts artist profiles from the 1992 festival
#   1-6
From Western Illinois State University radio/television, 1988 June 30
#   7
Folk music segments to accompany EIU folk arts exhibition: “Folk Artists and Folk Arts in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile”
#   8
Illinois-Texas Fiddlin' by Ernest Ringo, SC-1461
#   9
Cassette that accompanies the slide tray
Subseries: Compact Disc
#   1
Music from the Heart, Laurel Jean and the Ringos [attached thank you card from Doloris Ringo]
Subseries: 7-inch reels
#   1-189
1977-1979 fieldwork [see tape log binder for access]
#   190-194
Project I--Eastern Illinois Univ. Folk Arts Project, 1976 July 1-1977 May 30
Binder   1
650 35 mm color slides
Project II--Final Report Material Culture Info. Folk Arts Project, Book I NEA Grant [includes report, contact sheets, slides]
Binder   2
140 35 mm color slides
Binder   3
140 35 mm color slides
Project III--Final Report Folk Arts Project, Book I, NEA Grant [includes reports, slide logs, slides, audiocassettes, clippings], 1983 May 15-1985 February 28
Binder   4
440 35 mm color slides
Binder   5
220 35 mm color slides
Binder   6
60 35 mm color slides: Primary slides not duplicated, 1983-1985
Folk Arts Project Index [includes data sheets, photos, clippings, slides]
Note: The next 4 binders were compiled recently by Tarble student workers; the slides were pulled from various projects.
Binder   7
A-C, 215 35 mm color slides
Binder   8
D-K, 115 35 mm color slides
Binder   9
L-Stoc, 168 35 mm color slides
Binder   10
Stol-Z, 170 35 mm color slides
Slide tray 1  
80 35 mm color slides. “Folk Artists in East Central and Southeastern Illinois: A Profile”, [1984]
Slide cabinet  
2,000 35 mm color slides
Subseries: VHS tapes
Video   1
Cora Meek: Profile of an Illinois Folk Artist, Tarble Arts Center, EIU, undated
Video   2
Arthur Ryan Walker, Folk Artist, undated
Video   3-4
Folk Artists Celebration , 1990 [performance schedule and correspondence attached]
Video   5
NEA Folk Arts Documentation Project, Celebration: A Festival of the Arts, '92
Video   6-9
Folk Music Showcase documentation, Celebration '93
Subseries: BETA tapes
Video   1 -24
Celebration [festival] , 1992
Video   25
Radio and Television Center-DUB
Subseries: 8 mm Film
Film   1
“Collection of Wood Carvings Assemblage located at Tarble Arts Center by Ferd Metten, Teutopolis, IL.” Prepared by Gene Wingler, 1984 Summer