For today’s Southern Highlanders as for their ancestors, life is hard and money is scarce. But the people of the mountains have a deep love of beauty, and their world is filled with homegrown art, sometimes simple and sometimes surprisingly sophisticated. Music has always been a major part of mountain life. At any gathering you’re likely to hear music-a capella song, dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, or guitar.The music itself is a centuries-old art form, and many of the instruments have been lovingly hand made. Fine woodworking skills have been passed through families for hundreds of years. Carving is a long tradition, too, and roadsides are often graced by whimsical creatures.
Southern Highlanders are avid gardeners. Even a house that looks tumbledown will be surrounded by a profusion of flowers in overflowing beds and in creative planters-the tub of an antique washing machine, a painted tire, a horse-drawn mowing machine, or Granny’s bedstead, turned into a “flower bed”!
The Southern Highlands are renowned for the skill of the mountain artisans who make pottery not only as an art form, but also for everyday use as their ancestors did. And since pioneer days mountain women have spent the long winter nights quilting “coverlets” for their families.
Cooking is a mountain art, too. Witness the colorful ranks of a canning pantry, or the apple stack cake with each layer lovingly contributed by neighbors for a wedding.
Nature is a rich source for mountain art-stacked stones by a creek, vines entwined to make a fantastical fence, brooms made with homegrown broom corn and limbs carefully selected for their shape and color.
Mountain arts are subtle and they’re everywhere you look in these mountains. Sometimes childishly naïve and sometimes quite elegant, these arts enrich every part of a Southern Highlander’s life.