Craft Goods and Traditions

The story of the Wilcox County's Gees Bend quilters has circled the globe and come home again to the Black Belt. Some of these renowned quilts now hang in the Smithsonian Museum and are recognized as unique expressions of the artistic talent of each of its creators. However, these quilts and the women who make them are but one of the stories of art and artists in the Black Belt.

The art traditions of the Black Belt region primarily began as an expression of creative activity and necessity. The people of the Black Belt took what they had and created expressions of themselves, their environemnts, and the landscapes around them-including beautiful paintings, quilts and apparel, pottery, china, birdhouses, home accessories, furnitures, basketry, textiles, and more.

Charlie Lucus, the "Tin Man" of Selma is quite famous for creating whimsical sculptures out of metal gathered from scrap yards. In Perry County, Allen Ham has been recognized for his unique take on pottery. Andrew McCall of Lehatchee creates one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture from wisteria vines, and James Cockrell of Sumter County turns native woods such as mock orange and hickory into furniture. Winky Hicks in Clarke Conty and Burton Fuller of Emelle create mandolins and dulcimers. Estelle Jackson in Marengo County continues the tradition of split oak basketmaking taught to her by her father and his grandfather before him.

The traditional crafts and folks arts of the region have given rise to annual festivals that celebrate these artists and their talents. Local citizens and visitors alike enjoy event suck as the Black Roots Heritage Festival, Rural Heritage Days, the Sucarnachee Folklife Festival, and Moundville's Native American Festival.

From these events, the desire arose to have places for artists to showcase their creations all year long. As a result, artists' cooperative as Black Belt Treasures and the Rural Heritage Center have opened. Black Belt Treasures in Camden, Alabama, features more than 250 artist and sells merchandise world-wide through a thriving internet retail outlet. In addition, these cooperative offer locations for the artists to pass along their crafts and share their talents with the public through workshops and summer camp programs.