“The State of Ohio rolls down from the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia into soft hills and fertile valleys, and flattens out in broad lands which reach to Indiana… ‘Our position in the Nation,’ Caleb Atwater wrote in 1838, ‘is peculiarly felicitious, as to soil, climate and productions, and it will be our own fault if we are not the happiest people in the Union.’”
– 1939 WPA Writer’s Guide
Ohio, so wonderfully described in the 1939 WPA Writer’s Guide, is home to a wealth of cultures and traditions. The state has a large Appalachian region, counties that typify the flat Midwest of the Corn Belt, urban areas with long-established ethnic populations and significant communities of recent immigrants. Ohio has the largest concentration of Amish in the United States as well as significant Asian and Somali communities. The Arab-speaking population in Ohio grew by 22 percent between the 1990 and 2000 census and the Latino presence in the state is expanding rapidly. In addition, occupations such as glass production, agriculture and coal mining have inspired folklore that is vital to Ohio’s identity.
A large number of regions and groups have community traditions and master practitioners that deserve to be recognized and sustained, yet much of the work of folk artists is unknown beyond their local communities. In order to bring a greater awareness of the important contribution of folk and traditional artists to the cultural vitality of Ohio, the Ohio Arts Council has joined with Cityfolk, the Ohio Humanities Council, and ThinkTV – Greater Dayton Public Television to make this online resource. Our goal is to create a place where we can highlight our cultural treasures, provide portraits of master artists and apprentices seeking to carry on their art forms in the 21st century, explore the tapestry of traditional communities and contribute to the cultural vitality of rural areas, small towns and cities from the shores of Lake Erie to the banks of the Ohio.