Dave Drake’s Legacy

Once in a generation, there are extraordinary exhibitions that capture the mind and spirit and are of such significance that they are remembered forever.

The Bascom is proud to present such an exhibit this summer.

Dave Drake was born into the condition of slavery circa1800, in the Edgefield District of South Carolina.  There, he was trained by Abner Landrum and others at Pottersville on how to make alkaline-glazed stoneware.  

Dave was a literate slave.  He integrated his skills of reading and writing – which were forbidden to slaves – to communicate to the free and enslaved world around him.  His prose verses evoke his personal philosophy and his point of view on love, patriotism, commerce, and religion.  The poetry and pottery that is Dave’s legacy, is a rare and unique window into the life of a mid-19th century African American craftsman, who lived most of his life in bondage.  Dave inscribed his couplets and poems on soft clay jars at a time when it was novel and dangerous for a slave to do so.  His vessels stand as sentinels of the abuses, privilege, and fettering of expression characteristic of slavery in the nineteenth century United States.  Even though we may not completely understand the underlying meaning of Dave’s verses, the narrative is a rare portrayal of a slave’s life and a powerful story that this
exhibition tells. 

The Bascom invites you to come and walk among Dave Drake’s grand pottery and prose. We will have eight of Dave’s famous poem pots, the most exhibited in one place since 1998.  On loan from private collectors and museums, this is an exhibit not to be missed.  While you are at The Bascom campus please visit The Dave Drake Studio Barn, named for Dave Drake by an anonymous donor.

As a center for the visual arts on a mountain plateau, The Bascom provides a dynamic experience that inspires and attracts residents and visitors through interaction with all forms of visual arts.  Established in 1983, it’s evolved into a prominent cultural institution in the Southern Appalachian region, and moved to its present six-acre, campus in 2009. 

The town of Highlands, with its stunning scenery and favorable climate, has been a popular haven for Southerners since the 19th century.  Every summer, nearly 30,000 visitors come to enjoy the natural beauty of Western North Carolina.  The Bascom is open year-round, Monday-Saturday 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sunday 12:00-5:00 P.M., offering free admission to all exhibitions.  The campus is located at 323 Franklin Road in Highlands.  More information about The Bascom’s exhibitions and educational programs can be found at thebascom.org.