by Donna Rhodes
From weaving, to quilting, to pottery, to metalsmithing, we are clothed, warmed, fed, and sustained by the amazing variety and high quality of craft found here in the Southern Mountains.
But even with so much fine craft around us, most of us know little of its history or which of its stars shine brightest. One need look no further than the Craft Revival Project spearheaded by Western Carolina University’s Anna Fariello, to learn about our rich cultural heritage as expressed in beautiful functional art.
Over the past six years, Fariello, a fine artist in her own right with an MFA in Studio Art, has taken on the task of researching the region’s artisans, their histories, and their handwork. She has overseen keying in volumes of information, much of which she personally accumulated, to make a detailed database available to researchers, museums, universities, and craft enthusiasts.
The home for this endeavor is Western Carolina’s Hunter Library, where Fariello is Head of Digital Programs. By working with the university’s library, smaller cultural and archival organizations, that don’t have a broad digital capacity can participate in these types of projects. The library makes digital images and commentary available to all, while the original works remain with the source institution. Fariello says, “By creating digital collections we are using the most advanced form of technology to preserve ancient expressions of culture. It is a blending of the esteemed old and the cutting-edge new.”
Fariello is a champion of establishments such as John C. Campbell Folk School, Penland School of Craft, Southern Highland Craft Guild, and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual. They were created last century not only to celebrate craft of the region, but to promote, preserve, and encourage markets for it. Reviving the craft movement in the 1930’s and 1940’s helped sustain artisans to assure regional craft’s long-term viability.
Fariello’s introduction to the craft revival was in 1993, the Year of American Craft. She says, “The National Museum of Women in the Arts had a symposium on Women in Craft at which I spoke. That was the beginning for me. I was always passionate about craft, but ever since then I have focused on handmade functional art in the Southern Mountains.”
In addition to her lecturing, studio work, and research, Fariello is a gifted writer. Her research in the region inspired two books on Cherokee craft. She has also put together traveling exhibitions one of which has toured widely, “Movers and Makers.” That project was in conjunction with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, highlighting the region.