Frazier History Museum

Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture

August 4, 2016 - February 12, 2017

Kentucky by Design celebrates the 80th anniversary of the Federal Art Project’s Index of American Design, which was part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project during the Great Depression. Over 400 artists, including many Kentuckians, were provided work documenting the American material culture of the 1800s in watercolor renderings. Beyond providing employment to artists, the purpose of the Index was to determine if there was a uniquely American design in the objects produced by American artisans.

Kentucky by Design will feature over 85 original and facsimile watercolor renderings, paired with the actual objects and artworks depicted. The exhibit will examine the themes of Nation-building in the context of defining American art and craft without dependence on European traditions; the challenges of merging local cultural traditions into an expression of national identity; the overarching optimism of the New Deal in the face of the Great Depression; and the significance of the inclusion of items from Kentucky’s two Shaker communities whose designs impacted American and International Modernism.