Past projects:

Past TAI-Sponsored events:
TAI - Minnetrista Cultural Center Joint Documentation Project
Eli Jackson's handmade "canjos," "hamdolins," and dulcimers. Photo by Lynn Hadley
Since the summer of 2000, TAI has partnered with the Minnetrista Cultural Center (MCC) in Muncie, Indiana to discover and document local cultural resources and characteristics. With support from TAI and MCC, folklorist Lynn Hadley spent two summers combing county roads in Delaware and Jay counties, interviewing traditional artists, attending community events, and compiling a database of artists. Over 50 tape recorded interviews, 800 photographs, fieldnotes, and other documentation were deposited into the Indiana Historical Society Library and Archive, and copies are also housed at MCC.

One of the more unusual art forms Lynn discovered was made by Delaware county resident Eli Jackson, born in London, Kentucky in the 1920s. His father, a minister, taught him that whatever he needed could be made rather than purchased. His mother was a church organist. A former wireworker, Jackson devoted his retirement to making stringed instruments, which ranged from traditional dulcimers to "canjos" (banjos) made from cookie tins and "ham-dolins" (mandolins) made of ham cans. He ministered on Sunday in Parker City and frequently performed on his instruments.

Eli Jackson died in the autumn of 2008.
Work and Life: Voices of Perry County

The autumn sun sets over a barn in Perry County. Photo by Erin Roth.
Work and Life, a community oral history project, explored the connection between work and creativity in Perry County. TAI offered expertise and training to local historical groups. Perry County is located on the Ohio River in central southern Indiana and is known for its tradition of furniture making. The project sought to address such questions as, "How have the local economy and the nature of work changed in Perry County over the years? What has been the result of losing established businesses such as local furniture companies? How have workers adapted in the new economy?" Perry County is home to some of the state's finest craftsmen and women who, like many Hoosiers, take great pride in their work, whether it be crafting a chair or producing clay sewer pipes. Visit the Tell City Chair Company's marketing website.

Cannelton's historic St. Michael's Catholic Church. Photo by Kinsey Katchka.
TAI-trained community volunteers, TAI staff, an Indiana University intern, and Cannelton Elementary students and Perry Central fifth graders conducted over 100 tape-recorded interviews with older residents of Perry County. Transcripts for several of the interviews have been made. The research materials will be housed at the Indiana Historical Society. Copies are available through the Perry County Museum and the Tell City Historical Society.

Clifford Gunn, woodworker and 33-year veteran of the Tell City Chair Company holds an exact replica of a popular company chair he made while working in the Sample Room. The Tell City Chair Company, a five-generation manufacturer of fine furniture. Photo by Erin Roth.
Cannelton Elementary teacher Joan Goble coordinated a year-long oral history project called "Echoes of Cannelton." Students received training from TAI staff and teachers and recorded interviews on tape in and outside of the classroom with older residents. Perry Central fifth-grade teacher Antoinette Kranning led a project about local general stores.

List of questions used by researchers

Funding for this project was provided by the Fund for Folk Culture and the Indiana Humanities Council Community Partnership Grant, one of only two that the Council awarded in 1999. Local partners for this project included Tell City Historical Society and Perry County Museum.
Two-Year TAI Cultural Documentation Survey

From 1998-2000, TAI guided a statewide survey of Indiana's traditional artists. By February 2001, over 250 artists had been interviewed, 15,000 minutes of audiotapes had been recorded, 6,140 photographic images had been taken, and 46 events were documented. The current collection's strengths lie in its breadth. We know a little about a lot, and recognize that there is a lot more to learn. Go to the Indiana Cultural Map to learn about our findings.

TAI fieldworkers have visited every corner of the state. Some have worked under contracts ranging from 10 to 30 days, others as volunteer fieldworkers, student interns, or staff. Photographs vary in quality. Some are quite stunning. Most fieldworkers tape-recorded their interviews with a variety of traditional artists, from woodcarvers to mehndi artists. Recording quality varies greatly. A few interviews are broadcast quality.

Cultural documentation will continue to be essential to the work of TAI. Fieldwork (or ethnographic research) is similar to a qualitative cultural assets survey. Trained fieldworkers meet with a range of artists, community leaders, organizations, etc. to document a community's traditional arts and artists. They tape-record interviews with artists to place their traditions within a community context, to find out how they learned their art, and to ascertain the needs of the artists.

Fieldwork materials, including cassette tapes, photographs, and field notes, were archived at the Indiana Historical Society for preservation and public access. Digital files, including images and sound files, will all be archived at Indiana University's Archives of Traditional Music. All of TAI's activities are based on field documentation as well as consultation with local individuals and organizations. For example, TAI partnered with the Indiana Arts Commission's Regional Arts Partner, the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana, as it undertook research for the 2002 Lyceum.

Substantive Fieldwork:
By Region

  • Southern Indiana along the Ohio River
  • Calumet Region
  • Clinton County
  • Delaware County
  • Jackson County
  • Jay County
  • Washington County
  • Owen County
  • Orange County
  • I-69 corridor, including the counties from Indianapolis to Fort Wayne

By Ethnicity

  • Asian Indian community in Indianapolis
  • Fort Wayne
  • Macedonian
  • Greek
  • Filipino communities
  • Mennonites in northern Indiana
  • African Americans in Indianapolis

By Genre


  • Festivals in Indiana
  • TAI programs

  Lyceum 2000 and 2002

Ron Volbrecht
Ron Volbrecht playing one of his guitars.  Photo by Jon Kay

Ron Volbrecht -- Master Luthier Exhibit


View a video showing the process of building a guitar in Ron Volbrecht's workshop (Real Video file), or click on the Quicktime screen on the right.
Download Real Player

Traditional Arts Indiana sponsored an exhibit of master luthier Ron Volbrecht's guitars from July 7-29, 2006 at the John Waldron Arts Center, Bloomington, Indiana. A craftsman, obsessed with perfection and willing to go to great lengths to obtain it, Volbrecht builds guitars very slowly, finishing only four or five instruments each year. The Waldron show provided a rare pleasure -- seeing fifteen Volbrecht guitars displayed in the same space.

In addition to displaying the finished masterpieces, the exhibit offered glimpses into the building and inlaying processes. Gary Neff, who has inlayed a dozen of Volbrecht's guitars, was also on hand to demonstrate and talk to the public. Owners of Volbrecht guitars performed in two noon concerts during the run of the exhibit, allowing visitors to experience the full aural and visual beauty of Volbrecht's creations.

This exhibit was curated by Deborah Justice for Traditional Arts Indiana.

TAI at Octoberfest in Marion

Saturday, October 7, 2006
Downtown Marion courthouse square, Indiana
2:00-6:30 pm

Colorful cascarones, confetti-filled eggs, made by Guadalupe Ryder.  Photo by Jon Kay
Eli Jackson with child
Luthier Eli Jackson teaching a child how to use his homemade wooden toy.  Photo by Ilze Akerbergs

As part of Marion's Octoberfest celebration, TAI, along with the Grant County Visitor Bureau, is brought eight traditional artists from along the I-69 corridor to Marion, Indiana.

The traditional artists demonstrated their arts, talked about what they do and how they do it. Tools of their trade were on display, as well as lots of examples that the public could handle and ask questions about. Carol Powers and Guadalupe Ryder decorated eggs on site and Margeruite Cox quilted at her demonstration table all afternoon long. Geoff Davis with unflailing energy continued glueing, sawing, and bending more new ukeleles.
all artists
Group shot of all the participants in the Traditional Arts Indiana exhibit area.  Photo by Jon Kay

The artists included:

Marguerite Cox -- Quilter
Geoff Davis -- Ukulele maker
Willis Hoke -- Wood carver
Eli Jackson -- Canjo maker
Carol Powers -- Ukranian egg decorator
Joe Rice -- Glass artist
Guadalupe Ryder -- Mexican egg decorator
Roy Spight -- Drum maker

  Good Ol' Summertime Series
New Frontier performing at the Buskirk Chumley Theatre in Bloomington, Indiana in June, 2003. Photo by Erin Roth.

The Good Ol’ Summertime Series featured bluegrass music at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington on June 28, 2003. TAI sponsored performances by The Chestnut Mountain Band from Metamora and New Frontier from Bedford. Bloomington Parks & Recreation, along with the Theater, sponsored the performance by the Bannister Family from Columbus. The evening culminated in an audience sing-a-long with all three bands on stage.

The Good Ol' Summertime concert attracted listeners of all ages. Photo by Erin Roth.
On July 31, 2004, two fine bluegrass groups from Indiana performed at the second annual Bluegrass Extravaganza at the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre in Bloomington. New Harmony, a great bluegrass band from Johnson County, brought musical talents from a variety of working-class backgrounds. These accomplished musicians brought the audience to its feet with some down home bluegrass. Born Again, an accomplished bluegrass/southern gospel group based in southeastern Indiana, have their roots in Kentucky and Tennessee. This group brings to the stage tight harmonies learned in the Baptist church, and unbelievably fast picking.

Summer Latino Festival

TAI sponsored cooking demonstrations and a dance performance at the first Summer Latino Festival in Bloomington, August 23, 2003. To a full house, Carlos Nuñes demonstrated the making of Pan de Muertos, a specially decorated yeast bread made for Dia de los Muertos. And Socorro Jimenez made tamales, a specialty made with masa and pork, wrapped in corn husks. Angela Castaneda, an IU anthropology graduate student, interpreted and facilitated questions and provided contextual information for the demonstrations. Eduardo Hernandez, former member of the Ballet Folclorico de Mexico, performed traditional Azteca dances. More than 1000 people attended this first-year event. It was sponsored by the Monroe County Parks and Recreation and Bloomington’s Community & Family Resources Department.

braiding hair
Krista Wright crochets extensions onto her friend Heather's hair at the Family History Day. Photo by Erin Roth.
child learning to make hoop-nets
Participant in Family History Day delights in learning to make hoop-nets from Jim Cooper. Photo by Erin Roth

Share-A-Legacy Family History Day

TAI sponsored a number of traditional artists to participate in the Indiana Historical Society's annual Share-A-Legacy Day. Through dance, music, storytelling, and hands-on activities, families and neighborhoods in the Indianapolis area shared their unique stories, skills, and traditions.

Preparing headdress for Indian child
Adjusting the headdress before performance by the Aradhana Institute of Classical and Folk Dance. Photo by Ilze Akerbergs.

On March 15, 2003, TAI sponsored four traditional arts demonstrations. These artists were fly-tier Barry Clarke from Unionville, catfish hoop-netmaker Jim Cooper from Evansville, rangoli artist Anu Ganith from Indianapolis, and hair braider Krista Wright from Bloomington.

On March 20, 2004, three goups of traditional artists were sponsored by TAI to perform in the Indiana Historical Society auditorium. The Aradhana Institute of Classical and Folk Dance, with director Archana Thaker, demonstrated Indian classical, modern, and folk dance. Student-dancers ranging in age from elementary school to adult, made the stage come alive with glittering and colorful costumes. Robert Turner and the Silver Heart Gospel Singers had the audience clapping along to some of Indiana's finest traditional gospel music. Prince Julius Akanbi Adeniyi and two of his apprentices closed out the day with a spirited demonstration of West African drumming.

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