This Saturday, The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History premieres its newest traveling exhibit, The Luthier’s Craft: Instrument Making Traditions of the Blue Ridge.
The exhibit explores the luthier’s craft of making stringed instruments and will include sections on banjo, guitar, and fiddle creation in the southern Appalachia and Blue Ridge Mountain areas, as well as biographical information on the luthiers.
The exhibit includes a number of hands-on activities, audio/visual, and interactive components. Admission to the museum is free on Saturday, but donations are encouraged.
Three luthiers are featured, including Johnny Gentry from the Mountain Park area, who crafts banjos; Wayne Henderson, a guitar-maker from the Mouth of Wilson area in Virginia; and a pair of old-time fiddler makers, Chris Testerman and Audrey Hash Ham.
Ham is the daughter of Albert Hash, a renowned old-time musician and fiddle-maker; she learned the craft from her father. Testerman is one of Ham’s proteges, and a “very talented young man,” the museum’s Director Matthew Edwards remarked.
Edwards said they spent a great deal of time on-site with the instrument makers, “documenting their process, lives, and the art form they create.”
“This is a great oppotunity for us to celebrate and share the musical heritage of the region.”
Edwards said the exhibit was designed, from the beginning, to be a traveling exhibit, which the museum will rent out to other venues and museums.
“The exhibit was planned and designed to be modular. Most small museums do not have the space or the budget for the large traveling exhibits, which can be quite expensive. This is a high-quality exhibit that can be presented as a complete exhibit, but it is also designed to break up into parts, for those who have smaller venues,” explained Edwards.
The exhibit will premier two sections on Saturday, the banjo and guitar components, with the opening of the fiddle section scheduled for a later date. The separate openings for the components work well with the modular nature of the exhibit, said Edwards.
Johnny Gentry’s band, the Mountain Park Old-Time Band, will play at the museum shortly after noon. Gentry was a long-time member of the popular Whitetop Mountain Band and was recently given the Master Artist Award at the Surry Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention.
The luthier’s exhibit has been in the works since 2010, when the museum received a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. The grant, worth $25,000, required matching donations from local individuals and businesses. Edwards said the partnership approach to present the exhibit was a great example of how a community can work together to create something “big and grandiose” that is important to the culture of a community.
Edwards said he “didn’t need to reinvent the wheel” when it came to the design of the traveling exhibit. After 2010’s successful Smithsonian traveling exhibit, New Harmonies, Edwards was able to look at the model provided and use it as an inspiration for the museum’s own traveling luthier’s exhibit.
“We were happy to host the 2010 New Harmonies exhibit, which led us directly to where we are today, with our own traveling exhibit,” said Edwards.
New sections may be added to the exhibit, including components for the mandolin and dulcimer.
Additional programming associated with the luthier’s exhibit will be planned for a later time. The Luthier’s Craft exhibit will be in the museum through the end of 2013. Edwards said he has already received interest from other museums that would like to host the exhibit, including the Earl Scruggs Center in Lincolnton.
Donations and support for the exhibit were received from from Interlam, Pine State Marketing, Zoma Communications, the dentist Dr. Sumner, Chase and Rhonda Crossingham, the Surry County Tourism Development Authority, and the Mount Airy TDA.
Edwards said he encourages residents and visitors to visit the downtown area Saturday, to attend the grand opening of the luthier’s craft exhibit, but also to attend Farm Fest.
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“Our goal is to engage and get people interested and teach them something along the way,” said Edwards.”From a long-term sustainability perspective, this gives us an opportunity to create income for four to five years. Our hope is that it will be successful and we may be able to produce more traveling exhibits in the future.
For more information about the Luthier’s Craft exhibit and the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, visit www.northcarolinamuseum.org or call 786-4478.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.