Folk art

art produced by artisans trained in a relevant skill working within a local client economy

Folk art encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic

Island of Salvation Botanica, Piety Street, Bywater, New Orleans.


  • [Folk art, consists of] work done by ordinary people in the course of their lives, work seldom thought of by those who make or use it as art at all.
    • Howard S. Becker Art Worlds, 1982 p. 245 as quoted in: John Ross Hall, Mary Jo Neitz, Marshall Battani (2003) Sociology On Culture. p. 196.
  • Folk art signifies the poetical, musical, and pictorial activities of those strata of the population which are uneducated and not urbanized or industrialized. It is of the essence of this art that those who keep it in being are not only passively receptive, but normally are creative participants in the artistic activities, and yet do not stand out as individuals or claim any personal authorship of the productions. "Popular art" on the other hand is to be understood as artistic or quasi-artistic production for the demand of a half-educated public, generally urban and inclined to mass-behavior. In folk art, producers and consumers are hardly distinguished, and the boundary between them is always fluid; in the case of popular art, we find on the contrary an artistically uncreative, completely passive public, and professional production of artistic goods strictly in response to the demand for them. It is indeed a striking fact that folk art, especially folk-poetry, emerges from the ranks of those who enjoy it, whereas popular songs--the street-ballads and popular "hits" — derive from professionals belonging to and spiritually dependent upon the upper classes.
  • It is said that my art has some typically Nordic features: the curving lines, the convolutions, the magical masks and staring eyes that appear in myths and folk art. This may be. My interest in the dynamics of Jugend style probably also comes into it.
    • Asger Jorn Tecken för liv, tecken till liv [Signs of life, the characters to life], interview by Marita Lindgren-Fridell, in Konstrevy (1963)
  • Courses were offered in such fields as nineteenth-century black history and Hispanic-American folk art. The activists made a peculiar claim for these classes. They insisted that the courses would alleviate the cultural anxiety of nonwhite students by permitting them to stay in touch with their home culture. The perspective gained in the classroom or the library does indeed permit an academic to draw nearer to and understand better the culture of the alien poor. But the academic is brought closer to lower-class culture because of his very distance from it. Leisured, and skilled at abstracting from immediate experience, the scholar is able to see how aspects of individual experience constitute a culture. By contrast, the poor have neither the inclination nor the skill to imagine their lives so abstractly.

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