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Folk Art

Kepka Belton, Kraslice (egg decorating)Because of its history of settlement, Kansas exhibits a rich mosaic of individual cultures and the traditional arts associated with them. The people who came to Kansas from the Old World and the eastern United States brought with them their ancestors' traditions, which were themselves forged through generations of occupation in their native lands. Here in Kansas they met with the cultures of the American Indians to compose the base line of the future culture of the state.

This was not the end of the story, however, as the members of each culture were forced to adapt to the new environment. To live in Kansas one had to accept the terms which the natural surroundings presented and innovate accordingly. From these innovations and the contact that took place between the various individual cultures, a new landscape was formed that is now uniquely Kansan, possessing its own traditions and arts that coexist alongside the old.

In the second half of the 20th century many of Kansas' traditional arts became endangered by the divisive effects of modern society. At one time a greater number of people spent much of their lives in their native communities, surrounded by a familiar people and environment. It is precisely this sort of community that gave birth to so many of the traditional arts that we know today. With increasing mobility, however, it became much more difficult for individuals to enter the long-term apprenticeships that are so essential for the mastery of these complex and beautiful arts.

In the 1980s the Kansas Historical Society and the Kansas Arts Commission received funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to develop an apprenticeship program. The legacy of that program was the sharing of cultural traditions between masters and apprentices and the profound effect upon participants and their communities. Meet these participants and explore their cultural traditions.

From Kansas Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program © KSHS 1989 1993

Master Artists



Bottle whimsy    
Bottle whimsy, 1982.163.1    

Entry: Folk Art

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2011

Date Modified: February 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.