Mathers Museum plans event to celebrate limestone for @Work

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures displays artifacts and articles related to many aspects of global life, from art to commerce and beyond.

The latest event at Mathers explores a well-known skill in the context of a larger narrative. “The Art of Limestone Work,” taking place at noon Thursday, will celebrate the limestone workers of Indiana and the craft they continue to perfect.

Professor of practice and organizer of this program Jon Kay said the event was a culmination of artistry and story related to limestone.

“It is a one-day event that explores the occupational arts associated with limestone in our region,” Kay said. “It will have carving demonstrations, music and a narrative stage.”

The event takes place in conjunction with the Themester topic “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.” Kay said the historical value of limestone work connects it to the theme.

“Working with limestone is one of the oldest and iconic occupations in the region,” Kay said. “It seems that any project that explored the changing nature of work in the world should look at the local manifestations of work, and limestone work provides a great opportunity for this.”

Limestone work is often acknowledged in a strictly artistic way, Kay said. The work aspect of the craft and the people participating are less emphasized.

“It is a living tradition that has deep roots locally,” Kay said. “We often focus on the history of limestone art, but I wanted to focus on the work by contemporary workers and the art and skill they continue.”

Kay said the event will include demonstrations from Amy Brier, known for her work with the Limestone Symposium; Scott Todd, a stonecutter practicing in Bedford, Indiana; Casey Winningham, self-taught carver; and William Galloway, who worked on the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

As the organizer of the event, Kay said he brought nearly 12 years of experience looking at artistry typical to the region. He is also acting director of Traditional Arts Indiana.

Traditional Arts Indiana works to expand awareness of Indiana’s traditional artists and the implications of those cultural values in daily life today, according to its website.

Kay said the organization worked on a project that provided the basis for this upcoming event, which he wrote about in a blog post for the provost’s office.

“In 2012, IU’s Traditional Arts Indiana conducted a folklife survey focused on the limestone workers in the region,” Kay said. “We interviewed carvers, draftsmen, blacksmiths and quarry workers and learned about their occupational arts.”

Kay said limestone is one of the defining features of the campus.

“One of the things that makes the IU-Bloomington campus special is limestone,” Kay said. “This distinctive local material is quite literally what our campus is built on. The Salem Oolitic Limestone Belt runs through Monroe County, and, as we walk to our classes, we pass great limestone buildings.”

Kay said he is most excited for the narrative aspect of this event.

“I love to listen to the artists talk about their work and their craft and share their talents with the campus,” Kay said.

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