NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Black craft of the past and present is taking center stage in Nashville this weekend.

The Tennessee State Museum is hosting a symposium Saturday honoring the legacy of Black craftspeople in the state. The keynote speaker is Dr. Tiffany Momon who created the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive after her project as a Ph.D. student at Middle Tennessee State University.

“Our mission is simple. We want to document the Black builders behind the objects and museums that we love behind the historic buildings that we all love,” Dr. Momon said. “We do this by connecting Black craft to the landscape and making sure that people can understand that when you’re walking in the historic courthouse of a city, you are more than likely passing a building that was crafted with Black labor.”

She says the state of Tennessee has a long and rich history of Black builders and craftsmen.

“One great Middle Tennessee story that I can think of right now is, of course, the iron forges and I’m thinking specifically about the Promised Land community in Dickson County, Tennessee, and how that was a community founded, built by Black workers from the local iron forages pre Civil War,” she said. “After the Civil War, they settle in that community. They build its institutions, they build schools, homes, churches, and stores. And all of that is tied to that larger legacy of Black craftwork and skilled expertise.”

“Then & Now: A Black Craft Symposium” is a day-long event at the Tennessee State Museum that will have a variety of programming, highlighting the voices of Black craftspeople from the past and present.

“One thing that we’re really excited about tomorrow is that you can hear these stories, and then you can go see some of those artifacts,” said Morgan Byrn, Public Programs Manager at the museum. “Mark Schlicher will be talking about William Edmondson, and visitors be able to go up into our galleries and see the artifacts we have that William Edmonson made. He was one of the first African Americans to have an exhibit at the MoMA, and to be able to see those artifacts and not have to travel to New York is something that’s really special.”

Carlton Wilkinson will also moderate a panel discussion with current Black Craft artists in Tennessee focusing on their challenges and triumphs in contemporary craft.

The event is being presented in partnership with Tennessee Craft to commemorate the Best of Tennessee Craft 2021 Biennial exhibition, which closes on February 20, 2022. Click HERE to learn more.