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Highlander Libraries

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2020 at 12:38 pm

An immersive experience at the University Art Gallery

The University Art Gallery (UAG), at Sewanee, will present Highlander Libraries, on view from January 17 through April 8. This collaborative, community-oriented project transforms the UAG to recall the Highlander Research and Education Center’s original library – a renowned meeting place for people working towards social, economic, and environmental justice – as it existed in nearby Summerfield, from 1932 to 1961, when Highlander was known as the Highlander Folk School.
The installation invites consideration of the role of arts and cultural production in the work of creating social change. It is a bridge, connecting Highlander’s first library with the soon-to-be-completed Septima Clark Learning Center in New Market, where Highlander has operated since 1971.
The library of the Highlander Folk School is evoked with shelving resembling that of the original library, and with a collection of books. Space left on the shelves represents the books lost when the State of Tennessee tried to close Highlander in 1961, confiscating books along with the rest of the property. The empty spaces ask to be filled, and visitors are invited to loan books to the shelves that speak to current conversations about social justice. Project leader Greg Pond will lead regular book- making workshops during the installation to work towards repopulating the shelves.
Most importantly, Highlander Libraries offers an active space for learning, reflection, and action. Specially-designed furniture on a circular module invites use and conversation, and can be rearranged at will. Highlander Libraries is open for use by performers, classes, community members, and organizations. Please contact Shelley MacLaren at if Highlander Libraries would be helpful to you or your organization, for a performance, event, meeting, or gathering.
Highlander Libraries activates memory of Highlander as it was in its first home, the space invites use and participation, and participants bring the memory to life.
Special events
On January 24, at 5 p.m., in Convocation Hall, artist and project leader Greg Pond, and co- executive directors of the Highlander Research and Education Center, AshLee Woodard Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele, will speak about creative practice and social change. Reception to follow.
On February 20, at 7 p.m., Sewanee Praise will perform in the UAG.
Documentaries about social justice and Appalachia will screen every Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 12 p.m.