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Limestone Traditions: Stories From The Quarries

Traditional Arts Indiana marks Limestone Month with a showcase of stories told by carvers, cutters, and quarrymen.

Matt Bruce, a stone cutter and carver at Architectural Stone Sales in Bedford, poses with one of his sculptures, a pair of working limestone scissors.

It’s the seventh year across southern Indiana that June has been set aside as Limestone Month, a celebration of the area’s limestone heritage.

The combined forces of the Lawrence County and Bloomington Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus have led the charge to promote awareness of the natural resource that has so significantly shaped the area’s development. Various groups and institutions contribute to Limestone Month programming. Stone carvers from around the world gather at the Indiana Limestone Symposium, held at the Bybee Stone Company. Tours lead visitors down limestone’s trail from quarries to architectural settings.

First quarried around Stinesville in the 1820s, limestone sourced from the Salem Limestone Formation–a “stone belt” around 35 miles long and 10 miles wide that runs between Bloomington and Bedford–has been the principal building material for many public landmarks in the nation’s largest cities.  Indiana’s mineral ambassador has enjoyed posts at the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, and the Biltmore Estate.

But the role this material has played in the local landscape, lore, and culture is the focus of a project Traditional Arts Indiana undertook for their part in this year’s Limestone Month observance. The traveling exhibition Limestone Traditions: Stoneworking in South-Central Indiana highlights the stories of the people working in the limestone trade–from an artist who carves architectural ornamentation for cathedrals, to a sawyer whose great-great grandfather founded the quarry where he works, to a carver who specializes in birdbaths, benches, and grave markers.

Working with Indiana Parks and Reservoirs, Traditional Arts Indiana sent independent folklorist Joseph O’Connell on a project collecting interviews and taking pictures of local individuals involved in limestone work.  The results of his oral histories and documentation are excerpted for the exhibition, which travels from the Mathers Museum (June 1-14)  to weekend events at McCormick’s Creek State Park (June 15), Spring Mill State Park (June 22-23), and Bedford’s town square on June 29th.

Event Information

Limestone Traditions: Stoneworking in South-Central Indiana

A traveling exhibition presented by Traditional Arts Indiana featuring interviews with and photographs of people involved in the Indiana limestone industry.

Mathers Museum, McCormick's Creek SP, Spring Mill SP, Bedford Squ.

June 1-29


Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

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