Polkas, Fastnacht and Kloppelei: Contemporary German Folk Arts in Missouri
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36 percent of Missourians claim German ancestry, according to a recent survey. This high percentage is the result of a massive German emigration to Missouri that took place between 1815-1860. Marked German cultural traits are still evident, particularly in St. Louis and a region bordering the Missouri River known as Missouri's Rhineland. Separated from Germany for more than a hundred years, many Missouri Germans still maintain an avid interest in their European heritage. Recently introduced German immigrant art forms are welcomed and adopted. Such cultural cross-pollination suggests that ethnic enclaves like Missouri's Rhineland are in the process of redefining and expanding their ethnic identity beyond regional boundaries. This essay tells the story of two master folk artists who were selected to participate in Missouri's Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program in 1996-7: Marilyn Loehning, an accordionist from Hermann, and Christa Robbins, a bobbin lacemaker from Dixon. Their stories highlight the artistic heritage of Missouri Germans and that of recent German immigrants to the state.
Missouri Folk Arts Program, 1997