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  • Folk's Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia by Erin Morton
  • Lisa Binkley
Erin Morton, For Folk's Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016), 424 pp. 76 full-colour photos. Cased. $120. ISBN 978-0-7735-4811-4. Paper. $44.95. ISBN 978-0-7735-4812-1.

In For Folk's Sake: Art and Economy in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia, Erin Morton addresses the emergence of folk art as it coincides with Nova Scotia's shifting economy by considering contemporary notions of Nova Scotia folk art through past changes in the various cultural cycles of capitalism. Morton argues how 'folk art acted as a paradigm of modernization at a moment when both capitalist modernity and modernist artistic practices were transforming Nova Scotia' (p. 9).

This volume is divided into two sections: the first part, 'Art Institutions and the Institutionalisation of Folk Art', delivers the theoretical groundwork and insight into the economic climate of the art world in Nova Scotia, while the second part explores the paradoxical life, prolific works, and corporate branding of Maud Lewis as integral to the cultural identity of Nova Scotia's past. Included is an analysis of the development of Nova Scotia art institutions, such as the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD), and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS), and their roles in bringing folk art to the corporate museum and professionally trained art worlds. In doing so, folk art became identified for its association to the province's folkloric and simpler past, symbolic of the traditional, rural, and isolated lives of its makers. Through her investigation, Morton suggests the classification of folk art and its relationship to an imagined Nova Scotia historical identity was formed, in part, from the rebranding of NSCAD during the 1970s and the arrival of professor and artist Gerald Ferguson, an avid collector of folk art. This followed the changes to the AGNS and the arrival of curator Christopher Huntington who sought to build the museum's culture collection with the work of local folk artists as federal funding to the institution was dramatically cut following the 1967 Centennial celebration. For both Ferguson and Huntington, who viewed folk art through an art connoisseur's perspective, the acquisition of folk art in the 1960s and 1970s provided an affordable option for collectors and curators, establishing folk art within the discourse of the art world.

For Folk's Sake is richly illustrated and offers a critical view of the emergence of folk art as it has become synonymous with Nova Scotia's cultural and historical imagined identity. Morton approaches this challenging area of research succinctly, clearly laying out a theoretical background through which readers can better understand how folk artists, such as Maud Lewis, have become synonymous to Nova Scotia's institutional, cultural, and economic present.

Lisa Binkley
Queen's University, Kingston


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