Baton Rouge Traditions

Baton Rouge Traditions -- The Online Exhibit

This online version of the traveling exhibit explores the traditional arts and practices of communities in the greater Baton Rouge area. The traveling exhibit consists of four pull-up banners and a quilt on a frame. Below is an online version of the exhibit. The exhibit draws upon the online book, Baton Rouge Traditions.

For information about booking the exhibit, click here.

Baton Rouge Traditions

An important part of any community's sense of place, cultural traditions—while often rooted in history—tell who we are today. Traditions such as music and food strengthen a community's pride and sense of place and help connect diverse cultural groups. Baton Rouge has a wealth of traditions and traditional artists that make it the community it is today.

Saddle maker Ken Raye with one of his collector's saddles.
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As a display of these traditions, The Giving Quilt, Wasted Women's Bee, and other quilting bees in the greater Baton Rouge area collaborated with participants from the public to create a commemorative quilt to reflect what Baton Rouge means to the community.

At events throughout Baton Rouge, community members created squares for a commemorative quilt that includes iconic locations, familiar landscapes, cultural activities and foodways.
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The Baton Rouge Traditions Quilt has 81 squares made by 76 different contributors.
Judy Holley created the quilt square kits and made the quilt.
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Baton Rouge Gives and Works

Most guilds have a multifunctional mission. They're about education, about fellowship, and about charity.

—Mary Woltman, quilter

Through fiber arts and community service projects, groups and individuals in Baton Rouge create traditional handmade items for others as a labor of love and an act of service. In the workplace, traditional craftsmanship and specialized occupational skills help local busineses serve a diverse clientele.

Dorothy Spain with the Chaneyville Hand Quilting Group. Learn more

Comfort and Connection: Individual fiber artists and groups make and donate quilts, prayer shawls, and caps to at-need children, premature babies, cancer patients, and veterans.

Threads of Love volunteers sew clothes to donate to premature babies. Learn more
Saroj Welch crochets prayer shawls to be given to those in need. Learn more

Home bakers offer gifts to the community through St. Joseph altars. Animal rescue groups find "forever homes" for pets.

Carolyn Musso decorates the 2014 Grandsons of Italy St. Joseph Altar. (Learn more)
Local groups dedicated to animal welfare find permanent homes for pets. (Learn more).

Traditional Occupations: Capital area business owners and staff emply specialized skills such as welding, auto airbrushing, cooking, baking, and sewing. Other provide repair services for musical instruments, shoes, furniture, road and reels, and jewelry.

Master piano tuner Michael Mattison at work. (Learn more).
Joe Vincent, airbrush and pinstripe artist for auto and motorcycles. (Learn more).

Some shop owners specialize in hats and clothing, ethnic foods, boudin, and tea cakes.

Jerry Lee Duplantis makes boudin. (Learn more).
Custom clothier Manuel Martinez cuts fabric for a customer's suit. (Learn more).

Baton Rouge Makes and Plays

Anything you listen to today came from right down here in the South and we should honor that and want to cherish and carry it on.

—Kenny Neal, blues musician

Using past and present day work-methods, Baton Rouge craftsmen and women create unique items for utility and enhoyment and keep their traditions alive. Traditions are also strong where Baton Rougeans gather to celebrate, dance, play music and enjoy festivals.

Larry Garner continues to play old style blues. Learn more.

Made by Hand: Locals draw upon their diverse heritages to create traditional crafts such as cowboy saddles and whips, leatherwork, Mardi Gras gowns and costumes quilts, cloth dolls, christening gowns, split oak baskets, wooden boats, and filé. Among other Baton Rouge area tradition bearers are horseshoers, fly tyers, chainsaw sculptors, barbeque pit fabricators, and painters.

Taxidermist Sonny Amato works on a duck. (Learn more).
Judith Braggs and “Cracklin' Man,” a quilted portrait of her father. (Learn more).
Billy Anderson makes nylon and leather whips. (Learn more).
Joubert Harris with a half barrel split oak basket. (Learn more).

Recreational Traditions: The Spanish Town Mardi Gras celebration has long been a tradition in the capital city area.

Pink beads for the Spanish Town Mardi Gras parade. Learn more.

Chinese and Latino communities celebrate their diverse cultures with music and dance. Traditional blues music as well as Cajun fiddle, zydeco, country, and jazz contribute to the sounds of the Baton Rouge region. Tailgaters cook. And the folk art genre of sac-a-lait fishing is active with local anglers.

Glenn Davis shows off a graphite jig pole designed for sac-a-lait fishing. (Learn more).
The Yang Guang Sunshine Dance Group performs "Peach Blossom." (Learn more).

Baton Rouge Worships and Diversifies

We do it from the heart to edify God's holy name, . . . not for fashion or show.

—Joseph Anthony, Greater St. James Men Singers

Baton Rouge locals connect with their sacred and spiritual lives in ways they were born into or have adopted. Sacred music and ritual traditions in local churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples nourish the soul, open the mind, and heal the heart. Diverse immigrant communities maintain the language, craft, festival, and food traditions of their forebears.

Clarence Jones directs Heritage, an a cappella choral ensemble dedicated to keeping Negro Spirituals alive. Learn more.

Lifting the Spirit: Rituals and celebrations in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples enrich the spiritual lives of the Baton Rouge community. Jewish and Christian song, sacred sounds from Greek Orthodox and Vietnamese Buddhist chants, Muslim recitation, Hindu festivals and puja prayer services, Vietnamese altar traditions and Pentecostal church women's hair traditions give praise.

Vietnamese Buddhist chanters at the start of the service at Tam Bao Temple. (Learn more).
Hasan Stranjac with a model mosque that he made. (Learn more).
Deidre Summers leads the Praise Team, First Pentecostal Church of Baton Rouge. (Learn more).
At Hindu Samaj, women dance around a picture of Durga, The Divine Mother. (Learn more).
Marcy Fisher leads Praise and Worship, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.
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Preserving Culture: Centuries-old traditions from Baton Rouge's immigrant communities are practiced today. The Chinese community maintains its traditions of paper folding, feng shui, festivals, and foodways. Muslim traditions include Bosnian pita bread making, henna, Palestinian cross stitch, and calligraphy. Others celebrate Latino traditions, the Vietnamese Moon Festival, and the African tradition of hair braiding.

Emira Stranjac makes Bosnia pita bread. (Learn more)
Inas Nazzal wears a Palestinian cross stitch thawb. (Learn more).


This project was supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency and with support from the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge and The Giving Quilt. Inc. Additional funding was from an Archie Green Fellowship from the Library of Congress to support occupational folklore research.