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November 17th, 2022


Lesson written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.

Folk Art

What is folk art?


"Folk art encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. This type of art is made by individuals whose creative skills convey their community's authentic cultural identity, rather than an individual or idiosyncratic artistic identity. Folk Art can be described as art that is of the people, for the people and by the people. These artists are interested in making art that tells stories about daily life or the culture of their community."

Folk Art Market


The key take away from this definition is the idea that in folk art, the artist is using their creative process to share how they see their community and culture.


For today's FLGeoWeek endeavor, we want students to use their creative senses to share their understanding of their immediate surroundings. To do this, they will need to make some observations and think about what they see and what that means to them and their community. Then students will set out to create a piece of art, whether it is drawing, painting, wood work, hand crafts, music, dance or a story.

The goal of this unit is to allow students to observe the world around them and use their creativity to share their impressions of what they see, smell and feel. They will explore how folk art can be a great way to express their unique personal sense of culture and community. This will spark conversations about regions, art and what it means to be a student in Florida.


Prompt students to search for folk art on their computers and have them select one image or audio that speaks to them. Ensure they make note of the location and community it originates from.


Once they have made their selection, have students send the teacher what they found. This is the start of research! 


By finding this information, we are beginning to answer the question 'what makes it folk art?'. 

After a brief share-and-tell, pull these qualifications up onto the screen and have students compare their selections to the criteria. Discuss!

Florida history is full of larger than life characters, each of whom contributed to the creation of the panorama that is modern Florida. One of the least known is Henry Peterson (1854-1934) who became the genesis of the folk character known as Old Pete.

According to what little is known historically of Henry Peterson, he was an African-American railroad worker employed by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in Port Tampa. Known locally as Ole Pete, Peterson was a giant of a man renowned for his strength and the alleged thickness of his skull. Pete regularly performed exhibitions of his talents for money. Some of his popular stunts included cracking coconuts with his bare hands and engaging in head butting contests with goats and bulls!

In today's activity, we use a combination of folk art and Reader's Theater to bring Old Pete's story to life. Use the lesson, script, and prop list below with your students to create an in-class production - or use them as templates to create your own Florida legend!

Lesson written by the Florida Geographic Alliance.

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