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March 02, 2015

Free Library recognizes German folk art with three months of programming

'Framing Fraktur' puts traditional art in conversation with modern typography

Events Exhibits
Flee from sin (Fleuch von Sünde) Samuel Gottschall /Free Library of Philadelphia

Samuel Gottschall's "Flee from sin (Fleuch von Sünde)," 1883.

The Parkway Central Library might not be the first place you'd look for an art exhibit in Philadelphia, but the Free Library is putting on a big show for its latest, "Framing Fraktur." The celebration, which includes four exhibits spanning three floors of the building plus programming across the region, will be held now through Sunday, June 14. 

"Fraktur" is a traditional Pennsylvania German manuscript-based folk art. In laymen's terms, in 1683 German immigrants who settled in the area began creating beautifully written documents, from birth certificates to music books to religious writings. With their elaborate, ornate typography -- the letters of which often look broken up, hence the term fraktur, which sounds like "fracture" - the documents are works of art unto themselves.

The first exhibit in Parkway Central, "Word & Image," can be found in the first floor lobby and the first and second floor galleries. The exhibit juxtaposes examples of traditional fraktur, of which the Free Library Rare Book Department holds over 1,300 pieces, with contemporary text-based art. The contemporary art, which includes paintings, drawings and woodblock prints, were provided by seven artists from Pakistan, Canada, England, Romania, Germany and the U.S. Their works weren't necessarily inspired by fraktur, but rather they feature a similar cultural connection between text and art. 
Anthony Campuzano, Constant Life Crisis, 2005

Anthony Campuzano, Constant Life Crisis, 2005 is featured in "Word & Image." Robert L. Pfannebecker Collection

"Quill & Brush," which you can find in the Rare Book Department," has historical hand-drawn and printed fraktur examples. "The Artful Letter" exhibit in the Art Department Gallery includes traditional and contemporary versions of fraktur, courtesy of the Philadelphia Calligraphers' Society. "Text in Prints," in the Print and Picture Collection Gallery, highlights art that combines text and image. 

Museums in the Philadelphia area are celebrating fraktur this spring, too. The Mercer Museum in Doylestown features recent acquisitions of Bucks County fraktur. The Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts "Drawn With Spirit," a collection of Pennsylvania German decorative arts and fraktur from the Joan and Victor Johnson Collection.

The Winterthur Museum in Wilmington has curated a collection of fraktur and decorative arts, including textiles and pottery, in "A Colorful Folk." Finally, the Mennonite Heritage Center is featuring 40 years of Easter Pennsylvanian Mennonite fraktur in "Fraktur Treasures." The Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center and The Slought Foundation, will host related exhibits opening Sunday, March 22 and in April, respectively. 
A slew of fun programming comes along with "Framing Fraktur." From March 5 through March 7 scholars will discuss fraktur and their owners' lives at various locations, including the Parkway Central Library and the PMA

Those interested in German cooking can learn how to make sauerkraut with cookbook author Marisa McClellan or make chicken and dumplings the Pennsylvania Dutch way with Chef Beth Dinice. Kids can try their hands at lettering or painting fraktur, traditional fraktur embroidery, or fraktur bookplates at library branches throughout the city.

"Framing Fraktur" is a huge undertaking for the Free Library, spotlighting an important aspect of local art and culture. Be sure to see the exhibits at the Parkway Central branch (they are free after all!) or attend one of the many special events. For a complete listing of activities click here.

Framing Fraktur

Now through Sunday, June 14
Hours vary | Free admission
Parkway Central Library
1901 Vine St.