Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003


The Arts Along the River

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Arts Along the River exhibit section
Artifacts and images on loan from many sources, including:
~ Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale MS
~ James Hicks, Iowa City IA
~ Peanuts, A Golden Celebration: The Art and Story of the World's Best-Loved Comic Strip Edited and
Designed by David Larkin
~ Michael Zahs, Ainsworth IA

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask,
'Where have I gone wrong?'
Then a voice says to me,
'This is going to take more than one night.'"
- Charlie Brown, created by Charles Schultz


Even when shown through the cartoon eyes of Charlie Brown, the creative output of artists along the river was multi-leveled, even shaded and dark. On the lower Mississippi in particular, music, literature, and entertainment were strongly influenced by the South's often unhappy history.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the South was infused with racism and wretched poverty. But up from the depths of despair rose the blues - the sound of a people who refused to give up. The Delta blues revolutionized American music, led to jazz and rock and roll, among other styles, and continues its influence on the contemporary music of today.

Literature and entertainment also illuminated social inequities with an uncanny pairing of misery with hope, of hopelessness with determination, and of drama with comedy. In the 19th century, Samuel Clemens captured the dark character of those river days with wit and satire. The musical "Showboat" delivered high-kicking dances unbalanced by racism and hate. Minnesota cartoonist Charles Schultz pointed out that "happiness does not create humor," nor does comfortable living inspire change.

From "A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams to "Crossroad Blues" sung by Robert Johnson, these dark undercurrents of life transformed the American arts. Complex and compelling, the creative achievements that arose from the Mississippi River Valley clearly reflect the human drama found in life along the river.

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Did you know … ?
The city of New Orleans was the birthplace or at least temporary home of numerous creative artists: John James Audubon, William Faulkner, Lillian Hellman, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Walt Whitman, Walker Percy, Jack Kerouac, Anne Rice, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, Big Joe Turner, Al Hirt, Wynton Marsalis, Mahalia Jackson, Fats Domino, the Neville Brothers, Harry Connick Jr. … among others!

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This section "The Arts Along the River" has the following related pages:

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2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
steamboat
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
You are here!jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
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