Careful, Neat & Decent: Arts of the Kentucky Shakers

Careful, Neat & Decent: Arts of the Kentucky Shakers

Part of Shaker Commonwealth, a celebration of Kentucky Shaker arts and culture at the Speed Art Museum.
Presented alongside Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved.

August 21, 2020 – January 3, 2021
North Building, 2nd floor

The Kentucky Shakers of Pleasant Hill and South Union, most active from the early 1800s through the nineteenth century, expressed and reinforced their deeply held faith through worship and through work. Along with buildings and landscapes, they channeled their faith in work into objects and enterprises that were both practical and creative. Careful, Neat & Decent explores the Kentucky Shaker’s wide-ranging creative endeavors. From handsome furniture and shimmering silks to inspirational hymns and popular fruit preserves, Kentucky’s Shakers left behind a remarkable history of making—one forged within communal groups that required celibacy, empowered women leaders, and possessed conflicting attitudes about race in the midst of slavery.

Developed in collaboration with the South Union Shaker Village and the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Careful, Neat & Decent will draw together over 50 objects produced by and for the South Union and Pleasant Hill Shakers. Along with furniture—the most familiar Shaker legacy—the exhibition will explore other corners of Shaker production like textiles, hats and bonnets, vegetable seeds, preserves, and hymn writing. The exhibition will also share the intersectional stories of the Shaker experience, including those of women, of African Americans, and of orphans.