Discover the art of Thornton Dial

Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper, edited by Bernard L. HermanVernacular artist Thornton Dial (b. 1928), one of the most important artists of the American South, is the subject of an extensive exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill as well as a new book edited by Bernard L. Herman. We recently published an excerpt from the book, Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper, here on the blog. You can find that excerpt in our March archives if you missed it.

There are 50 works on display at the Ackland now through 1 July, and the museum has several events in the coming weeks that offer great ways to engage with Dial’s work. You can pick up a copy of the book at the museum gift store while you’re there.

Art for Lunch

Bring your lunch and enjoy these noontime lectures about Thornton Dial’s work. Free for museum members and valid UNC One Card holders; $5 all others. Pre-registration required: acklandRSVP[at]

Art For Lunch, Ackland Art MuseumWednesday, 4 April, 12:00 PM
“Stories of Spirit, Stories of Erasure: Thornton Dial and the Marketing of Faith”
Glenn Hinson, associate professor of anthropology at UNC Chapel Hill

Wednesday, 2 May, 12:00 PM
“‘We All Grew Up in That Life’: Thornton Dial’s Politics on Paper”
Juan Logan, professor of studio art at UNC Chapel Hill

Family and Children’s Program: Art Adventures

Saturday, 7 April, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
“Fish and Birds and Tigers, Oh My!”
This session provides 6- to 9-year-olds with a guided view of the Thornton Dial exhibition followed by the opportunity to create take-home treasures in an adjacent art studio using newly learned art-making techniques. The session will explore how people and animals are intertwined in Dial’s works. In the studio, kids will use pencil and watercolors to create a picture that includes a fish, tiger, or bird.

Conversations in Contemporary Art: The Vernacular

Sunday, 15 April
A series of events highlighting the materials, subjects, and artists on view this spring.

1:15 PM: Guided Tour: “The Vernacular through Time”
Ackland Art Museum
Ackland graduate interns Laura Fravel and Kimberly Kutz consider vernacular culture in 20th century American art.

2:00 PM: Talk + Performance: “Gospel Music as Vernacular Art Form”
Hanes Art Center Auditorium, UNC Chapel Hill
Learn about regional gospel music traditions—one of Thornton Dial’s most significant influences—with Glenn Hinson (Anthropology, UNC-CH) and The Branchettes of Johnson County, who have been performing hymns and gospel songs in North Carolina for almost 40 years.

3:00 PM: Conversation in Contemporary Art: “Why Vernacular?”
Hanes Art Center Auditorium, UNC Chapel Hill
Emily Kass, director of Ackland Art Museum, leads a discussion of vernacular tradition and artists working outside the mainstream with Bernard L. Herman (guest curator of the exhibition and book Thornton Dial: Thoughts on Paper), Charles Russell (American Studies, Rutgers University), and Lorie Mertes (independent curator of contemporary art).

Drawing in the Galleries – for Teens and Adults

Second Saturday of every month – 14 April, 12 May, 9 June, 10:00 AM-12:00 PM
Embark on a creative exploration of drawings by Thornton Dial as you sketch your own works on paper.
Bring paper and dry media (crayon, pencils, etc.). All levels are welcome.

Watercolor Workshop – for Teens and Adults

Saturday, 5 May, 1:00-5:00 PM
Following a guided exploration of Thornton Dial’s works on paper, participants will try their hand at watercolors in a nearby studio. Amanda Hughes leads this workshop for teens and adults.
Beginners are welcome. Bring your own materials; a list will be provided upon registration.
Mid-afternoon snack provided.
Museum members $35, non-members $40. Pre-registration required: acklandRSVP[at] or 919-843-3687.