As national interest in the work of folk or “self-taught” artists has risen, work by these artists has begun to attract more attention at art museums. In recent years, the Polk Museum of Art has acquired over sixty artworks by contemporary folk artists, all of which have been donated by Polk County collectors Jane Backstrom, Rodney Hardee, George Lowe, and William D. and Norma Canelas Roth, or by the artists themselves. Polk County is not just home to many collectors of folk art, but is also one of the most active places in Florida for folk artists. Through the guidance, generosity and energy of Mrs. Backstrom and Mr. Hardee, the Polk Museum of Art has been connected to the work of many Polk County folk artists as well as those from throughout Florida and the Southeast.
Inside the Outside World is the Museum’s first exhibition of its contemporary folk art collection. Local artists exhibited include Eugene Beecher, K.C. Bennett, Rodney Hardee, Duane Locke, Edward Ott, Joey Smollen, Donald Stone, Gene Thomas, Margot Warren, Bettye Williams, and Ruby C. Williams. Additional artists in the exhibition include John “Cornbread” Anderson, Mister Imagination, R.A. Miller, Mary Proctor, and Purvis Young.