‘True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley’ to open Nov. 18

Old State House Museum - Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Old State House Museum is pleased to announce the opening of its newest exhibit, “True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley,” which will premiere with a reception from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 18.

The opening reception will include a performance by folk music duo Still on the Hill, who will use some of Ed Stilley’s hand crafted instruments during the concert. The event is free and open to the public; refreshments will be provided.

Stilley was a “preacher man” who scraped out a living as a farmer for his wife and five children. He said one day he received a call from God, who promised to deliver Stilley and his family if, in return, Stilley would make instruments and give them to boys and girls.

Ever faithful, Stilley did exactly that, creating some 200 instruments over 25 years, even though he had no formal training. Yet, through trial and error, Stilley crafted guitars, banjos, fiddles and other stringed instruments, incorporating items like sawblades, door springs and pot lids.

Although no two instruments are alike, they all carry Stilley’s distinctive stylings and are immediately recognizable as his handiwork. All but the earliest creations bear the inscription, “True Faith, True Light, Have Faith in God,” etched in Stilley’s own handwriting using his “blessed router.”

The “True Faith, True Light” exhibit at Old State House Museum will include 28 of Stilley’s handcrafted instruments; X-rays of several of the instruments, allowing a view of the objects within; an opportunity to listen to recordings of some of the instruments being played; several tools, including the Blessed Router; and photos of Stilley at his rural Ozarks homestead, where he created the instruments.

Guest curators of the exhibit are Kelly and Donna Mulhollan, musicians and educators from Fayetteville who perform as the folk duo Still on the Hill. The Mulhollans have known Ed Stilley for nearly twenty years. Kelly is the author of “True Faith, True Light: The Devotional Art of Ed Stilley,” recently published by the University of Arkansas Press.


Photo of Ed Stilley by Flip Putthoff