This Land is Your Land explored the life and work of one of America's greatest folk heroes, Woody Guthrie. Poet, singer, artist, and humorist, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie left dust-bowl poverty to commence a life of music and adventure that never lost ties to the less-advantaged in American society. His deep empathy for the common man infused his music with purpose and sparked a life-long dedication to social activism. Woody was a traveling folklorist, collecting cowboy songs, mountain ballads, religious music, blues, and work chants and then blending these styles into more than 1,000 original songs, each revealing an aspect of the American soul.
Woody's times were ripe for songs of the people. His prodigious output spanned only 17 years, during which he churned out poems, two novels, and hundreds of letters, essays, and newspaper columns, in addition to his music. He drew and painted prolifically and recorded hundreds of songs. He sang about love, war, children at play, natural disasters, unionism, and fascism. Literary critics have called him the Walt Whitman of the 20th century-others say he was the working man's James Joyce. Woody Guthrie's "ballads" echo in the music of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and many of today's emerging singer/songwriters. As folk artist and diarist, his immense ouvre of drawings and autobiographical musings illustrate the world as he saw it.
For the first time, Guthrie's personal archive of drawings, song lyrics, notebooks, manuscripts, diaries, and photographs is available to the public. The Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Nora Guthrie, executive director of the Woody Guthrie Archives, created an exhibition that draws from rarely seen objects, illustrations, film footage, and recorded performances to reveal a complex man who was at once poet, musician, protester, idealist, itinerant hobo, and folk legend.
This Land is Your Land: The Life and Legacy of Woody Guthrie was made possible through the generous support of Nissan North America. Additional support has been provided by the Smithsonian Institution Educational Outreach Fund.
This Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service exhibition toured from 1999-2002.