The sacred steel sound finds its origins in the predominantly black House of God and Church of the Living God denominations of Pentecostal Christianity. In recent years, the sacred steel sound has emigrated, perhaps never more notably than in the hands of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. But the tradition has remained, mostly, in the church.
Florida musicologist Robert L. Stone immersed himself in the sacred steel scene for his 2010 book, Sacred Steel: Inside an African-American Steel Guitar Tradition. In it, he explores the music's religious functions and its secular evolution, its players and its audiences. This week, The ArtsCenter opens a small exhibit of some of Stone's black-and-white photography, casting images of a deeply religious and sonically captivating musical tradition that proves, if nothing else, that America still has a few musical tricks up its sleeve. The exhibit is part of the ArtsCenter's Southern Sacred Steel Conference, which, through the month, also features performances from The Allen Boys, The Lee Boys and the Aubrey Ghent Band; a lecture on sacred steel by Stone; and a sacred steel worship service. The photography exhibit is free to the public. —Bryan Reed