Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor



The purpose of this study was to analyze the composition, structure and process of the art world of a small, rural county in central Pennsylvania, and to trace some of the ways in which the art world was related to the social life of the general population of the county. As such it was conceived of as a study of art as a social process in which the art object was treated simply as a nodal point in a complex behavioral system. It was this art-related system and its role in Ridge County, Pennsylvania that were the foci of this research. The hypotheses of this study were: (1) the amateur art world as constituted in Ridge County played a role in the regulation of social relationships in terms of relating messages about social identity, and (2) a conflict between realistic and modern/abstract art in the county would reveal a struggle in the community to maintain some aspects of its identity as a separate socio-cultural unit in the face of continuing external influence. Through the use of ethnographic research methods both hypotheses were confirmed leading to the conclusion that the amateur art world in Ridge County was a mechanism which aided in the regulation and maintenance of social relationships and the social system. Art was seen to be bound up with systems of social status, the conflict between local and cosmopolitan orientations, and the maintenance of social bonds and boundaries. These findings are demonstrated through a detailed description of the Ridge County art world and its role in the county.