Past Exhibitions

Ola Belle Reed: I’ve Endured

March 27—June 30, 2023

With a voice born in the mountains and shaped by the hard times she lived and saw, Ola Belle Reed (1916-2002) established herself as a significant and influential banjo picker, singer, and songwriter of old-time mountain music.

An estimated two million migrants, including Reed and her family, left Appalachia during the Great Depression in search of work in industrial centers of the northern United States. They brought with them ways of life, including musical traditions, that maintained a connection to their southern home and transformed the cultures of their adopted cities. 

In 1936, Reed started her career as a professional musician when she joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners, and refined her talent as a member of the New River Boys. With a powerful voice, lyrics that spoke authentically of her rural roots, and her straightforward musical approach, Reed became a groundbreaking solo artist whose passionate songs resonated in the folk-revival movement of the 1960s. As the co-host of a radio program and both a proprietor of and performer at local concert venues, Reed played a critical role in establishing and maintaining a vital bluegrass community along the Mason-Dixon Line. She was a culture bearer who created and helped conserve the unique musical traditions of Appalachia. Reed left an enduring legacy: her 1973 album Ola Belle Reed was added in 2019 to the National Recording Registry, her songs have become anthems of Appalachian life, and she is widely recognized as one of the most influential female bluegrass and folk musicians of all-time.

Co-curated by the Library Gallery’s Curator of Exhibitions Emily Cullen and Media and Communications Studies Professor Bill Shewbridge with Tim Newby, author of Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound & its Legacy (McFarland and Company, Inc. 2015).

Promotional poster for LP recording, Ola Belle Reed & Family, 1977. Offset lithography. Ola Belle Reed collection, Maryland Traditions Archives, Collection 122.

Public Programming

Film Screening: “I’ve Endured”: The music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed

Thursday May 11, 2023 5pm

AOK Library Gallery – UMBC

I’ve Endured”: The music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed is a new 45 minute documentary exploring the life and work of nationally recognized bluegrass and old-time musician Ola Belle Campbell Reed (1916-2002), directed by Bill Shewbridge.

Free and open to the public, reception to follow

“I’ve Endured,” a concert honoring the music and legacy of Ola Belle Reed

This concert will celebrate Ola Belle’s life and legacy by bringing together musicians and family members who worked with her, along with those who continue to carry on in the tradition of old-time music.

Friday June 2, 2023 8pm

Linehan Concert Hall – UMBC

Reserve free general admission tickets here

Featuring musicians Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, The Honey Dewdrops, Hugh Campbell, and Dave Reed, with Cliff Murphy.

Free and open to the public