ISALTA is changing. Since 1981 Members of the Board of Directors and members have passed away, retired and moved on to other interests. It is up to the membership to set the direction for ISALTA in this century, and all input will be welcomed at


Original 1981 Statement of Purpose


David W. Ecker and Carleton Palmer

ISALTA is a New York State registered 401(C)3 non-profit organization established to sponsor inquiry into creative, critical, and theoretical aspects of art traditions world-wide. The work of the Society includes field surveys, documentation of selected artistic processes, apprenticeship programs and workshops, the mounting of traveling exhibitions of artifacts and graphic displays, and the publication of reports, monographs, and general information -- all for the purpose of advancing living traditions in art.

An international board of directors sets the policy and direction of the Society while the professional staff supervises ongoing research activities through regional centres located in strategic geographical sites. The international centre in New York City coordinates the work of the regional centres and is responsible for editing the newsletter, research journal, and the proposed Encyclopedia of Living Traditions In Art. Elected or appointed heads of art groups and organizations and recognized masters of living traditions are invited or nominated to become members of the Society. Associate members receive all publications and invitations to participate in special events.

Qualified artist-researchers, arts professionals, scholars and specialists are sought by ISALTA to join specified projects on a temporary or long-term basis. Unsolicited research reports or proposals are welcomed by the Editorial Board or by the Research Committee. Concerned individuals and representatives of business and industry are solicited for funding the work of ISAL T A.

Of special interest to the Society is the recognition and nurturance of artistic traditions at risk of extinction as a result of the impact of technology. Whereas that impact was felt in Europe and America in the last century, it is now being absorbed by the pre-industrial societies of the Third World. And many of the basic questions remain the same. Manual versus mechanical skills, loosely organized artisans versus disciplined and bureaucratized workers, the division of labor for mass-production of goods, and the meaning of tradition in modern life constitute some of the issues to be investigated. Given the magnitude of these concerns, and the existing fragmentation of efforts to deal with one or another problem as a social, political, or economic matter rather than in terms of the life or death of the tradition itself, ISALTA can provide the framework for organized and coherent inquiry.

What requires examination is not only the processes by which the traditional arts are transformed, co-opted, corrupted and diminished or revitalized and enhanced by the impact of technology, but also the processes by which new traditions are being formed by technology. Photography, film, video, and holography immediately come to mind as examples. Even those mainstream traditions we think we know best deserve continued study, since some of the oldest techniques are employed to create some of the newest art. Thus, it is not only the master builders and makers who still have the occupational titles in this country of stonemason, engraver, weaver, and potter but also their counterparts in the art galleries -- the sculptor, printmaker, fibre artist, and ceramist -- who would benefit from the coherence and continuity of research sponsored by ISALTA,