The Arkansas Arts Council is pleased to announce Linden “Lin” Rhea as the 2023 Arkansas Living Treasure for his work and dedication to the craft of bladesmithing.
“Lin Rhea is an outstanding addition to the Arkansas Living Treasure program,” said Mike Mills, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “He has contributed so much to the rich creative culture of Arkansas.”
The Arkansas Living Treasure program annually recognizes, honors and celebrates masters of traditional crafts and/or folk arts in Arkansas with the goal of highlighting and preserving Arkansas's unique heritage, identity, culture and history.
“Every Arkansas Living Treasure Award recipient demonstrates a mastery and dedication to a traditional craft or folk art,” said Jimmy Bryant, director of Arkansas Heritage. “Our award recipients are truly living treasures – they perpetuate and sustain Arkansas’s craft and folk heritage.”
Rhea was chosen by an independent panel of judges. He will be honored at a reception Saturday, June 17, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Historic Arkansas Museum (HAM) in Little Rock. The event also coincides with the grand reopening of the museum’s Knife Gallery which showcases several of Rhea’s knives.
“In addition to acknowledging achievements and dedication, the Arkansas Living Treasure program honors those who share their knowledge of a craft through education,” said Patrick Ralston, director of the Arkansas Arts Council. “Lin Rhea meets those criteria with ease.”
When asked about receiving the award, Rhea said, “I’ve gone back and looked at other videos the museum (Historic Arkansas Museum) has produced of the other Living Treasures and I know one or two of them personally, and I’ve known them for quite some time. But to be associated with that group is quite an honor.”
Rhea said that the award means a lot to him and, although the news hasn’t quite sunk in yet, “It has made me realize just how important these crafts are. If other people appreciate it that much, I need to give it the dignity and the effort and be all the more willing to share it.”
Rhea has been bladesmithing for over 20 years. He is a mastersmith with the American Bladesmithing Society and studied at the Bill Moran School of Bladesmithing at Old Washington State Park.
Rhea says he merges historic blacksmithing processes with traditional and modern designs. He is actively involved in historic smithing, including working at the blacksmith shop at HAM where he demonstrates blacksmithing for school groups and museum visitors.
Although he retired in 2020, Rhea continues to be involved in the blacksmithing community of Arkansas through his work at HAM. Additionally, he is involved with a research project that is building a database of bowie knives made in the 1830s by Arkansas blacksmith James Black of Washington, Arkansas.
Rhea has been published in columns and journals, and his blades have won several design and craftsmanship awards. He continues sharing his knowledge through teaching and working with the TV series “Forged in Fire.”
For more information about the Arkansas Living Treasure Award, contact Scarlet Sims, artist services manager, at [email protected] or call 501-324-9348. For more information about the Arkansas Arts Council visit www.arkansasarts.org.