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Vollis Simpson

5 fantastic folk art destinations in the South

Despite having only a sixth-grade education, Howard Finster became a preacher at age sixteen and dedicated his life to spreading the gospel. In 1976, more than four decades after his ordination, he said he received a vision from God to create 5,000 sacred works of art; by his death in 2001, he’d completed nearly 47,000.
Paradise Garden

Sleep inside folk art wonderland Paradise Garden

Nearly 50 years ago, God inspired Howard Finster to build Paradise Garden, an enormous display of sculptures and paintings scattered among a mirror-covered tree house, a tornado of rusted bicycles, and a towering church. Now Airbnb makes it easy to spend the night there.
Paradise Garden Howard Finster

A drone’s eye view of Paradise Garden

Starting in the mid-’70s on a quiet street on the outskirts of Summerville, the late Howard Finster—a former Baptist minister and self-proclaimed “man of visions”—created 46,991 individually numbered outsider artworks dedicated to God on a four-acre compound dubbed Paradise Garden.

Paradise Regained

One sunny Sunday afternoon almost thirty years ago, Robert Sherer and two coworkers from the Lefont Theaters piled into a junker car to make the ninety-minute drive up to Pennville, a tiny Appalachian community where churches outnumber stoplights on the outskirts of Summerville. The punk rockers were on a “pilgrimage to Paradise”—the otherworldly garden created by Howard Finster, the Baptist preacher whose transformation into an artist had made him a quasi-celebrity.

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