Georgia Historical Society Dedicates New Historical Marker Recognizing Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe

(l-r) The Honorable Edward Rousseau, Breana James, Deborah Riddle, Mary Williams, John Lynch, and The Honorable Edward Johnson.

Fayetteville, GA, May 15, 2024—On Wednesday, May 15, 2024, the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) unveiled a new historical marker,“Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982),” in partnership with the Fayette County Historical Society and the Fayette Heritage Project. The historical marker recognizes the internationally known artist that was born, raised, and buried in Fayette County.

“The Georgia Historical Society is excited to dedicate a new historical marker detailing the life and work of folk artist Nellie Mae Rowe,” said Elyse Butler, GHS Manager of Programs and Special Projects. “Rowe’s work, which explores everything from race to gender and politics, has been displayed nationwide. It is an exciting opportunity to work with the Fayette County Historical Society and the Fayette Heritage Project to be able to tell Rowe’s life story in her hometown.”

Rowe was born on July 4, 1900, and grew up learning craftsmanship skills such as basketweaving and sewing from both her parents. She began creating artwork as a child, but having to work for most of her life, she was unable to devote herself to making art until her retirement. For the last two decades of her life, Rowe created the bulk of her artwork and related artmaking to childlike play. Rowe was first featured in the Atlanta History Center’s 1976 exhibition Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art, 1770-1976. At that time, the U.S. Bicentennial revived an interest in folk art, and Rowe gained national attention. Her artwork has been included in collections such as Atlanta’s High Museum of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"The Fayette County Historical Society is honored to have helped bring this beautiful marker to Heritage Park,” said Deborah Riddle, Fayette County Historical Society Vice President. “This area was set aside to trace our unique history. Nellie Mae Rowe deserves this place of recognition. Her art brought joy to so many."

The marker dedication took place in Heritage Park at the Fayette County Administrative Complex. Speakers included Deborah Riddle, Vice President, Fayette County Historical Society; The Honorable Edward Johnson, Mayor, City of Fayetteville; The Honorable Edward Rousseau, Commissioner, Fayette County; Breana James, Historical Marker and Program Coordinator, Georgia Historical Society; John Lynch, Fayette County Historian; and Mary Williams, great-grandniece of Nellie Mae Rowe.

The marker text reads:

Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982)

Born in Fayette County, Nellie Mae Rowe learned craftsmanship skills such as basketweaving and sewing from her parents. She quit school to work on her family’s farm, later working as a domestic laborer. After retiring, she devoted herself to artmaking, relating it to childlike play. Using themes from African-American traditions and her Christian faith, Rowe explored gender, politics, and race. She used assemblage and repurposing techniques like many contemporary African-American artists, creating colorful illustrations, hand-crafted dolls, and sculptures. Rowe transformed her Vinings home into her “Playhouse.” Though many people toured the Playhouse, she experienced harassment and vandalization. Rowe’s first exhibition was in Atlanta as the US Bicentennial revived interest in folk art. Her work has appeared in exhibitions and collections nationwide. Rowe died in 1982 and is buried in Fayetteville’s Flat Rock AME Church Cemetery.

Erected by the Georgia Historical Society,
The Fayette County Historical Society, and the Fayette Heritage Project

For more information about the Folk Artist Nellie Mae Rowe (1900-1982)historical marker dedication or the Georgia Historical Society marker program, please contact Elyse Butler, Manager of Programs and Special Projects, at 912.651.2125, ext. 119, or by email at


The Georgia Historical Society (GHS) is the premier independent statewide institution responsible for collecting, examining, and teaching Georgia history. GHS houses the oldest and most distinguished collection of materials related exclusively to Georgia history in the nation.
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The Georgia Historical Marker Program is an important part of the Georgia Historical Society’s (GHS) statewide educational mission. Through a public-private partnership with the State of Georgia, GHS is responsible for erecting new historical markers and maintaining more than 2,000 markers installed by the State prior to the program’s privatization in 1998. Online mapping tools allow users to explore themed marker trails and design custom driving routes. Visit for more ways to use Georgia’s historical markers and experience history where it happened.