Keepers CoverKeepers of the Tradition began as an idea among two long-time friends, portrait artist Leslie Roberts Gregg and author Michael Abraham, in November 2013. Michael had just finished an unsuccessful campaign for the Virginia House of Delegates and Leslie had wrapped up several commissions. During a telephone call, they expressed their shared interest in the people, history, and culture of the central Appalachian region where they were raised and currently resided. They decided to collaborate on a series of portraits, on canvas and in words, of contemporary Appalachians keeping alive the arts, crafts, avocations and occupations of the past.

The title, Keepers of the Tradition, materialized quickly. Understanding the need to limit their overall commitment, they settled on an even dozen subjects who they then interviewed. Gregg painted their portraits and Abraham wrote their stories, and a book emerged!