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Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China || 百工之篮 | 中国西南篮子展

Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern ChinaI am very enthusiastic about the fact that the second of the Mathers Museum of World Culture‘s three Themester 2015 exhibitions about basketry opens tomorrow (September 1, 2015). It is titled Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China (百工之篮 | 中国西南篮子展) and I co-curated it with Dr. Lijun Zhang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. As always, the MMWC staff has worked hard to bring the script and objects and images to life and to get the word out. Support for the exhibition project has come from Themester, a project of the IU College of Arts and Sciences. The exhibition, like its two companions, relates to the 2015 theme @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet. In the case of the MMWC exhibitions, grouped together as @Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet, we are looking at the changing story of baskets made and used for work and the story of the changing work of making baskets.

The baskets featured in the exhibition were collected for the museum by me during trips made to Southwestern China as a participant in the American Folklore Society‘s China-US Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritage Project, specifically its current phase focused on Intangible Cultural Heritage and Ethnographic Museum Practice. (For funders of the ICH project, see here).

I hope that many visitors will get a chance to stop by the museum and see the exhibition. It has been a lot of fun to learn about the rich basket culture of Southwestern China and to find ways to share a bit of it with museum guests, including the students participating in Themester programming.

Vernacular Culture in Hands and Minds (The New Basketry Video)

The best places to preserve worthwhile vernacular cultural knowledge is in the hands and minds of talented and engaged people who carry it forward, making it their own and handing it on to still more people. Viki Graber of Goshen, Indiana comes from a long line of willow basketmakers. She has not only preserved the traditions of her family, she has built upon them in ways that curator Jon Kay has explored in the MMWC exhibition Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker. With Viki, Jon made a short documentary film showing steps that Viki uses in the production of a bail-handled work basket. Check it out on YouTube.

This basket is of the basic workbasket type that Viki learned from her father. If you visit the exhibition, you will see the great diversity of complex forms that Viki now creates.

Hopefully the film will inspire you to see the exhibition (through December 20, 2015) at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, to learn more about Viki’s basketwork, and to carry on or document the cultural practices of your family, community, or heritage. If you share a passion for vernacular culture—follow the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and Traditional Arts Indiana on social media or sign up for the museum’s email list.

Don’t Miss Viki Graber’s Artist in Residence Visit to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, Exhibition Opening

It will be a great semester at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. The first of our three At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet exhibitions has already opened. Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker opened on August 18, but it is just getting started. This coming week will feature Viki Graber visiting the museum and demonstrating her work as Artist in Residence. Come meet her and see her work 11 am-2 pm on Wednesday (26th), Thursday (27th) or Friday (28th). On Wednesday the 26th at 4:30, we’ll formally open the exhibition with a reception. Everyone is welcome!!!!!

See the whole fall lineup below. The front and back of our postcard here are jpg files. If you have difficulty reading them, full details are on the museum website. Learn more about Viki Graber’s work on her website and Facebook page.

Putting Baskets to Work in Southwest China will open September 1st. Working Wood: Oak Rod Baskets in Indiana will open on September 8. (The photograph on the postcard, showing Bruce Hovis making an oak rod basket, relates to this final exhibition of the three part series.)

The exhibitions and associated programs have been supported by the 2015 Themester program of the College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University. (The Themester theme for this year is @Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.)

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The front of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The back of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

The back of the At Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet postcard.

Summer 2015 Roundup

Sherds and Patches has been neglected. My summers are always busy, but this year has been really busy. As the fall semester is about to begin, I feel like I should at least take stock of where I have been. A surprising number of folks visit this site and seemingly find something that they are looking for. In hopes of leading online visitors to some of the exhibitions, projects, etc. that I have been involved in this summer, I offer this roundup with relevant links. Packing a summer into one post, please excuse the length (about 1600 words). Skimmers welcome.

When the spring semester ended, my Mathers Museum of World Cultures colleagues and I, together with MMWC Policy Committee Chair Eric Sandweiss, poured our energies into hosting Museums at the Crossroads: Local Encounters, Global Knowledge. Held at the museum between May 14 and 21, the workshop was supported by the IU School of Global and International Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. It gathered museum professionals and other scholars from numerous institutions and various countries for generative discussions and activities aimed at considering the state of museums in changing social contexts around the world. I am thankful for all who journeyed to Bloomington to join the discussion. Thanks too go to the MMWC staff members who helped organize the gathering and to the School and College for their generous support. Learn a bit more about Museums at the Crossroads from this IU press release. SGIS published a wrap-up story about Crossroads.

Before and after Museums at the Crossroads, I worked as a lead investigator on a Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded research/planning project considering the viability of alternative, sustainable financial models for university press monograph publishing in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. This is a project being pursued concurrently on the University of Michigan and Indiana University campuses. I am the researcher for the IU component of the project. A glimpse of the project is available in this IU press release (where our project is the second of two being discussed). A story last summer in the Chronicle of Higher Education provides additional context for the models that I have been discussing with IU faculty and administrators as well as with our UM/IU, research team.

Another big project that came to fruition in the days after Museums at the Crossroads is the Mathers Museum of World Cultures exhibition Cherokee Craft, 1973. This is an exhibition that I have looked forward to doing since the early 1990s. As I student, I first studied the museum’s collections made among the Eastern Cherokee. I knew then that they would make a great exhibition. That moment came this summer. Originally, I was going to curate the exhibition with help from graduate students Emily Buhrow Rogers and Kelley Totten but by the time we finished, it was Kelly and I helping Emily with her exhibition. What Kelly and Emily came up with is infinitely better than the simple exhibition that I had originally imagined. Cherokee Craft, 1973 opened June 16. Here is how we have described the exhibition in promotional materials.

Cherokee Craft, 1973 offers a snapshot of craft production among the Eastern Band Cherokee at a key moment in both an ongoing Appalachian craft revival and the specific cultural and economic life of the Cherokee people in western North Carolina. The exhibition showcases woodcarvings, masks, ceramics, finger woven textiles, basketry, and dolls. The works presented are all rooted in Cherokee cultural tradition but all also bear the imprint of the specific individuals who crafted them and the particular circumstances in which these craftspeople made and circulated their handwork.

What that description does not explain is that the presentation for the exhibition creatively evokes the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. gallery (ca. 1973), from which the museum obtained its collection. Come by and see the exhibition at MMWC and find the real co-op as it is today on its website.

After a quick but wonderful visit to Oklahoma for Green Corn, I headed off to the Smithsonian Institution to again serve as a visiting faculty member at the Summer Institute in Museum Anthropology, which is led by Candace Greene and funded by the National Science Foundation. I have discussed SIMA previously. It is a great program and this was a another great year. If you are new to SIMA, check out the SIMA information page. On top of the great SIMA stuff, I even had a bit of time to see the Chinese basketry in the NMNH collections!

A basket cataloged as Chinese in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. ET08510

A basket cataloged as Chinese in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. ET08510

SIMA was followed by a quick family trip to Santa Fe, where I got to attend the International Folk Art Market (which was great as always) and see the exhibition “The Red that Colored the World” at the Museum of International Folk Art. The “Red” exhibition is a tour de force. Simply amazing. I hope that many many more people get to see it in Santa Fe or on the tour to come. You can read about the Red exhibition in many places, including this NEH story by Peter BG Shoemaker in Humanities magazine.

While in Santa Fe, I purchased (at the market) two willow baskets by Blaise Cayol, a remarkable French basket maker. Learn about his basketry on his website Celui qui Tresse.

I collected Blaise Cayol’s baskets for a lot of reasons, including wanting them to help expand on the story that the Mathers Museum of World Cultures is telling in the exhibition Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker, which opens tomorrow. It is a great exhibition focused on the work of a great basket maker. Quoting from our exhibition announcement:

Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker presents a weaver of willow baskets from the Mennonite community of Goshen, Indiana, where she has lived for 25 years. Graber learned willow basket weaving at the age of twelve from her father, who was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as a 2009 National Heritage Fellow. Where once her family plied their talents to make utilitarian workbaskets, today she works full-time weaving baskets for collectors and to sell at art shows and galleries. While using the same tools and methods as her great-grandfather, Graber’s keen sense of color and innovative designs have elevated her family’s craft to a new aesthetic level.

Jon Kay curated Willow Work, drawing upon work done for Traditional Arts Indiana. Get details on the exhibition on the MMWC website. Learn more about Viki’s basketry on her website, Confluence of Willows.

Willow Work: Viki Graber, Basketmaker is one of three exhibitions that we (MMWC) are organizing for Themester. I will post (I hope) about the two that are still to come, but I note here that a second one has been curated by Jon Kay. Here is the description. Working Wood opens on September 8.

Working Wood: Oak-Rod Baskets in Indiana presents the work of the Hovis and Bohall families of Brown County, Indiana, who made distinctive white-oak baskets for their neighbors to carry everyday items and to gather corn. However, by the 1930s, the interest of urban tourists transformed these sturdy workbaskets into desirable souvenirs and art objects. In recent years, these baskets have come to be called “Brown County” and “Bohall” baskets, perhaps because of the great number of baskets made by the Bohall family in Brown county during the 1920s and 1930s. Nevertheless, the history of this craft is more complex these names reveal. Using artifacts and historic photographs, this exhibit explores the shifts in the uses and meanings of these baskets as they changed from obsolete, agricultural implements, into a tourist commodity. Using the lens of work, this exhibition tells the story of these oak-rod baskets and the people who made and used them, and how local makers strived to find a new audience for their old craft, and how ultimately the lure of steady work in the city contributed to the end of this tradition.

Between now and then, we will be working to finalize an third basketry exhibition that I have co-curated with Lijun Zhang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. Opening September 1, It focuses on work baskets in Southwestern China. We describe it in this way.

Putting Baskets to Work in Southwestern China explores the contemporary the use of basketry in urban and rural labor in contemporary China drawing upon a newly acquired representative collection of bamboo baskets documented as active tools of labor in the region around Dali, in Yunnan province, and in Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. The collection was acquired and documented by Jason Baird Jackson, Director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, who will co-curate the exhibit with Lijun Zhang, Research Curator at the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities in Guangxi, China.

All three of these work-related basketry exhibitions have been organized for the Fall 2015 Themester, which is themed “@Work: The Nature of Labor on a Changing Planet.” Our museum programs are organized under the rubric “@Work with Basketry on a Changing Planet.” The College of Arts and Sciences at IU has contributed to these projects and the public programs that will accompany them. Learn more about Themester 2015 on the Themester website. Learn more about the exhibitions and programs on the MMWC website.

In the background, Emily Buhrow Rogers and I have been finalizing a double issue of Museum Anthropology Review. We look forward to sharing it in the next couple of weeks. See some of its content online in preview mode at the journal website.

In the midst of all of this, I have—with the support of numerous friends and colleagues—been preparing my faculty promotion case. Time will tell how that turns out.

This is just some of the high points. Its been a busy summer. Whether relaxing or busy, I hope that your summer was excellent.

Chief’s Coats, Brides, and Drumkeepers: The Development of Osage Bridal Attire

NAL15_OsageWeddingFlier_Color[1]Another community gathering for the Osage Weddings project is scheduled for this Sunday. This is a really exciting project with lots of opportunities for community involvement.

Salons to Explore New Frameworks for University Press Publishing in the Humanities

Beginning later this week, I will be hosting a series of six salons on the Indiana University campus. The topic for discussion is scholarly publishing in the arts and humanities–at Indiana University and in general. In particular, our focus will be book publishing and our goal will be to work through the implications of a number of proposals for changing how we fund, publish, and access scholarly books in these fields. The salons are part of research that I am doing with IU and University of Michigan partners with support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Here are some links to help make sense of these events and their larger contexts.

The Grant funding this work was one of two recently received by Mellon. The IU Bloomington Newsroom announced these here.

An invitation to the upcoming salons, with the dates and details, is available here.

A one page description of the study, along with links to more information on the topic is available here.

I hope that my colleagues from across the IU campus will join the conversation at one of these events. The first will be held this Wednesday, March 25 from 10 to 11:30 A.M. in Hazelbaker Hall, Scholars’ Commons, Wells Library.

Traditional Arts Indiana Joins the Mathers Museum of World Cultures

I am very pleased to welcome Traditional Arts Indiana as well as its Director–my friend and colleague Dr. Jon Kay–to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures. Indiana University announced this organizational shift today in the media release pictured below (click here or on the picture below to read the release). Thanks go to all of those individuals and agencies who have long supported both units. I am excited by all that we will accomplish working together.

Media release regarding Traditional Arts Indiana and the Mathers Museum.

Tomorrow! Workshop on Social Media and Academic Freedom

Social media panel discussion flyer

Instruments of Prayer: Musical Instruments in the Expressive Cultures of the Native American Church

Flyer promoting a lecture by Daniel Swan at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

CFP: Journal of Folklore and Eduction

A CFP posted for the Journal of Folklore and Education.

2015 Journal of Folklore and Education Call for Submissions

The Journal of Folklore and Education is a peer-reviewed, multimedia, open-access K-16 journal published annually by Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education. Local Learning links folk culture specialists and educators nationwide, advocating for inclusion of folk and traditional arts and culture in our nation’s education. We believe that “local learning”–the traditional knowledge and processes of learning that are grounded in community life–is of critical importance to the effective education of students and to the vigor of our communities and society.

The Journal publishes work representing ethnographic approaches that tap the knowledge and life experience of students, their families, community members, and educators in K-12, college, museum, and community education. We intend our audience to be educators and students at all levels and in all settings, folk culture specialists, and other interested readers. As a digital publication, this journal provides a forum for interdisciplinary, multimedia approaches to community-based teaching, learning, and cultural stewardship. It is found at http://www.locallearningnetwork.org.

The 2015 theme for the Journal of Folklore and Education is Youth in Community. Read more

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