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Maine Indian Basketmakers, Hudson Museum Receive Smithsonian Grant for Exhibit

The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) in collaboration with the Hudson Museum has received an Indigenous Contemporary Arts Programs grant from the National Museum of the American Indian to support the development of an exhibit of the next generation of Maine Indian basket makers.

The National Museum of the American Indian is the 16th Smithsonian Institution museum.

The exhibit, “Transcending Traditions: The Next Generation and Maine Indian Basketry,” opens Sept. 24 at the Hudson Museum in conjunction with the Collins Center for the Art’s gala and the Hudson Museum’s 25th anniversary. Five featured Maine Indian basketmakers participating in the exhibit will be at the annual Native American Festival and Basketmakers Market Saturday, July 9 at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, offering a sneak preview of their extraordinary art.

The five contemporary basketmakers — Passamaquoddy Jeremy Frey, Penobscots Ganessa Bryant and Sarah Sockbeson, Passamaquoddy members George Neptune and Eric “Otter” Bacon — range in age from early 20s to early 30s and represent the next generation of basketmaking. Their artistic practice is a direct result of MIBA’s arts programming over the past two decades, according to renowned Penobscot basketmaker Theresa Secord, executive director of the MIBA.

“The exhibition traces the proud journey of a new generation of Maine artisans who have helped save a tradition by putting their own signature on this ancestral, uniquely Wabanaki cultural art,” Secord says. Maine Indian artists have received national and international attention for their basketry, including Frey, who recently received the Best of Show Award at the Heard Museum’s Indian Fair and Market. Bacon also has received awards for his work in nationally competitive venues.

“The work of these artists is sought after by Museums and collectors,” says Gretchen Faulkner, Hudson Museum director. “The exhibit at the Hudson Museum will allow the Maine public an opportunity to see the work of these important emerging artists.”

The artists have been commissioned to create masterworks for the exhibit to showcase their particular style and weaving skills and trace how their work has evolved. The project explores new directions the artists are taking the tradition in the face of environmental and economic challenges and change.

“The Hudson Museum and the University of Maine hosted the first meeting of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance and has worked with MIBA on exhibits, programs and outreach events for nearly two decades,” says Faulkner. “It is fitting that on the Museum’s 25th Anniversary, we celebrate Maine’s oldest art form and the artists who are transforming the tradition within their communities.”

MIBA is an 18-year-old non-profit arts service organization dedicated to preserving the ancient tradition of brown ash and sweetgrass basketry. In 1993, the MIBA counted approximately 55 basketmakers in the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Tribes in Maine. The average age of the basketmakers was 63. Today, there are 200 basketmaker members in the alliance with an average age of 40, thereby saving the tradition for the time being, Secord says.

Contact: Gretchen Faulkner, (207) 581-1901

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