Western Abenaki Brown Ash and Sweetgrass Basket Making
FY 2010 Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Grants: Master Artist Sherry Gould: $2,025 & Apprentice Denise Pouliot: $980
Traditional arts are the crafts, music, dances, and stories that are passed on from one generation to the next within families, communities, and cultural groups. One way that the State Arts Council helps to preserve traditional arts in New Hampshire is through Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants. These grants provide funding assistance for a master traditional artist to teach an experienced apprentice in one-on-one sessions over the course of 6 to 10 months. The funds cover modest fees for the master artist as well as travel and supplies essential to the apprenticeship project. Apprentices typically range in age from pre-teens to older adults.
Over the years, Apprenticeship grants have helped artists perpetuate a wide range of traditions including those of the indigenous Abenaki. Many Abenaki crafts have come dangerously close to being lost. The time required preparing natural materials and learning crafts such as bead and quill work, basket making and birch bark canoes and the challenges of attracting younger people to learn these art forms, contribute to the challenge of preserving them.
With the help of Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants, Abenaki basket maker Sherry Gould was able to work with Jeanne Brink from Vermont and National Heritage Fellowship recipient Newt Washburn of Bethlehem, NH. In FY2010, Sherry’s skills enabled her to take on an apprentice of her own, Denise Pouliot. Their work focused on making “fancy” baskets from the pounded growth rings of the brown ash tree and strands of sweet grass, which is sometimes braided. The Apprenticeship covered how to harvest, process and weave the materials in a traditional way that is inherently sustainable. Instruction included a variety of basket shapes.
At the conclusion of their grant, Gould and Pouliot participated in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship showcase at the 2010 League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Fair, helping more people to understand and appreciate this important art form.
Note: In 2010 the NH Legislature passed HB1610 establishing a Commission on Native American Affairs. Among their many areas of interest will be the needs of Native American traditional artists. For updates on the Commission, click here.
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Learn more about State Arts Council grants and program services.
November 8, 2010