This exhibition and several public programs at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College explore the impact of African coiled basket-making on aspects of economic development in the American South, as well as the present-day environmental and sociological threats to the communities who create this art form.
The exhibition, which was organized by the Museum of African Art in New York City, runs through March 16 in the Museum's Main Gallery, with an opening reception on Feb. 7 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and a lecture in the Museum's lecture hall at 7 p.m. by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Patrick Hurley. In another related public lecture on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m., Dr. Judith A. Carney, UCLA professor of geography, will consider the relationships between an historic culture of slavery and agro-economic practices in the South.
Grass Roots traces the histories of coiled basketry in Africa and America. Featuring baskets from the low country of South Carolina and Georgia as well as from diverse regions of Africa, the exhibition documents the production of coiled baskets from their use in the domestication of rice in Africa, through the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Carolina rice plantation, and to the present day.
This exhibition provides visitors with the opportunity to engage with diverse artifacts including baskets, basket-making tools and historic rice cultivation artifacts. It highlights the remarkable beauty of coiled basketry and shows how the market basket can be viewed simultaneously as a work of art, object of use, and container of memory. In this context, the humble but beautifully crafted coiled basket, made in Africa and the southern United States, becomes a vehicle for learning about creativity and artistry characteristic of Africans in America from the 17th century to the present.
The Berman Museum exhibition has been made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art was organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City in collaboration with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC. It was co-curated by Chief Curator Enid Schildkrout, Museum for African Art, and curator and historian Dale Rosengarten, College of Charleston. The exhibition is toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance through NEH on the Road.
The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, known for its diverse collection and its innovative educational programming and outreach, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and college holidays, including March 30, Easter Sunday. The Museum is a member of the ARTZ/Artists for Alzheimer’s museum network and is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Admission is free. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Exhibitions and programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.