Blueberry Blossom. Photo by Richard Church, Ottawa and Pottawatomi
Published June 21, 2018
WASHINGTON — The National Endowment for the Arts announced American Indian black ash basket maker Kelly Church is a one of 2018’s recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships. Awarded annually, the NEA National Heritage Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, highlight the breadth and excellence of the artistic traditions found in communities all across the United States.
Church is Ottawa/Pottawatomi, descended from the Gun Lake and Grand Traverse Bands. She has an experienced master’s eye for selecting the best black ash tree to provide the best material for her to create a vast array of baskets, from designed black ash baskets to Summer Strawberry Blossoms. The traditional Anishinabe process of creating a black ash basket from start to finish is an awe-inspiring and learning experience that goes beyond the artistic practice to include discussions in biochemistry, forest management, invasive pest control, traditional language skills, and deep personal memories of family history.
Church’s artistic, activist, mentorship, and tradition bearer journey to advocate for the survival of Native traditions has involved many national and international art programs, exhibitions, and work with government agencies such as tribal and U.S. Forest services. She has been named the Eiteljorg Artist in Residence, received a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation’s National Artist Fellowship, and been a four-time Artist Leadership Program participant of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.
Church will receive a $25,000 award and be honored in Washington, DC at an awards ceremony on September 26, 2018 and at a free concert on September 28, 2018. The concert will be streamed live at arts.gov.
Sustaining Traditions. Photo by Richard Church, Ottawa and Pottawatomi