Historic Collection of Native Baskets from California’s Missions at USF

Cahuilla coiled basket, circa 1880's from the Santa Barbara Mission. Photo: Ruben G. Mendoza

Cahuilla coiled basket, circa 1880’s from the Santa Barbara Mission. Photo: Ruben G. Mendoza

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of San Francisco’s (USF) Thacher Gallery reveals the power of baskets in examining California history in its next exhibition, “INTERWOVEN: Native California Basketry Arts from the Missions Forward.” The exhibit will open on Monday, August 24, and run until November 1, 2015.

Drawn primarily from the collections of California Missions, “Interwoven: Native California Basketry Arts from the Missions Forward” presents more than 40 baskets handcrafted by Native Californians, including the world-renowned weavers of the Chumash and Pomo people. These baskets, representing numerous California tribes and made during the Mission era (1769-1830s) to the early 20th century, tell a remarkable story of cultural continuity and survival despite colonization.

“Basketry is both the symbol and reality of cultural survival,” said Kristina Foss, curator of the exhibit and professor of Native American Studies at Santa Barbara City College. The baskets shown in “Interwoven” link weavers’ deep knowledge of the ecology and natural materials with their complex artistic sensibilities and the continuity of traditions Native weavers pass down through generations.

Deeply rooted in place, the making of a basket begins with the identification, collection and preparation of native plants and is informed by the many uses of baskets in indigenous California culture. The exhibition includes burden baskets, cradle boards, vessels used in acorn collection and preparation, and baskets designed and used for trade. Contemporary baskets created by Linda Aguilar and others will demonstrate the link between past and present.

Coinciding with the Catholic Church’s canonization of Fr. Junípero Serra, founder of the California missions, “Interwoven” and its programming encourages visitors to examine the state’s history to explore not only the legacy of the missions on Native American culture, but to consider ways to move forward for justice and healing.

The Thacher Gallery offers free tours to schools and groups. In addition, the gallery is co-host to a series of free public events exploring Native American culture and issues ranging from literary arts to education, environmental issues to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). The first two opening events include:

  •     Friday, August 28, 4-6 p.m.: Opening celebration with an Ohlone Blessing, basket-weaving demonstrations by members of the California Indian Basketweavers Association, and a reception with light refreshments.
  •     Wednesday, September 9, 2:15-3:30 p.m.: Catholics and Native Californians in Conversation about the Missions, Past, Present and Future, featuring Andrew Galvan (Ohlone) and Vincent Medina (Ohlone), curators at Old Mission Dolores, and moderated by Rev. Thomas Lucas, S.J.

Students from the USF Exhibition Design course led by Stuart McKee designed “Interwoven.” A complementary exhibit, “Interwoven: Indigenous Contemporary” featuring art by contemporary Native Americans living in California will follow from November 16-February 14, 2016.

Located in the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center (2130 Fulton at Parker), the Thacher Gallery at USF is free and open to the public noon to 6 p.m. daily during the academic year.

For more information about the Thacher Gallery, please visit
http://www.usfca.edu/thacher-gallery/ or contact Glori Simmons at (415) 422-5178 or simmons@usfca.edu.


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