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WKU Receives NEA Art Works Grant to Support Basket Weaving Community

wku red redBOWLING GREEN, Ky. (1/16/14) – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced that Western Kentucky University is one of 895 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant.

WKU is recommended for a $12,150 grant to support the creation of an interpretive exhibit series on the art of white oak basket making that will travel to rural libraries in the South Central part of Kentucky. This exhibit, titled “Weaving Community: The White Oak Basket Makers of Central Kentucky,” will be accompanied by a series of onsite demonstrations by exemplary white oak basket artists who are all members of the Mammoth Cave Basket makers Guild.

The white oak basket has been a distinct and dynamic local traditional art evolving as part of the Kentucky cultural landscape for more than 200 years. First created by rural farm families for daily use on the farm, these iconic baskets have changed over time from being utilitarian in nature or items sold along local tourist routes leading to Mammoth Cave National Park to being embraced by traditional art aficionados as some of the best representations of handcraft anywhere in the world today.

In 2012, WKU’s Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology became the new home to the Kentucky Folklife Program, a program that has a successful history of presenting and supporting the traditional arts and culture throughout the Commonwealth. WKU Folk Studies has been one of the premier folklore master’s programs in the United States and has been known for producing some of the most innovative public folklorists working in the field today. The Folk Studies Program has placed special emphasis on preparing students for folklore work in the public sector, including museums, historical preservation, and in non-profit agencies.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support these exciting and diverse arts projects that will take place throughout the United States,” Shigekawa said. “Whether it is through a focus on education, engagement, or innovation, these projects all contribute to vibrant communities and memorable experiences for the public to engage with the arts.”

“For well over 20 years the Kentucky Folklife Program has worked to document, present and conserve the traditional arts and folk culture of the state and the NEA has been a very important part of making our projects happen,” KFP Director Brent Björkman said. “The white oak basket makers of Kentucky are a cherished part of our cultural landscape and the KFP is excited that through this project we will be able to share the story of this important art form with thousands of library patrons.”

Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancing the livability of communities through the arts.

“I am delighted to see that the outstanding outreach of our Folk Studies program is being recognized in such a prestigious forum,” WKU Vice President for Research Gordon Baylis said.

The NEA received 1,528 eligible Art Works applications, requesting more than $75 million in funding. Of those applications 895 were recommended for grants for a total of $23.4 million.

For a complete listing of projects recommended for Art Works grant support, visit the NEA website at arts.gov.

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