Cherokee basketry traditions come to a Broadway sidewalk

Posted on 02/23/21 by Margie Sigman

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ASHEVILLE -- Broadway Street, in downtown Asheville, follows an ancient Native American trade route , so it is entirely fitting that a new kind of outdoor meeting place will be coming to this street in 2021. The Center for Craft is working in collaboration with members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (ECBI) to create a public art parklet “to preserve and advance the important craft legacy of western North Carolina.”

The parklet, affectionately known as “The Basket,” is a structure that will extend into the street in front of 67 Broadway where the craft center is located. Not only is it intended as an outdoor meeting place for all ages, it will celebrate indigenous craft traditions and serve as a welcoming gateway to a burgeoning downtown art district.

The parklet is a great example of two of the basic tenets of livability: civic engagement and teamwork. The planning committee consulted with 55 different community organizations in the city to get input from businesses and residents throughout 2020. “In this part of Asheville, we have no public outdoor spaces, not even a park,” said one resident. “Right now, if I want to meet a friend to share take-out during the pandemic, it’s a challenge to find a safe outdoor space to sit. It’ll be great when ‘The Basket’ is built!”  
    
Why is the parklet called “The Basket”? Its design references Cherokee basketry in its materials, structure, colors, patterns, and use. Even the drainage system employs elements of basketry design s , with chevron-shaped holes that will create tiny waterfalls under a steel platform between the parklet and the sidewalk.

Mary W. Thompson is the consulting artist on the project and a prolific ECBI basket maker. "Basketry, as my art form, is ever so entwined with my cultural traditions and history,” she says. “All of it directly relates to my surroundings, my homelands. The mountains of western North Carolina contain all the resources, from the cane patches by the river to the white oak saplings. The designs and the name of the pattern––'flowing water'––were a natural fit for the parklet."

The Cherokee Preservation Foundation is a principal supporter of the planning phase of the project. Interpretive text inside the parklet will emphasize one of its main themes, “We Are Still Here.” It suggests that in this very spot in the past, present, and future, indigenous craft has long been, and will always be, alive and well.

Learn more about the project on March 31st at 12PM with a virtual live conversation with the consulting artists and prolific EBCI basketmaker Mary Thompson register here: https://aarp.cvent.com/EBCIParklet

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