Armory Arts and Events Center, Opening Reception will be January 13th, 2024. From 1-3pm and will include an audience participation progressive basket and artist talk.
This project was made possible by support from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the National Endowment for the Arts. Below is my proposal for the grant.
Basket making is becoming a lost art form. I can help change that.
Twenty-some years ago, I was fortunate in finding a local teacher through the Bemidji community education. Since then, I have worked with instructors from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Spain, Denmark, and traveled to Ireland to learn from the authority in Irish willow weaving. I combine these traditional designs and techniques into my modern approach to useful and sculptural basketry pieces. In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to share many of those lessons through both in-person and Zoom workshops. My Scandinavian Snowflake and Whisk Broom workshops were attended by around 100 students each last year. Because of their popularity, I started filming tutorials for my YouTube channel.
With the Creative Support for Individuals Grant, I will gain the opportunity to design an inclusive program that will include a solo exhibition entitled “Woods/Water: Entwined” as well as 6 in-person workshops. The Entwined pieces will all feature natural elements - driftwood, antlers, tree barks, and grasses, combined with rattan or willow. This new work will be the largest project I have taken on to date. Together the work will evoke the atmosphere of the north woods - lakes, swamps, and forests. Adding another solo show to my resume will allow me the credentials to apply for grants and fellowships designated for mid-career artists.
The 6 workshops will be offered at reduced charge and facilitated in conjunction with organizations like MacRostie in Grand Rapids, Nemeth in Park Rapids, or Watermark in Bemidji. I’m working on coordinating with a few other regional organizations as well. I’ll prep driftwood pieces with frames to allow participants to complete a piece similar in style to Entwined, in approximately 4 hours. My goal will be 10-15 students for each class. Now with the ability to teach “live” again, I can move beyond basic “Intro” classes and teach students to build their own frames and shapes. Each step in the process will be recorded and added to my YouTube channel, from selecting a focal piece to finishing and trimming. Not only will I be expanding my reach for teaching, but also my audience for commissions and future sales.
Offering community-wide opportunities for inexpensive or free workshops, ($20 or less) I can fill a workshop, with a waiting list, every time. Unfortunately, it’s not cost effective for an artist to pay for materials, prep work, and teaching time for so little. In workshops where I include materials AND teaching time in the price, I rarely have more than 2 participants. For our less affluent counties, the costs are just too prohibitive. In the past 8 months, I was asked to teach workshops for the Beltrami County Historical Center and Menahga Community Education. Each of these organizations had received grants from outside organizations, so materials were all paid for, as well as teaching stipend for myself. Because these classes were $0-10 for participants, I had the opportunity to teach students from a 12-yr-old and her mom (Beginning Basket Making for Menahga) to a 94-yr-old WWII vet (whisk broom making for the History Center). Adults are my favorite group to teach - to help them work though their initial reservations to a finished piece they are proud of and want to show off… that’s an awesome space to be in.
During the grant period, I will showcase work-in-progress updates weekly via my social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube. Live updates and time-lapse videos have had more interactions than my other posts, so I will work on these more interactive approaches. I frequently give my audience polls and discussions that influence my final product. I’d like to include a progressive basket as part of my Artist Talk as part of the exhibition and allow attendees to weave a portion of a basket that will be come a symbols of an Entwined community.
Shannon Lucas Westrum is a fiscal year 2023 recipient of a Creative Support for Individuals grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 2023 Project- Entwined:Woods/Water