Basketmaking at Jo Byrns High School

student made baskets and God's eye
From Ann Brown, Director of Arts Education —

Last week, the Commission’s Arts Education team made a site visit to Jo Bryns High School in Robertson County to see the Basketmaking Art Gallery exhibition that was part of a Student Ticket Subsidy (STS) grant.

student made baskets and God's eyeThe grant allowed for a 6-day in school teaching artist residency. An excellent example of a carefully planned collaboration with a teacher and teaching artist, the residency incorporated both exposure-based artist demonstrations and in-depth arts instruction with students exhibiting the basic elements of basket weaving and creating their own pieces of art. In the end, 500 students participated in this residency, and much of the school attended the exhibit to learn and show support. 100 pieces of woven artwork were created.

Student artists demonstrating basket weaving
Student artists demonstrating basketmaking

The culminating exhibit of the residency was wonderfully displayed with students’ works of art
positioned right next to the teacher’s and teaching artist’s work. Individual baskets and “God’s eyes” as well as collaborative pieces were set up in the school’s library. Two of the collaborative pieces, “Landscape” and “Human Loom” were created in sections by large groups of students. “Human Loom” was created by middle school students using their bodies as the loom and moving in a coordinated dance with pieces of fabric to create the end product.

Tammy West and Cherri Coleman brought the project to fruition after meeting at a professional development session last summer at TPAC. The two had never worked together but began talking about the possibilities of collaborating. Tammy, a visual arts teacher at Jo Byrns High School and Middle School, was looking for a way to reach students in her beginning fine arts class that would expose students to a variety of artistic disciplines. Cherri, a professional artist on the Teaching Artist Roster who specializes in dance, storytelling and basket weaving, offered just that.student made baskets

While Tammy had never done basket weaving, she thought it would be a great opportunity to learn alongside her students and empower them to teach these skills to other students. She emphasized how important it was for her students to see her continue to learn and grow. Tammy also believed the residency allowed students who might have viewed art as something less accessible and who did not have the background knowledge, to participate in a new art form. Students also explored the possibility of working with found objects from their homes and nature, further emphasizing the accessible qualities of this particular art form.

Following the success of the residency and student gallery exhibition, Tammy and Cherri have discussed collaborating again next year and perhaps incorporating additional dance/movement elements into the residency.

Bottom left, Cherri Coleman and Tammy West with student artists
Bottom left, Cherri Coleman and Tammy West with student artists