Bowling Green Gallery Hop makes stop at Kentucky Museum

Julia Adams

On Friday an exhibition at the Kentucky Museum showcased the work of basket makers from Hart County as a part of the Bowling Green Gallery Hop in an exhibition called “Standing the Test of Time: Kentucky’s White Oak Basket Tradition.”

The idea of the exhibition came from the 2013 basket making gallery at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The gallery featured three Kentucky basket makers including Scott Gilbert, husband to Beth Hester, co-curator of Standing the Test of Time, also a featured artist at the exhibit.

Hester, along with the Kentucky Museum director, Brent Björkman, wanted to see a basket-making gallery come to life in Kentucky.

From conception to finalization, the exhibition took a year to complete. 

“Everybody pulled together to make it happen,” Hester said. “We have a great staff at the museum.”

The gallery features the Childress family, who have passed the knowledge of basket-making through four generations, as well as other basket makers from Kentucky, such as Hester and Gilbert.

“I just wept because I think they would’ve been really proud to be honored this way,” Hester said after seeing the exhibition come together.

“It was interesting to work with the museum staff,” Hester added. “They are wonderful people. That was a great experience for me.”

Hester said the most difficult part of creating the exhibition was telling the story.

“There’s so much to tell,” Hester said.

Hester hopes the gallery shows how culturally significant basket-making is to Kentucky. 

“It’s been an honor to be involved in this,” Hester said. “Hopefully it will broaden the view of basket-makers.”

Brent Björkman started as the director of the exhibition 18 months ago. He also works as a folklorist.

“I wanted to document and present the heritage of the Commonwealth,” Björkman said.

Björkman studied basket-making in Sweden and has known the Kentucky basket-makers featured in the gallery for 17 years.

Bjorkman started the project with Hester.

“We let our love of basket-making and these people, and this region set our course,” he said.

Björkman noted that the gallery shows the change in basket-making from “utilitarian” to “highly decorative pieces of art.”

Björkman said he enjoyed “validating the talent and the memory of the people that came before us.”

Although finishing the project took several months, Björkman said his love for the project made it enjoyable rather than challenging.

“There are a lot of moving parts to any exhibit,” Björkman said. “We had to coordinate all of the basket collection donations.”

On Saturday, Nov. 12, there will be a Basket Celebration at the Kentucky Museum from 1-3 p.m., with basket-weaving activities. Visitors are welcome to bring their baskets.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, the museum will host an event called “Christmas in Kentucky,” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is free to the public. 

Reporter Julia Adams can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaSkyeAdams.