Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art

 African Origins of an American ArtOn Display June 17 – August 10, 2013

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and in celebration of Juneteenth, proudly presents Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art from June 17 – August 10, 2013.  On Thursday, June 20th, the Museum invites the public to its FREE grand opening event, beginning at 6 pm with a presentation by Lois Beach, an expert on basket making with 25 years of experience.  Her demonstration talk will be followed by a reception and gallery viewing.

This exhibition traces the histories of coiled basketry in Africa and America and explores the evolution of an ancient art. Featuring baskets from the low country of South Carolina and Georgia as well as from diverse regions of Africa, the exhibition traces the story of coiled basketry from the domestication of rice in Africa, through the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the Carolina rice plantation, and then into the present day.

Visitors to the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History will experience diverse artifacts including baskets, basket-making tools and, historic rice cultivation artifacts. Grass Roots highlights the remarkable beauty of coiled basketry and shows how the market basket can be viewed simultaneously as a work of art, object of use, and container of memory. In this exhibition the humble but beautifully crafted coiled basket, made in Africa and the southern United States, becomes a prism in which audiences will learn about creativity and artistry characteristic of Africans in America from the 17th century to the present.

This exhibit was made possible in part through Hotel Tax Revenue funded from the City of College Station through the Arts Council of Brazos Valley, through underwriting provided by the William Knox Holt Foundation and by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and is being toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance. Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art was organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City in collaboration with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, SC. It was co-curated by Chief Curator Enid Schildkrout, Museum for African Art, and Curator and Historian Dale Rosengarten, College of Charleston. The exhibition is toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance through NEH on the Road. NEH on the Road offers eight different exhibitions for small to mid-sized communities across the country. Mid-America Arts Alliance was founded in 1972 and is the oldest regional nonprofit arts organization in the U.S. For more information, visit or


Painting - Sweet Grass Baskets I by Donna Brass

According to Donna Brass, the artist: “Her ancestors were sold in a brick slave market in old Charleston. Now she worked here making and selling beautifully crafted baskets of sweet grass. She passed away not many months after sitting for [me].” For more information please visit: