Grantee:  Theresa Secord
Native Ancestry:  Penobscot Nation
Location: Waterville, Maine
Award:  2016 National Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Traditional Arts
Web Site:

Theresa Secord is dedicated to teaching traditional ash Wabanaki basket weaving. The Emerald Ash Borer is decimating ash trees at an alarming rate, forcing basket makers to use alternative and man-made materials in order to keep the traditional art form alive. Despite this environmental challenge, while serving as founding director for more than 20 years, Theresa Secord led the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance to substantially increase basket makers by revitalizing the art form and thereby creating new generations of basket weavers—a remarkable feat.

Another great achievement for Theresa Secord was in her work to help basket makers rise out of poverty. She became the first U.S. citizen to receive the Women’s World Summit Foundation Prize for women’s creativity in rural life in 2003. She has also invested and made a wide impact on Northeastern basket makers—Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmac—with her teachings and mentoring. In her region there are now more than 200 currently practicing basket weavers spanning four generations. Through her teachings, a few years ago Theresa pioneered the use of cedar bark overlay on ash and now one can see the technique followed and used among other notable basket makers in the Northeast region.

With funds from the fellowship, Theresa Secord plans to conduct more community workshops and aspires to create a monthly teaching program for students K-8. In so doing, she aims to engage her former apprentices to help teach and mentor. Her workshops will continue to incorporate public presentations about the sustainability of ash tress and sweet grass in traditional Wabanaki basket making. She will continue to educate communities about environmental threats and address how nature and traditional practice are vital for old-style art forms. Additionally, she plans to further explore new creative expressions for future basket weavings.

The preservation of ash basketry is still at the heart of my work . . . I weave baskets using the same wooden forms and tools that have been handed down to me from my great-grandmother.
~ Theresa Secord