The Center for Craft is working to preserve and advance the craft legacy of WNC through the planning and creation of a public art parklet. Located on the ancestral lands of the Anikituwahgi, now known as the Cherokee people, and titled The Basket, the parklet will be a work of public art. The design will reference Cherokee basketry in its concept and will provide public education regarding the significance of Cherokee language and history, including the role of rivercane. In this space, downtown visitors can learn about the Cherokee traditions and culture that still thrive today.
“We are excited for this parklet to serve as a key gateway in Asheville,” says Center for Craft executive director Stephanie Moore. “We hope locals and visitors alike will enjoy having a space in North Downtown to safely gather outside, meet with friends and family and learn about the important impact of Cherokee culture and craft on our region.”
The idea was conceived in 2017, when the Center initiated the Broadway Cultural Gateway Planning Project and subsequent report with its neighbors to transform the block surrounding 67 Broadway Street into a cultural and arts destination to welcome residents and visitors. From this project, key recommendations for additional creative place-keeping efforts were put forth including the need for both public art and a parklet. In light of the demands for outdoor space brought on by COVID-19, the Cherokee basketry public art parklet also meets an even greater need and opportunity for engaging thousands of pedestrians through education about indigenous craft traditions.
“Through research we discovered that Biltmore/Broadway was built along a Cherokee trading path, meaning this path would have passed directly in front of the Center for Craft,” says Moore. “At that point we reached out to members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to see if they were interested in collaborating on the project.”
4CG, an Asheville-based landscape architecture and design firm, worked with basket weaver Mary Thompson, an enrolled member of the EBCI, and held listening sessions with the board of Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual, Inc. to inform the basket-inspired design of the space.
“Translating the art of weaving into a parklet has been a wonderful experience,” says Thompson. “Building a collaborative relationship with other artists and partners, and incorporating nontraditional materials, techniques and technology into traditional knowledge will benefit us all.”
The Center for Craft received support from The Cherokee Preservation Foundation and The Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources for the planning of the parklet. Key members of the EBCI will inform the artistic and educational components of the design.
“We are in the process of fundraising for the project and as soon as we have the full funds committed we will be able to move forward,” says Moore.