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Reaching Beyond Tradition

Reaching Beyond Tradition invites the public to engage with Southeastern basket makers and tradition-keepers in conversation about the history, importance, and continuing evolution of this regional art form. Attendees will learn their unique stories and the roles that they play in maintaining traditions, as well as have chances to compare Kentucky’s unique tradition to those found in other parts of the Southeast, making connections that are crucial to understanding the contributions of basket making to Kentucky culture while also connecting us to the broader context of a Southeastern and global art form.

The program will include four sessions, held during the afternoon and evening hours. Each session will feature a narrative stage, with discussions guided by Folklife Specialist, Camille Acosta, with time for audience questions.

Schedule of Events

August 24, 2023

at the Kentucky Museum, 1444 Kentucky Street, Bowling Green, KY

for directions and parking information, click here


Discover the basket makers’ unique stories of encountering and becoming involved in the art of basket making and their roles in maintaining the traditions of their regions, comparing their methods and materials.

Presenters: Scott Gilbert, Bill Smith, Sue Williams

Snack break, provided by the Kentucky Museum Friends.


Discover the inspirations behind making their works, evaluating the process of different forms of basket making and how individual and community inspirations play a role in the various styles found in the region.

Presenters: Mary Ann Smith, Sue Williams

Dinner on your own.


Discusses the different roles played by basket makers in their communities, including how knowledge is shared between makers and generations as well as how makers market their works to the public.

Presenters: Bill Smith, Sue Williams, Mary Ann Smith, Scott Gilbert

Snack break, provided by the Kentucky Museum Friends.

“Continuity and Evolution”

Discusses the younger generation’s engagement with tradition-bearers, roles in fostering larger community connections and awareness of traditional art forms, and how global communication is connecting and transforming local practices.

Presenters: Emily Swinney, Micah Wiles


Meet Our Speakers

Bill and Mary Ann Smith
Mary Ann and Bill Smith
Eastern NC; formerly Birmingham, AL

Mary Ann Smith and Bill Smith have been weaving white oak baskets and preparing their weaving materials from tree to splits for well over 25 years first in Birmingham, Alabama, and now in eastern North Carolina. They were the resident basket makers at Tannehill Historical State Park for over 15 years. They also taught at the John Campbell Folk School for 20 years,  Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, as well as at Arrowmont and the Alabama Folk School for several years, but retired from teaching in 2020. As presenters, Mary Ann and Bill will discuss their roles in the white oak basket community, including knowledge-sharing and marketing of their work.

Sue Williams
Sue Williams
Morrison, TN

Sue Williams is a master basket maker, award winner, and teacher from Morrison, TN. Williams will present on her role in the white oak community, including learning from local and Appalachian regional artisans, teaching at regional schools, and the role of fellowships in promoting basket making.


Scott Gilbert
Scott Gilbert
Scottsville, KY

Scott Gilbert studied basket making with Ollie and Lestel Childress, generational white oak basket makers from Park City, Kentucky. He began teaching workshops in 1984, and continues passing on traditions today as webmaster, photographer, and artisan for The Basket Maker’s Catalog in Scottsville, Kentucky, and with the Mammoth Cave Basket Makers Guild in Hart County. Gilbert will speak about his role in the community and maintaining basket making traditions throughout the Southeastern United States.

Emily Swinney
Emily J. Swinney
Marshall, NC

Emily Swinney has studied basket making for over 22 years, focusing on experimenting with different natural materials including Black Ash, White Oak, Rivercane and Palm Fronds. She has taught basketry and hand weaving for twelve years, and currently lives near Marshall, NC, where she focuses on classes at summer camps and after school programs. Swinney will present about her journey in basket making, including learning from various makers and combining different techniques to create her own practice. She will also discuss her view of basket making and ideas for continuity and evolution.


Micah Wiles
Micah Wiles
Somerset, KY

Micah Wiles is an agriculturalist and basket maker from Somerset, KY, who currently manages Cedar Creek Farm. Wiles first learned basketry while at college in North Carolina and continued his studies with makers in Kentucky, Tennessee, Maine, Romania, Ireland, and England. Wiles will present about his role as maker in a younger generation, addressing ideas for continuity, evolution, and creating connections with the global community.

Camille Acosta
Camille Acosta
Kentucky Folklife Program

Camille Acosta is a native of El Paso, Texas, and graduate of WKU's Master's in Folk Studies program. She is the Folklife Specialist with the Kentucky Folklife Program, and has been active in the world of folklore studies and narrative performance all her life. As Folklife Specialist, Acosta aids in coordinating the Kentucky Folklife Program’s day-to-day management which includes program coordination, grant writing, cross-cultural event organization, statewide outreach, as well as serving as a mentor to Folk Studies students. 


Micah Wiles holding basket

Basket created by Micah Wiles

Scott Gilbert basket

White Oak Dzong by Scott Gilbert


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 Last Modified 8/17/23