Last updated 7:45AM ET
December 13, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
New Exhibit At Southern Ute Museum Seeks To Preserve Tradition
(2008-08-08)
(Photos: Victor Locke, KSUT/SUIT Museum)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A final exhibit opening today at the present Southern Ute Museum seeks to preserve a tradition that's thousands of years old, and is carried on by a small group of Four Corner's women.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports.
BRITTNER: I CONSIDER THESE LADIES NATIONAL TREASURES THEY KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT TRADITIONAL BASKET WEAVING
VICTOR: Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum Executive Director Lynn Brittner is talking about 7 White Mesa Ute women, who she says approached her five years ago, seeking a way to pass on their knowledge of traditional Ute basket weaving.
BRITTNER: WE WANT SOMEBODY TO NOTICE US BEFORE WE LEAVE. THESE LADIES ARE IN THEIR 70'S AND THEY WANTED TO SHARE THIS KNOWLEDGE. AND THEY SAID CAN YOU KIND OF DOCUMENT US AND I SAID GREAT. SO THEY WEREN'T DOING MANY BASKETS AT THAT TIME, SO I SAID WELL IF YOU START WEAVING AGAIN WE'LL BUY EVERY BASKET YOU WEAVE. AS YOU CAN SEE WE'VE REALLY BUILT UP THE COLLECTION FROM ZERO CONTEMPORARY UTE BASKETS TO HUNDREDS.
Forty of the brightly colored baskets make up the exhibit.
BRITTNER: THEY ACTUALLY BECAME THE CURATORS OF THIS EXHIBIT, THEY PUT ON WHITE GLOVES, THEY SELECTED THE BASKETS THAT SHOULD GO ON EXHIBIT. AS YOU CAN SEE, THEY WROTE THE LABELS, SO THIS IS PURELY A UTE CURATED BASKET EXHIBIT. WE TRIED TO MAKE IT SOMEWHAT BILINGUAL.
The exhibit was assembled by Southern Ute tribal member Gary Grey.
GREY: THE CHALLENGE WAS TO PRESENT THESE BASKETS AS THEY WERE SHOWN IN THE DESIGNERS PLANS, AND THAT WAS THE MAJOR CHALLENGE.
Grey says he knew he accomplished his goal when he heard a comment by a youth that saw his work earlier this week.
GREY: AND HIS COMMENT WAS THAT THEY WERE FLOATING, AND THAT WAS THE EFFECT SEEN ON THE ORIGINAL SKETCHES FOR THE DESIGN SO I THINK I ACCOMPLISHED THAT.
The effect is accomplished through the use of wire.
GREY: TO MAKE THOSE WIRES MORE OR LESS NOT SEEN, THE FINAL STEP OF THAT WAS TO PAINT THE WIRES TO MATCH THE BACKGROUND OF THE EXHIBIT CASE, AND THAT'S WHAT REALLY MADE THE DIFFERENCE.
One wall of the exhibit area features hundreds of willow and sumac branches used in the baskets carefully placed one by one, by Grey.
The willow is methodically dyed by the women to be woven into the intricate designs and figures: colorful butterflies, patterns, a flag motif.
The darkened large screen monitor on the walls hints this is more than just a display of baskets.
Brittner confirms, it's also a multi media exhibit.
BRITTNER: WE ALSO HAVE A VIDEO, OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS, WE'VE DONE INTERVIEWS, ORAL INTERVIEWS WITH THESE LADIES, WE'VE GONE OUT TO WHITE MESA AND DOCUMENTED WHERE THEY WERE BORN, WHERE THEY'VE GOTTEN MATERIALS AND IT'S CALLED "SONGS OF THE BASKET."
The five years preparing for the display, shooting the video, Brittner says, has accomplished the women's goal of raising interest in Ute basket making traditions.
BRITTNER: SOME OF THE YOUNGER PEOPLE IN WHITE MESA, IT STRUCK AN INTEREST, SO HOPEFULLY, WHEN THEY MOVE ON TO THE NEXT EARTH LEG THEY CAN HAVE SOMETHING THAT THEY PASSED DOWN TO THE NEXT GENERATION.
And the exhibit itself, housed in elaborate high quality museum cases from Germany, will help launch the museum into its new home at the close of this decade.
BRITTNER: THIS EXHIBIT IS A PROTOTYPE FOR THE NEW MUSEUM, SO WHEN THE NEW MUSEUM OPENS WE CAN TWEAK THIS OUT, MAKE SURE THAT THE LABELS ARE THE RIGHT FONT, THE RIGHT COLOR. SHOULD BE HAVE MORE UTO AZTECAN LANGUAGE OR LESS.
While the display is of contemporary baskets, Brittner says the museum is looking for historical baskets and other Ute artifacts, to add to the museum's collection.
Ground will be broken August 22nd on the 34-million dollar Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.
The 53-thousand square foot facility, located just south of the soon to open Casino and Convention Center, is expected to be completed sometime in 2010.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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