2017 Bernard Osher Lecture

2017 Bernard Osher Lecture

Keeping Tradition Alive: Native American Art Ecology in Maine and the Nation with Theresa Secord

Theresa Secord (Penobscot, born 1958) Barrel Basket, 2015, ash, sweet grass, and cedar bark, 8 1/2 x 4 inches. Museum purchase with support from the Friends of the Collection, 2016.5

It wasn’t long ago that one of Maine’s oldest art forms—ash and sweet grass basketry—was in danger of disappearing entirely. Activists and advocates from the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet, and Micmac tribes saved the tradition through a long, hard-fought struggle, preserving a crucial piece of the region’s cultural heritage. One of the people at the fore of this movement was Theresa Secord, an activist, arts preservationist, and renowned artist—with work in the PMA collection—who has led creative change throughout Native American communities since 1988. In this very special lecture, Secord shares this story, as well as insights from her decades of experience advocating for artists and the arts from Maine to Hawaii. Named a 2016 National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, she will give examples of national models in her current work with indigenous foundations and tribal governments, in which she helps build better infrastructure for culture bearers and emerging artist entrepreneurs within tribes across the Nation.

Theresa Secord bio:
Theresa Secord is a traditional Penobscot basketmaker.  After earning an M.S. in Geology, she returned to Maine to work for her Tribe, heading up a mineral assessment program on 300,000 acres of Penobscot and Passamaquoddy lands gained in the 1980 Maine Indian Land Claims settlement.  In 1988, Theresa began an apprenticeship with Elder basket maker, Madeline Tomer Shay, one of the last speakers of the Penobscot language.

Determined not to watch her Tribe’s art fade into history as well, Theresa led the founding of the MIBA to help save ash and sweetgrass basketry in the Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmac Tribes in Maine. In October 2003, she became the first U.S. citizen to receive the Prize for Creativity in Rural Life for her work, granted at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.  Since then, she has received many honors and awards for her work and basketry including at Santa Fe Indian Market and the Heard Indian Market where she has been actively selling her art for several years. In 2009, Theresa was named a Community Spirit Award recipient by the First Peoples Fund and in 2010, she was honored to present a keynote address at the Indigenous Weavers International Symposium in New Zealand.  Theresa was named the 2011 Traditional Arts Fellow for Maine and was a member of the board of the Maine Arts Commission. She is currently the a trustee of the Maine Historical Society. She consults to the First Peoples Fund and the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation in Portland, Oregon, helping to build better infrastructure for Native American artists nationwide.

The annual Bernard Osher Lecture Series is made possible by the Peggy and Harold Osher Endowmment at the Portland Museum of Art.

Hannaford Hall, Abromson Community Education Center, University of Southern Maine
GPS Address:
88 Bedford Street
Portland, Maine 04104

From I-295 (north or south bound)
Take Exit 6B (Forest Avenue North). Turn left at the first light and proceed until you see the skywalk over the street. Drive under the skywalk and turn left onto Surrenden St. to enter the garage. The Abromson Center is attached to the garage.

From Brighton Ave
At the Law School (on your right), bear left onto Bedford St. then turn right onto Surrenden St. to enter the garage (just before the skywalk). The Abromson Center is attached to the garage.

Parking is available for free in the parking garage attached to the Abromson Center.

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