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August 2011

The Historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island, SC, Offers Works by Jery Bennett-Taylor

The Historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island, SC, is presenting the exhibit, The Beaufort Basket, featuring works by sweetgrass basket maker Jery Bennett-Taylor on view in the York W. Bailey Museum through Aug. 26, 2011.

This will be the first in a series of exhibits celebrating Gullah traditional art in South Carolina.

This exhibition of ten original pieces is the first revival in Beaufort of the 300-year old native island coiled “work” basketry once practiced by generations of slaves who transported the craft from Africa. This museum-quality collection was inspired by the 150-year old “Penn School baskets” that were formerly made by the men using the fibrous bulrush plant found in the marshes. This exclusive collection of original bulrush baskets in various sizes, also includes a rare and unique “Marsh Tackey” sweetgrass basket that has never before been shown publicly.

Taylor has used a certain weaving technique reminiscent of the native island style, which has separated her from other basket weavers. She says that she has tried to capture the “soul” in the ancient baskets of her ancestors to re-create an authentic representation. This exhibit will also compare original heirloom baskets from the Penn School Collection with Taylor’s reproductions.

The Penn School’s history of Sea Island basketry goes back to the early 1900’s when its founders added the craft to the school’s curriculum and later instituted a mail-order catalog business to raise revenue for the school. A recently published account of the 300-year documented history of the origin of African basket making in America is beautifully illustrated with photographs from the Penn School Collection in the book, Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art, published by the Museum for African Art.

Taylor is widely collected and is regarded as a master weaver in the circle of native Mt. Pleasant, SC, basket makers. Born in the Christ Parish Church community of Mt. Pleasant, she has been making baskets since she was five years old and is the third generation of basket weavers in her family. A resident of Walterboro, SC, she is currently the only practicing basket maker in the St. Helena Island community. A highly recognized artist, Taylor has presented workshops in many museums and has exhibited baskets in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Over the past three years, she has also become a self-taught folk artist and her paintings, which will also be exhibited, capture the essence of Gullah life growing up on Boone Hall Plantation.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 843/838-2474 or visit ((


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