Celebrating Kelly Church
November 15, 2021

Celebrating Kelly Church

2021 Community Spirit Awardee

Kelly Church is Ottawa and Pottawatomi, a descendant from the Gun Lake and Grand Traverse Bands. She has an experienced master’s eye for selecting the best materials for her baskets. Church is also a recipient of First People Fund’s  2021 Community Spirit Award, which honors and celebrates exceptional Native artists and culture bearers.

“I am a black ash basket maker,” says Church. “I harvest all materials directly from the woods and forests of Michigan.”

What inspires Church’s creativity is what was passed down to her by her ancestors. “The traditional teachings that my elders have so generously shared with me are used in every aspect of our everyday Anishnabe lives."

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1. Kelly Church, 2021 Community Spirit Award recipient. Photo provided by the artist. 2. Artwork by Kelly Church. Photo provided by the artist.

Moreover, what excites Church are the life lessons that basketry offers. “Black ash basketry teaches us to work together,” says Church. “You cannot safely harvest a tree alone.”

Church teaches basketry and supports individuals in recovery from drugs and alcohol. “I worked with the Grand Traverse band for seven months teaching Black ash basketry,” says Church.

“The traditional arts are for everyone. And [they’re] beneficial for those in recovery.”

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Learn more about Kelly Church on her website.

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