Coastal Sweetgrass: Clay & Land & Craft

Main Gallery
Public reception: Thursday, October 12, 6 – 8 pm

On view this fall, in the main gallery at Northern Clay Center, is an exhibition curated by Chotsani Elaine Dean—Coastal Sweetgrass: Clay & Land & Craft.  

Artists featured in the exhibition are Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson and Ashlyn Pope.  

Curator Statement
“The importance of this exhibition is to center the craft tradition of sweetgrass baskets of the Gullah/Geechee culture. It is also to examine the diverse traditions of their culture and identity how they are critical to the historical and contemporary record of art and craft. It is crucial, in these times, that the historical complexity, displacement, and incomplete account and history of these people groups—their craft traditions and identities—speak into the contemporary landscape of craft while appropriately expanding and creating an inclusive narrative.  

Gullah/Geechee people, culture, and histories have existed and survived on the coast and islands of South Carolina, down through Florida, and into Tennessee, near historical major trade, natural resources, and waterways. Additionally, the artists in the exhibition, and their cultural craft traditions and relationship to land in collaboration with Dreams of Wild Health, can orient us to the knowledge of Indigenous people groups who have had to reorient their relationship to land due to the impact of colonization, forced displacement, or overuse of essential materials in their culture here in Minnesota. A question for contemplation in this exhibition: How do craft traditions help us think more deeply about the vital relationship of both Gullah/Geechee and Indigenous peoples with land, water, and non-living things that are used to preserve and carry on their culture, identity, and traditions?  

Ceramic and fiber artist Ashlyn Pope and sweetgrass basket maker Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson, both Gullah, will dialogue between media and process, from clay to sweetgrass. This exhibition, and the work and lives of the artists represented, will bring meaningful engagement with the community of visitors to the gallery and programming, provide content for educators to implement to expand the historical primary and secondary sources of craft and cultural research, and expand the curriculum for their students.  

A ceramics gallery becomes not just the site for the display and appreciation of objects, but also a hub for artists, arts institutions, diversity initiatives, information groups, and for all community members to access learning and participation in a conversation with the artists. In addition, this is an opportunity to inspire informed allies who take with them the information they learn from the artists in this exhibition outside of the gallery walls and into their communities.”
—Chotsani Elaine Dean

About the Artists

Charleston-based Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson proudly represents the rich Gullah culture through her peerless creations as a sixth generation sweetgrass basket artist. As child she studied the intricacies of basket sewing from her mother and aunt whom she attributes her commitment to continuing the traditional art form honoring her Gullah ancestors and history.   

As a 21st century Gullah, Cayetano-Jefferson is committed to keeping the legacy of her ancestors alive through education. In 2021, she was accepted into the Folklife & Traditional Arts Apprenticeship with her daughter Chelsea, and was featured in the 2020 Vandiver Gallery Exhibition at Anderson University (South Carolina). She has been creating baskets for more than 35 years and began working at the renowned Charleston City Market at just eight years old helping to sell her family’s baskets and educating visitors to the holy city. As an adult she returned to Charleston and renewed her love and commitment to continuing and teaching the noted Gullah art of sweetgrass basket sewing.  

Ashlyn Pope is an African American sculptural artist of Gullah descent working with ceramics and textiles. Her material choices stem from the traditional works of her ancestors and the influences African art has had on those traditions. She interprets her understanding of the female figure in her work and uses the form to discuss the history of object and ownership of the Black body. The political climate influences her drive to represent mental and physical confinement, restriction and limitation of the Black body throughout American history and the hope and vision to realize a different future. Pope received her BFA from Kennesaw State University (Georgia) in ceramics and printmaking and her MFA in ceramics from Penn State University (State College) in 2019. Pope is currently an assistant professor at Coastal Carolina University (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina).

Related Events

Coastal Sweetgrass: Clay & Land & Craft Workshop and Discussion
X16: Wednesday, October 11, Time TBD
FREE, NCC Library and virtual  

Coastal Sweetgrass: Clay & Land & Craft Artist Panel with Chotsani Dean, Ashlyn, Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson, and Chelsea Cayetano
X17: Thursday, October 12, 5 pm CT

Virtual Tour


Purchase Work

A selection of work from the exhibition will be available to purchase directly from our website after the exhibition opens. If you would like to enquire about work not online, please contact us at 612.339.8007, or, we’ll be happy to help!