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Cecilia basketmaker Leona Waddell has another recognition to add to her long list of accomplishments.
Earlier this year, one of her split white oak baskets was placed in the Renwick Gallery Smithsonian American Art Museum’s basket collection in Washington, D.C. Another basket toured with the Southern Arts Federation.
She received a letter Wednesday from Gov. Steve Beshear informing her she was recognized as recipient of the Folk Heritage Award from the Kentucky Arts Council, which is part of the Governor’s Awards in the Arts.
The recognition stated the award was given for “outstanding effort to perpetuate and promote Kentucky’s unique artist heritage.”
“I never dreamed of all this and didn’t know I was this popular,” she said.
A ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 9 in Frankfort.
Basketmaking has been something she’s always done, Waddell said, and she’s made many in her 80 plus years.
On top of other recognitions she has received in the arts community, Waddell has won first place 15 consecutive years at the Hart County Fair.
Waddell is more concerned with her garden and hopes she’s not expected to make a speech during the ceremony.
Waddell learned to make baskets from her mother but became an active basket weaver after she retired in 1996. She is known throughout the country for her baskets, which often sell for more than $1,000. It usually takes her two weeks to finish one basket.
The Kentucky Arts Council recognizes her years of experience with her craft, stating Waddell has “dedicated her life to conserving and perfecting the south central Kentucky white oak basket-making tradition” and called her work a “source of pride in the region.”
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.