An American Indian basketmaker from Princeton in far eastern Maine has won a $50,000 fellowship from the artist advocacy organization United States Artists. The New York-based organization announced 52 fellowship recipients this week.

Jeremy Frey, a 32-year-old Passamaquoddy Indian and eighth-generation basketmaker, is the only fellowship recipient from Maine. He learned weaving from his mother and apprenticed with the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, of which he is now a board member.

“My family has done it for generations,” Frey said by phone Thursday. “When you weave, you usually do it in the middle of the living room. I was staying with my mom, and she offered to teach me.”

Frey has been making baskets since 2002. He plans to use the grant money to finish a gallery that will display his work, and for travel to exhibitions where he shows and sells his pieces.

“It’s a real great thing for me, because I was in the midst of working on the gallery when I got the grant,” he said. “I’m doing it with my mom, and this will help us open this spring. I’ll also use it for travel to different shows. I go to three or so shows locally each year, and I also try to go to two shows (in New Mexico and Arizona).”

Frey is known for his hybrid baskets, which are based on traditional designs but have contemporary flair. He learned the traditional techniques of weaving brown ash and sweetgrass into baskets, and adds new styles and techniques such as unique shapes and very fine weaves.

He is dedicated to serving as a model to younger artists and to passing the tradition of basketmaking on to the next generation.

“A lot of my work is not just about making high-end baskets and selling them. I also want to pass it on to the youth,” he said. “There is a drug problem here, just as there is a drug problem everywhere. If I can give them an alternative, I feel like I have accomplished something meaningful.”

Frey and his mother will show their work together this weekend at the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine.

United States Artists fellows include artists in architecture and design crafts, and traditional arts, dance, literature, media arts, music, theater and performing arts and the visual arts. Over the past five years, the organization has delivered $12.5 million to artists in the form of direct grants.

Frey’s works have been exhibited at Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum and at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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