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Dunn Museum cradle inspires Native artists’ new display

Terri Hom and Pat Kruse hold the mid-19th-century birchbark and quillwork cradle from the Dunn Museum’s Native American collection.
Terri Hom and Pat Kruse hold the mid-19th-century birchbark and quillwork cradle from the Dunn Museum’s Native American collection.

LIBERTYVILLE – Traditional native artists Pat Kruse and Terri Hom visited the Dunn Museum in Libertyville 16 months ago to research a birchbark cradle in the museum’s collection.

The duo focused their research on 19th- and early 20th-century artifacts with cultural ties to their heritage and use of beadwork, quillwork and birchbark. Since their visit, the artists have been working on their own birchbark and quillwork cradles and bonnets, inspired by the historic birchbark cradle in the Dunn Museum’s collection.

Their project, titled “Celebration of Life,” recently was completed and is on exhibit at the Dunn Museum through April 16. Kruse and Hom’s work, using traditional Native materials, is displayed next to the Dunn Museum’s cradle made primarily with birchbark and porcupine quills. 

“This is a rare opportunity to see the museum’s cradle on exhibit and paired with the work of present-day contemporary Native American artists,” Dunn Museum curator Diana Dretske said. “This also shows how objects can inspire traditions to continue through time.”

After their inspiring visit to the Dunn Museum, the artists proceeded with their collaboration on the birchbark quill art project. Kruse constructed a cradle using birchbark, sweet grass, red willow, birch wood and sinew. Kruse, originally from California, lives on the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is a member at Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff, Wisconsin. He has spent his life maintaining traditional Ojibwe basketry and teaching workshops. A birchbarker for more than 30 years, he is influenced by his mother and comes from a family of birchbarkers. 

Kruse was one of eight accomplished artists awarded the 2018 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Mentor Artist Fellowship. In July 2018, he began his yearlong mentorship with apprentice Hom to create birchbark quill art. The mentorship includes a collaboration of a mentor and apprentice art project to promote Native arts and cultural revitalization, and to preserve traditional art. 

Hom researched traditional Ojibwe floral patterns and quilled the cradle for the project. Ojibwe people believe children are sacred gifts from the Creator, to be protected, cherished, loved and cared for.

“Our project on display at the Dunn Museum is a celebration of the past, present and future of our children and grandchildren,” Hom said.

Hom was born in Minnesota and now lives on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation in northern Wisconsin. She is a member of Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. 

Learn more about the museum’s collection at LCFPD.org/museum.

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