Sharing Common Roots With Art
What do Swedish and Ojibwe cultures share?
Birch bark. Both cultures use the wood in their traditional crafts, a fact that art education students learned in a presentation by art education professors Dr. Faith Clover, University of Minnesota, and Dr. Kelly Hrenko, University of Southern Maine.
The presentation was made possible through a grant that was co-written by Dr. Susan Ellingson, an art education professor. Ellingson attended the National Art Convention in 2009 and knew the presentation titled, “Birch Bark Art: A Comparison Between Minnesota Ojibwe and Swedish Immigrant Cultural Traditions” would be relevant to the Upper Midwest.
“It’s so meaningful to bring this here with so many in our region having Swedish heritage or affiliation with the Ojibwe,” Ellingson says. “It also fits well with Concordia’s theme of being responsibly engaged in the world.”
More than 50 percent of the population of the Red River Valley has some Scandinavian heritage, she says, and the Ojibwe are natives of the land.
Since both cultural groups reside in this area, teaching about Swedish and Ojibwe art could also be a lesson in social studies for the students of these future art educators.
“It is curriculum that’s relevant to where you are,” Hrenko says.
The students made birch bark engagement rings, coming from Scandinavian culture, and baskets, coming from Ojibwe culture. Hrenko hopes that uniting cultures through art will reach beyond the classroom.
“We need to work together with our hands in the classroom and in the community,” she says.
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