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The Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) will debut an exhibition this summer that shines a spotlight on the tradition of Ho-Chunk Black Ash Basketry. 

Titled “Weaving a Legacy,” this comprehensive showcase marks the first-ever exploration of this historically significant and visually stunning Native American tradition in Wisconsin. 

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Opening its doors on August 3, 2024, “Weaving a Legacy” features over 200 baskets crafted by more than 40 Ho-Chunk artisans spanning from the mid-1800s to the present day. Each basket tells a story of resilience, artistry, and cultural continuity, offering a glimpse into the weaving techniques and stylistic evolution within the Ho-Chunk community. 

Curated by Ho-Chunk artist and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of Photography, Tom Jones, the exhibition not only celebrates the beauty of these baskets, but also serves as a testament to Jone’s decade-long dedication to preserving Ho-Chunk cultural heritage. 

“This project raises serious questions regarding historical and gender-based injustice, the cultural impact of tourism, and the importance of primary Indigenous-driven research to reset the art historical canon,” Laurie Winters, James and Karen Hyde Executive Director, said in a press release. “Exhibitions such as this one that enable us to draw in new audiences and viewpoints fulfill an important tenet of MOWA’s institutional mission.”

The tradition of Black Ash basketry among the Ho-Chunk people dates back to the 1820s, drawing inspiration from Indigenous weaving techniques and later incorporating European trade goods into its designs. Organized by shape and function, the exhibited works highlight the distinctive styles and innovations of Ho-Chunk artisans across generations. 

“Contemporary works establish Ho-Chunk basketry as an enduring and still evolving art rooted in uniqueness and individual expression,” said curator Tom Jones. Among the prominent artists showcased are Helen Lonetree, Ruth Cloud, and Sarah White Eagle, whose contributions have garnered acclaim in major American art institutions. 

“Weaving a Legacy” invites visitors to discover and celebrate the cultural heritage of the Ho-Chunk Nation, offering an opportunity to appreciate the craftsmanship and cultural significance embodied in each meticulously crafted basket. The exhibition will run from August 3 to November 10, 2024, at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. 

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.