1 of 3
Strawberry Hill MuseumLocal artist Marijana Grisnik is dedicating a new painting to the Strawberry Hill Museum in honor of its 25th anniversary this month. Marijana’s new oil painting shows nuns who are retiring to the orphanage on Strawberry Hill after shopping.
2 of 3
Strawberry Hill MuseumA rural setting is one of the subjects of paintings by Mike Savage currently on display at the Strawberry Hill Museum. Savage, a native of Wyandotte County, attended St. John’s grade school on Strawberry Hill.
3 of 3
Strawberry Hill MuseumWorks by Geri Stewart, including this garden scene, are currently on display at the Strawberry Hill Museum in Kansas City, Kan. Stewart has worked on designing Christmas decorations at the museum, and enjoys painting in different media. She also has recently been building puppets for the StoneLion Puppet Theater.
Strawberry Hill Museum
Strawberry Hill Museum
Strawberry Hill Museum
For 40 years, local artist Marijana Grisnik has been telling the story of the customs, traditions and everyday way of life in the past on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kan.
She will be dedicating a new painting to the Strawberry Hill Museum this month, in mid-July, as the museum celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Grisnik has created 250 paintings of Strawberry Hill, focusing almost exclusively on that topic of local customs, and her name is synonymous with Strawberry Hill history. Her paintings begin in the 1940s and in many cases, represent her memories of growing up on the Hill.
“It’s very important, especially to Wyandotte County,” Grisnik said about the Strawberry Hill Museum. “These are the people who came here and who built the county up.”
The contributions of many ethnic nationalities, immigrants who contributed to the culture of Kansas City, Kan., are on display at the Strawberry Hill Museum at 720 N. 4th St., Kansas City, Kan. The museum exists largely because of the dedication of volunteers.
Last week, a Colorado couple made a special stop to see the museum, and large bus tours also come through regularly to see it, she said. Some visitors come to see the architecture of the old Victorian mansion, while others are interested in the stories of the ethnic people who came to live on the hill and in Kansas City, Kan., she added.
Marijana’s new oil painting shows nuns who are retiring to the orphanage after shopping. Two nuns are in the foreground of the painting walking on the sidewalk, while in the background are some houses on Ann Avenue on Strawberry Hill, where a woman is on the porch praying the rosary.
“I chose that one because the museum was an orphanage when I was a child,” Marijana said. The sisters depicted in the painting are Sister Valamira and Sister Pulharia, she said. “Sister Valamira was one of the Croatian girls who grew up on the Hill and she taught at St. John’s at almost every level, and became principal of St. John’s. Sister Pulharia taught third grade and was one of the sweetest teachers.”
Born in a little house on Strawberry Hill, Marijana (Croatian for Mary Ann) attended St. John’s grade school and Bishop Ward High School. She had no formal training in art, and no education beyond high school. A self-taught artist, Marijana was asked to paint in the first Folk Life Festival for Kansas, and has 45 paintings in the permanent collection of the Kansas State Historical Society. The society made a book featuring her paintings, “Images of Strawberry Hill,” and also, she has had 25 one-woman exhibitions throughout the United States, as well as two in Croatia. Two of her paintings were chosen by the Balch Institute of America for a three-year exhibition that toured the United States. She has traveled and spoken at universities and schools.
Now, a website featuring her paintings is online at the historical society, and it is used by teachers and students in history classes. The history classes may help to inspire students to think about their own history and try to preserve it a little, she said. The website is at http://www.kshs.org/p/online-exhibits-marijana-introduction/16418.
Her own memories of Strawberry Hill now have become part of the widely accepted history of the area.
Currently, Marijana is working on her next project, a painting about memories of old Croatian songs. On the canvas, she said, are depictions of two old Croatian songs, a rocking chair and a grandpa holding her and singing songs in Croatian.
"I think we all have the same memories of growing up on the Hill, but for some reason I think I was just given this, to be able to do this,” she said. Asked if it was a talent that she was given, she said, “I don’t look at it as talent, it’s just something I’ve been given to do.” The Kansas State Historical Society’s book and website, however, says it’s an “extraordinary talent that has been recognized by scholars and laypersons alike.”
She has focused almost exclusively on Strawberry Hill as a topic throughout her 40 years of painting.
“It’s just something that’s inside me, and something that I care about,” Marijana said. “I paint what I love and what I know, and that’s what I know.”
While many of the Croatian-Americans have moved from Strawberry Hill, starting when I-70 was redesigned and took out about 250 houses from the Hill in 1956, Marijana said she sees some young people coming back. Some are fixing up old houses and planning to live there.
As an example, a young man recently bought three lots there and is building a new home, she said. He grew up in another city, and visited the Strawberry Hill Museum. He and his future wife were so taken with the neighborhood that they had a wedding at a little pagoda and wanted to buy a home on the Hill, she said.
“They want the feeling of a neighborhood, and they like the people here, the people are nice,” she said.
The museum, the former St. John’s Orphanage, also was known as the Cruise-Scroggs home before its use as an orphanage. It was built in 1877 by an attorney, John Scroggs, for his wife, Margaret Cruise-Scroggs, according to the history of the museum. The home became an orphanage in 1919 and the orphanage became the Strawberry Hill Museum in 1988. It currently is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; there is a $7 admission for adults and $3 for children.
Grisnik’s new painting is not the only artwork that is on display this month at the Strawberry Hill Museum. Also on display are paintings by Mike Savage, who attended St. John’s school on Strawberry Hill, and Geri Stewart, who designed some of the museum’s Christmas decorations.