While Minnesota has been home to immigrants from a wide variety of countries over the state’s 150 plus years of statehood, it’s probably best known for its ties to Scandinavia. (This is true even though more people in the state actually have German ancestry.) In many communities those ties remain strong, including in Minneapolis, where the American Swedish Institute (ASI) celebrates Minnesota’s long connection to Sweden.
Housed in the grand mansion of newspaperman Swan Turnblad, ASI could be just another house museum with a great collection of art glass (Sweden is famous for its glass – think Orrefors – and ASI has a nice collection of it), but it’s not. The American Swedish Institute has always offered a range of cultural programs, classes, and museum exhibits, but in recent years, it’s become a hip venue for dining (at the modern Swedish-inspired café Fika), cocktail parties, high-profile exhibits, and special events held in both the castle (as the mansion itself is known) and a new cultural center.
Still, the elaborate rooms in the original Turnblad home are what most people associate with ASI. And, with 33 rooms, everyone is sure to find a space they love.
For example, the front entry is seldom open anymore, but the foyer is remains impressive from any angle.
There is a stunning dining room behind the foyer’s fireplace.
On the other side of the foyer, a polished hall leads to more period rooms.
The grand staircase takes visitors first to the landing with its stained glass window-wall depicting the sacking of Visby by Danish King Valdemar Atterdag in 1361, and then on to the second floor.
The second floor includes a number of rooms decorated as they were when used by the Turnblad family and others that mostly serve as gallery space.
The third floor includes a ballroom (often used for performances), a weaving room (that houses a textile display), and other spaces that now house a small history museum and a children’s area.
The architectural details throughout the house are fabulous, with highly detailed ceilings, elaborate light fixtures, and fanciful tile stoves.
No matter what show might be on exhibit at the moment (right now ASI is exhibiting photographs by award-winning Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson and modern art quilts by Swedish and American quilters), there is always plenty to see at the American Swedish Institute.