Our granddaughter went to an event for pre-schoolers at the American Swedish Institute last week searching for 'tomte' (elves) hidden throughout the Turnblad Mansion and had such a good time we decided to make a family visit yesterday so she could show and tell us all about it.
The new Nelson Cultural Center addition opened last year, giving them more space for their many classes and events, plus a new gift shop and outstanding restaurant FIKA. Looking for something to do with kids/grandkids? Check out their events, programs and classes... fun for all ages!
The American Swedish Institute started its life when the Turnblads donated their private home to the American Institute for Swedish Art in 1929. The stunning mansion is still the centerpiece of the Institute. At Christmastime rooms are decorated for holiday entertaining, representing traditions in 5 different Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark). This year they also include Mexico, to honor the diverse community of the Minneapolis Phillips West neighborhood where the mansion is located at 2600 Park Avenue.
We found ourselves ooh-ing and ah-ing as we entered the beautifully decorated mansion. The woodwork is amazing, as are the ornate ceilings. One of the docents told us that 20 volunteers come and 'swiff' clean all the wood every week... it takes the 20 of them half a day! No wax or polish... just swiffing off the dust, and the wood just gleams.
The Swedish room was the original dining room, which has the most ornate wood carvings in the mansion. My understanding is they believe the carving was done in place... amazing!
There are eleven distinctive tile stoves which resemble fireplaces throughout the house, which the Turnblads purchased from Sweden to heat the home. They are all unique, and were developed in Sweden to heat more efficiently and burn less wood, which was in short supply... conscious energy efficiency from a hundred years ago.
I love the icy feel of the Iceland room and the contemporary design of the Finland room. Check out videos about traditions in all the countries online at Jul to the World. They have been decorating the annual holiday rooms for about 30 years, expanding from just the table to whole rooms and the whole mansion.
It made me smile when I saw a hand-written recipe for BACON FOAM... not quite sure what it is! My guess is you won't find it in their contemporary restaurant FIKA, which was even recognized in the New York Times. Locals obviously know about it because it is always busy. They don't take reservations, and we were told it would be about a two-hour wait... people were waiting... a good excuse to go shopping in the gift shop!
This was a fun visit for all ages. Our grandkids wanted to go back up to the 'kid room' off the ballroom on the third floor... they loved playing in the kitchen and shop with a window to sell their treats.
The American Swedish Institute (ASI) has programs, events and exhibits for all ages throughout the year. The upcoming papercut exhibits sound amazing... Danish-Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle January 25-May 25, 2014... and Minneapolis artist Sonja Peterson who will create an original piece as ASI Resident Artist in February.