The American Swedish Institute
There are so many things for everyone to like at the American Swedish Institute. First, it is a castle! The historic 33-room Turnblad Mansion was built in 1908 and donated in 1929 to the American Institute for Swedish Art, Literature and Science - now known as the American Swedish Institute. Visitors enter from the modern museum side, but castle exploration is a must, up to the 3rd floor turret designed as a special reading nook for the littles. A Tomte Travels exhibit inspires writing Tomte notes and mailing them in a special mailbox. There is also a kid’s pretend marketplace on the 3rd floor with soft and wooden vegetables, baked goods, and treats found at an outdoor farmer’s market. The littles immediately set up shop, while Grandma relaxed and enjoyed the architectural details.
There is always an interesting exhibit for the museum aspect of your visit. We all enjoyed Imagine: Surreal Photography by Erik Johansson, photoshopped art with lots of whimsy and imagination. Exhibits often start on the main floor near the entrance, and wind throughout the mansion. That exhibit shows through April 28th. I am still gaga over an exhibit I saw last her on the fabric design by Gudrun Sjödén. They still carry some of her clothing line in the Museum Store.
Class offerings are also fabulous at ASI. When I visited with the kids, we were invited in to see the details of an adult woodworking class. At this writing, classes included both adult and school age beginning embroidery, Scandinavian spoon carving, legacy watercolor landscapes, intergenerational dance, waffle-making, and Finnish language.
FIKA, the cafe at ASI, serves an award-winning lunch as well as espresso and pastries, with an emphasis on New Nordic Cuisine. Lunch is served Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The counter is open with a limited menu during non-serving hours. On Wednesdays, the full menu and table service is available until 8 p.m.
KIDS AT THE CASTLE EVENT
The ASI Kids at the Castle Program is a highlight on our list of Toddler programs. Mark your calendars for the third Friday and Saturday of every month for this action-packed, kids and family creative playtime. For an hour before the museum opens to the public, families can join in on circle time, storytelling, crafts, visual play, and music inspired by the season. Suggested for ages 2-5. Adults must accompany children. Cost: $8 per family. Registration not required. For your convenience, umbrella strollers are available to check out at the ASI front desk with an ID.
MORE CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
Other children’s programs include babies at the castle, a Saturday morning language and culture program (Svenska), and a new monthly program, Starting with Slöjd, for early elementary children who are ready to start crafting! Kids will be playing with wool, wire, clay or more, exploring new tools, materials and skills that prepare kids for a lifelong love of handcraft, or slöjd. Programs suitable for students in grades K-3. Cost: $10 ASI members / $15 non-members. There are also summer camps, and a Lucia choir. Check their website for all the fun – including an infamous Easter Egg Hunt inside the castle!
Be sure to shop the Museum Gift Shop before leaving for unusual gift ideas (for yourself too)! I’m completely addicted to those Gudrun Sjödén sweaters, but there are fun socks, dishtowels, toys, and surprises.
MORE CASTLE ADVENTURES
ASI was a memorable part of our Castle Week Staycation during Spring break. We also visited The St. Paul Cathedral (God’s Castle), The Landmark Center for Ballet Tuesday, and built cardboard castles during the week.