In March 2020, the American Swedish Institute and Redlbl’s Chris Birt launched a spectacular exhibit celebrating the Swedish experience in America.

Inspired by an illustrated book, Extra\Ordinary. The American Swedish Institute. At Play has just re-opened to the public. And we can’t wait to re-engage in a little socially-distanced horsing around. Please click here for more visitor information.

Pictured: Guests play in a ball pit (closed due to COVID-19) set up in the Swedish Institute’s ballroom at “The American Swedish Institute. At Play,” a multi-layered exhibition that takes visitors through a scavenger hunt-like tour of the museum. PHOTOS: ANTHONY SOUFFLE – STAR TRIBUNE

Mother & Child Reunion

The first chapter of the exhibition story began with a book created by the mother and son team of Tara Sweeney and Nate Christopherson — A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute — which is a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award.

Art and Culture Critic, Alicia Eler, covered the opening with an above-the-fold multi-page feature in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Extra/Ordinary: The American Swedish Institute. At Play” pairs the work of Sweeney and Christopherson with artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection, such as a butter tub and original wood carvings, arranged in scavenger-hunt-like fashion throughout the institute’s original home, the Turnblad Mansion.

“Some of the objects are more ornate than others,” said Erin Stromgren, ASI’s exhibitions manager. “For the most part, you could say the objects are ordinary, [but] once you get the story behind an object, it becomes extraordinary.”

The mom-and-son team discovered oddities in the collection, like the Civil War medals of Count Ernst von Vegesack, a Swedish nobleman who fought with the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War and received the Congressional Medal of Honor. On a second-floor room of the Turnblad Mansion, their artwork about him is displayed with the actual medals and portraits of him, as if it were a room in his home.

Further intergenerational collaboration is encouraged in the kid-friendly Osher Gallery, where visitors can draw on the walls using small and giant-sized purple crayons. Christopherson has drawn quirky characters on the walls, like a life-size troll with a bulbous nose and gigantic beard, to welcome this play.

The “Extra-Short” film festival. 

It is hard for an agency to compete with a 30 foot high inflatable Dalla’ horse when concepting a theme for a 90 year old institution. But here, much like Sweeney and Christopherson, ABd tapped into the quirky zeitgeist of the Swedes to launch an omnichannel campaign.

Anchored by a series of shorts we called The Extra Short Film Festival” on Facebook, Instagram and limited OTT each spot contrasted ordinary activities, people and things with the extraordinary touch of the Swedes.

The response to our extended campaign rekindled the inner child of tens of thousands of followers across the US and Scandinavia in early 2020 and helped to assure a sell-out experience when it opened.

Proposed promotional items included a weekly copy of “Extra/Ordinary Times” which paid homage to the newspaper roots of Sven Turnblad, who built the gothic mansion in the late 1800s, and some extraordinary schwag.

The Play Continues

While the exhibit was recently re-opened in in September, advanced museum admission is required. Please click here for more visitor information and to purchase tickets or reserve a time. 

 Visitors are invited to not only discover the wonder of the featured objects and newly opened rooms in the Turnblad Mansion, but also encounter such newly added surprises as a kitchen ceiling lined with colored wooden spoons, a tub full of ships and a giant masked Dala horse.

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