Permanent Exhibit

The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago

dream-of-americaOur main exhibit, The Dream of America: Swedish Immigration to Chicago, is located on the second floor of the Museum. The exhibit explores the struggles and triumphs of the Swedish immigrant experience and asks the question: would you leave home today in search of a better tomorrow?

The exhibit follows Swedish immigrants from the arduous journey to the new world to building a life and community in Chicago. It examines topics such as why so many Swedes left their homeland and what they packed for their voyage, as well as careers they chose in the Chicago area and the social lives within their immigrant communities. Visitors will encounter authentic artifacts that reflect the experiences and perspectives of immigrants – from household items they brought from Sweden and travel items such as passports and steamship tickets to memorabilia from Chicago-based Swedish-American organizations and Swedish folk crafts produced in the United States and abroad.

Visitors meet many characters within the exhibit, including, Stina Olofsdotter, who is helping her son prepare for his journey to America in 1868; Karl Karlson, whose family arrives in New York in 1893; and Elin Hedman and her daughter Birgitta who passed through Ellis Island in 1924.

Special Exhibit in the Main Gallery


Exhibit Opening, Friday, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.
Exhibit Closing, Sunday, Jan. 13, 4 p.m.

One of the most remarkable examples of Scandinavian folk art is the painted picture indigenous to the Swedish peasant home. The commonly used name for these peasant paintings is bonader, and their provenance was to decorate the walls and ceilings of the homes at Christmas time and on feast days, thus adding a note of color and gaiety to the otherwise dark interiors. Between festivities, these canvas or paper panels were taken down and carefully kept, to become a part of the family inheritance. The collection of bonader at the Museum is a collection of extraordinary works on linen and paper, with vegetable and mineral pigments that achieve arrays of color. They were sized for specific wall spaces and hung unframed. Several of the artists were identified, and more than 100 may have practiced the craft. Donated to the Museum in 2000 by the Art Institute of Chicago, the 29 Bonader represent the eighth largest known collection. They originated in 1931 among acquisitions from world traveler Florence Dibell Bartlett of Chicago. Inspired by what she viewed as a decline in creation of folk art, Bartlett acquired pieces she found in 37 countries. She was the founder in 1953 of the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Colors of the North
By Alison Aune & Kirsten Aune

Exhibit opens, Saturday, Jan. 19, 10 a.m.
Gallery Walk, Sunday, Jan. 20, 3 p.m.
Start with Art, Friday, Feb. 22, 9 a.m. – noon
Family Night, Friday, Feb. 22, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Exhibit closes, Friday, March 15, 4 p.m.

Sisters Alison and Kirsten Aune work with textiles and mixed media to create densely patterned and colorful works inspired by Nordic textiles, designs, and symbols. They have drawn their inspiration from their Minnesota-Swedish-Norwegian heritage. As children they gained an appreciation for their parent’s cultural heritage and their collection of Scandinavian art and design. Today Alison and Kirsten live in Duluth, Minnesota. As artists they share an interest in patterns and vibrant color selections. Alison draws inspiration from traditional folk art and symbolic decorative designs that she integrates into her mixed media paintings.  Kirsten creates hand-painted and silk screen printed contemporary geometric and floral textiles.  Each honors their cultural roots and pays tribute to women’s artistic and domestic contributions to material culture.

Alison Aune is a painter and professor of art education at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her Nordic inspired paintings have been exhibited nationally and internationally. She was a Fulbright scholar to Sweden and American Scandinavian Foundation Doctoral Fellow; she has numerous awards including a Minnesota Initiative Grant, Art Educator of Minnesota awards, and a Jerome Foundation Travel Grant.  Her work is in the collection of the Växjö City Hall, the Tweed Museum of Art, the Walker, and in private collections in the USA, Norway, and Sweden.

Kirsten Aune is an artist and designer specializing in textiles. She studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is the recipient of several awards including the Jerome Foundation Travel, Arrowhead Regional Arts Council Fellowship and Finlandia Foundation Grant. Her work is in permanent collection at The Tweed Museum of Art, the Municipal Arts Collective, Växjö, Sweden, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation Duluth, The Duluth Children’s Museum and in numerous private collections in Washington D.C, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York City, North Carolina, Austria, Paris, Finland and Japan.

Special Exhibits in the Raoul Wallenberg Gallery

It’s Just Ducky! A Modern Swedish Christmas Tradition

Exhibit opening, Friday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, Jan. 20, 4 p.m.

Photo by Carl-Johan Söder

Following the Swedish tradition of watching Donald Duck on Christmas Eve, the Museum will bring back “It’s Just Ducky” in time for Christmas. The annual viewing of “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” among Swedes on Dec. 24 is a charming, unique holiday tradition that stops nearly half of the population in its tracks. That day’s activities are relegated to three time slots: pre, during, and post-“Kalle Anka.” This exhibit will delve into the history of this nearly 60-year tradition, and shed light on the show’s longevity, the show’s hosts, and even Swedish public television. Featuring personal quotes from SVT1 employees, cultural heritage historians, the hosts, and Swedish viewers themselves, the exhibit is a fun and enlightening examination into the surprising pathways where American and Swedish cultures intersect and influence each other.


Textile Bonader

Exhibit opening, Friday, Jan. 25, 10 a.m.
Exhibit closing, Sunday, March 24, 4 p.m.

Embroidered and woven bonader became very popular at the turn of the century thanks to mail-order catalogues and pattern magazines. In the beginning they were mostly found at the homes of the upper class, but as the practice spread it became more popular with farmers and workers. In these homes the bonader got center stage since paintings were unaffordable.

Sponsors of our Special Exhibits:

MacArthur for Arts and Culture at Prince