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 Exhibits:

Christina Juran

Friday, Sept. 29 – Sunday, Nov. 26
Start with Art, Friday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m. – noon
Family Night, Friday, Oct. 27, 4 – 6 p.m.
Gallery Walk, Sunday, Nov. 26, 1 p.m.

New Orleans-based artist, Christina Juran paints and sculpts the world around her in vibrant and bold ways. As one of six children in a close-knit family, Juran loved to study the paintings made by her Swedish Grandfather and the lovely hand-drawn cards that her mother made. Growing up surrounded by art and the great outdoors still shapes her work today. After working in New Mexico and California, Juran as returned to her hometown of New Orleans and currently resides in the St. Claude Arts District where she has helped open an arts center and gallery.

Gordon Strömberg

Friday, Oct. 13 – Sunday, Nov. 19
Exhibit Opening, Friday, Oct. 13, 6 p.m.

Gordon Strömberg is a retired garden and graphic designer who now creates collages. Gordon gets his inspiration from tings around him. He often uses things he finds while walking his dog, things form his garden or notes left on the streets. This can be grocery lists, police notes or children’s drawings and homework. They can be spontaneous or studied. Gordon gets inspired by seeing his surroundings in a fresh way. He finds discarded items that speak of our culture. Chicago street collages will adorn the walls of the Raoul Wallenberg gallery on the second floor.

Upcoming Special Exhibits:

It’s Just Ducky!

Photo by Carl-Johan Söder

A Modern Swedish Christmas Tradition

Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 – Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018

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.

This exhibit will be in the Raoul Wallenberg gallery.

Swedish Folk Paintings

Friday, Dec. 5, 2017 – Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018

The Museum’s upcoming exhibits could not be more different. In the main gallery space we will exhibit Swedish tapestry or bonader. 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.