"extra/ordinary: The American Swedish Institute. At Play" exhibit inspired by UMP book "A to Zåäö"

extra/ordinary, the new American Swedish Institute exhibition, is on view February 29 – July 5, 2020. Media Preview is 5-6 p.m. prior to the First Look Preview Party on Friday, February 28.


The exhibit is on view from Feb. 29 through July 5, 2020.

Press Release Date: 2020-02-07T16:00:00

A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute (Nate Christopherson and Tara Sweeney)MINNEAPOLIS, MN extra/ordinary: The American Swedish Institute. At Play. is an imaginative new exhibition produced by the American Swedish Institute (ASI) in celebration of its 90th anniversary that explores 29 objects from ASI’s permanent collection and the untold stories behind them. On view from February 29 – July 5, 2020, the exhibition invites visitors to not only re-discover the wonder of the featured objects, many on public display for the first time, but to also experience the Turnblad Mansion in new ways through encounters with such fun surprises as a 20-foot-tall Dala horse and a ballroom full of balls. extra/ordinary pairs the historical artifacts, including carvings, photographs, textiles and musical instruments, with original watercolor paintings and ink illustrations by the Minnesota mother-son team of Tara Sweeney and Nate Christopherson. Get an advance look at extra/ordinary at the First Look Preview Party at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 28, launching the exhibition with live music, food and hands-on activities. Tickets are on sale now ($15 for ASI members/$20 non-members).  For additional information, visit ASImn.org or call 612-871-4907. ASI is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, MN.

Developed by ASI, the 7,500 square foot extra/ordinary exhibition transforms the historic Mansion by going beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary through unexpected and immersive museum experiences, opening select rooms to the public for the first time in decade, and the juxtaposition of objects and artwork. extra/ordinary is inspired by a new picture book A to Zäåö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute (University of Minnesota Press, 2019), and illustrated by Sweeney’s watercolors and Christopherson’s pen-and-ink drawings.  It was recently named a finalist for the 2020 Minnesota Book Awards in the children’s literature category. In the exhibition, the book’s curious characters find their way into the Mansion as storytellers who bring meaning to the stories behind the objects. The exhibition asks, “What do we keep, and why?” Over the past 90 years at ASI, museum curators have pondered this question as they’ve accessioned more than 25,000 unique artifacts that make up the museum’s object, library and archival collections. Sometimes the answer lies in who made the object, or the techniques used to create it.  Most often, however, the answer can be found in the object’s story. 

A seemingly everyday teacup becomes a treasured artifact when it’s revealed to represent one of Europe’s second oldest ceramic manufacturers. An intricate woodcarving becomes spectacular when viewed as an artwork by one of the most recognized Scandinavian flat-plane carvers of all time. New life is breathed into an old instrument when you learn that it represents an emotional link between an immigrant son and his Swedish father back home. Stories like these have made ASI’s collections a treasure to visitors and inspired stories since ASI’s founding in 1929. Now, the exhibition based on these objects and related stories, helps mark 90 years of ASI’s active contributions to the community.

The A to Zåäö book was inspired by a watercolor workshop that Tara Sweeney taught in 2016 using objects from ASI's collection. She discovered that the students were as excited about sharing the artifacts’ heritage stories as they were about painting the objects.  A Minnesota State Arts Board-supported residency at ASI in 2017 expanded the concept into a project that allowed Sweeney to focus on painting watercolors of objects that were selected by visitors. “The Salon of the Turnblad Mansion became a public studio where our progress could be viewed by visitors…whose stories and questions delighted and inspired us,” she commented. 

ASI has added Sweeney and Christopherson’s original artwork to its permanent collection and these paintings will be displayed alongside their corresponding objects in extra/ordinary. Copies of A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute are now available for sale in the ASI Museum Store. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the artists during the First Look preview party on February 28. They will return in 2020 during the run of the exhibition as part of another ASI residency in the Artist Studio on Floor Three of the Turnblad Mansion. 

Contact: Karen R. Nelson




First Look: extra/ordinary Preview Party
Friday, February 28, doors 6:30 p.m., event 7 – 10 p.m.

Be the first to catch the ASI collections at play during the First Look Preview Party for extra/ordinary. Meet the artists Tara Sweeney and Nate Christopherson who are behind the A to Zåäö book, enjoy hands-on activities, play games and listen to live music. This imaginative new exhibition at ASI invites you to experience the Turnblad Mansion like never before. Special party food and curated cocktails will be available for purchase from FIKA. 

$15 ASI members / $20 non-members

Afternoons at ASI - Book Talk, A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute  

Wednesday, March 11, 1 – 2 p.m.

Tara Sweeney, one of the artists behind A to Zåäö, talks about the book that inspired extra/ordinary. Held the second Wednesday of each month, Afternoons at ASI invites artists, experts and other fascinating folk to share their knowledge with the community. Included with museum admission. 

Family Day: extra/ordinary
Sunday, March 1, noon – 5 p.m. 

Celebrate the opening weekend of extra/ordinary with a day for all ages including make-and-take crafts, other hands-on activities and storytelling inspired by the exhibition and new book A to Zåäö: Playing with History at the American Swedish Institute. Included in museum admission.

Nordic Handcraft Workshop: Watercolor Still Life – Cups and Saucers with Tara Sweeney

Saturday – Sunday, March 21–22, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day

Learn watercolor basics and create a still life painting to celebrate the beauty of a cup and saucer. Work from your own photo or take inspiration from ASI’s historic Rörstrand porcelain. All levels of ability are welcome. $155 ASI member / $175 non-member.

Counting the Castle: Zigzag Watercolor Sketchbooks with Tara Sweeney,

Friday, April 3 and Saturday,  April 4, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day (Intergenerational Edition)

Thursday-Friday, May 21-22, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day (Adult Class)

Hunt for details large and small in ASI’s featured exhibition, extra/ordinary and document them in watercolor and ink in a pocket-sized zigzag sketchbook. Tara Sweeney leads students through two days of drawing and painting.  All levels of ability welcome. Intergenerational: Youth ages 8-12 must register with an adult; teens welcome on their own. $155 ASI member adult/ $175 non-member adult. $55 ASI member youth ages 8-18 / $65 non-member youth 8-18.  Adult class: $155 ASI member adult/ $175 non-member adult


Private Exhibition Group Tours — extra/ordinary 

Gather with friends, family or work colleagues during a private tour to experience ASI’s latest exhibition. Book tour times at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday. Add a lunch option to make it an especially memorable outing. Contact ASI at 612-871-4907 or grouptours@asimn.org to schedule.

PRESS IMAGES also available online through - https://www.asimn.org/about-us/press-room/press-gallery/extraordinary-american-swedish-institute-play


Museum Admission: $12 adults, $8 seniors ages 62 +, $6 ages 6–18 and full-time students with ID. Free for ASI members and children ages 5 and under. 

Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 

Wednesday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday Noon – 5 p.m. The ASI, FIKA and the Store are closed Monday. 


Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Full menu is served 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. 

Wednesday 8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Full menu is served 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Full menu is served 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.


Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sunday noon – 5 

AMERICAN SWEDISH INSTITUTE (ASI) is a museum and cultural center that is a gathering place for all people to share experiences around themes of culture, migration, the environment and the arts, informed by enduring ties to Sweden.  The ASI is located at 2600 Park Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55418. The Wall Street Journal called ASI “[a] model of how a small institution can draw visitors through exciting programming.” For more information, visit www.ASImn.org or call 612-871-4907.


extra/ordinary is produced by the American Swedish Institute. Lead support provided by IKEA. Major support provided by the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation, Karin Larson, Leslie Nelson, Lisa Paulson, Mike and Barb Nelson, Joanne Reisberg, Chris and Chick Lane, Laurie Jacobi and Cotty Lowry, Willow Hagens, and ASI’s members and donors. ASI’s hotel partner is the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, The Depot. The exhibition’s media partner is the Star Tribune. 

Minnesota artist activities are made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund, and a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation Minnesota. 

# # #