Housed inside a Spanish Colonial–style former church, The Museum of Russian Art exudes an aura of hushed reverence—sunlight streams through Romanesque windows, and arches frame the museum’s collection of paintings and sculptures. The lofty setting is ideal for an art collection that spans eons, from unearthed Byzantine-era golden urns to paintings depicting a turbulent post-Stalin Soviet Union.
The Museum of Russian Art bills itself as the only museum on the continent dedicated to preserving Russian art. It continues to do so by collaborating with museums in Russia and the United States, recruiting artifacts, accumulating artwork, and reassembling hopelessly jumbled Matryoshka dolls for its ever-rotating collection. In tandem with the museum’s collection, curators strive to illuminate Russian culture by hosting lectures from scholars of Russian culture and leading free one-hour tours each weekend.
Who would build a castle in Minneapolis? In 1908, the Turnblads did just that on Park Avenue. The Swedish immigrant family constructed a mansion complete with detailed woodcarvings done by hand-selected artists and a barn/carriage house where the family housed some early automobiles and one horse that was starting to get really insecure about his job security. But the king and queen of this castle were benevolent. Just 21 years after the mansion's construction, the Turnblads gave over the house keys to the community for the organization that would become American Swedish Institute.
Today, the mansion and its grounds still stand as a tribute to Swedish and Nordic culture?both past and present. Guides lead tours into the historic home as well as through the more contemporary Nelson Cultural Center. Its 34,000 square feet includes a modern art gallery featuring rotating exhibits that showcase photographs, paintings, and other works of art from Sweden and her Nordic neighbors.
The American Swedish Institute also regularly hosts performing-arts presentations and educational programs, including Swedish language classes for all levels. But to truly get a taste of authentic Swedish culture, all one really needs to do is take a bite of the seasonal Nordic-inspired cuisine at Fika, the onsite cafe praised by such publications as the New York Times.
Other places to explore include a Museum shop with Nordic goods as well as a reading room filled with books from Swedish and Swedish American authors.