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Arland O. Fiske: The American Swedish Institute

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Columns Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
(218) 333-9819 customer support
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

One of the proud places in Minneapolis is the American Swedish Institute at 2600 Park Avenue.

It was founded in 1929 by Swan J. Turnblad “to promote and preserve the Swedish heritage in America.” It has an excellent publication called the “ASI Posten” that appears 10 times a year. The institute is headquartered in one of the most elegant buildings in the Middle West.

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Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, you might want to get acquainted with this organization if you are of Swedish background or if you are interested in Scandinavian culture.

However, those who live in the Twin Cities have many direct benefits: free admission to the museum, invitations to special events and exhibits, discounts on gift purchases, language study and travel discounts, besides a subscription to the newsletter.

One of the special features to the “Posten” is the column titled “Sag Det Pa Svenska!” (“Say it in Swedish!”). Did you know that “en forening” means “an organization? Or that “en ordforande” means a “chairman?” Or that “en dragspelare” was an “accordion player?” By studying these columns each month, a person can gain a good working Swedish vocabulary in a couple of years.

The Institute offers scholarships for young people who attend the Swedish Language Village called Sjolunden. It’s part of the Concordia College International Language Villages. Besides the two-week and the four-week study programs in Minnesota, it also offers a month of traveling in Sweden.

The Institute offers classes in the Swedish language, folk art, folk fiddling and Swedish exercises. In 1985, the year of Bach, a special nine-week class on the famous composer was held. Travel to Sweden is an important part of their ethnic heritage. The Institute promotes tours.

As would be expected, the Swedish Lucia Festival (Dec. 13) is a gala event in the Institute’s social program. Young Swedish women dress up in their prettiest to compete for the crown. Tickets to this event are limited, and every year is a sellout.

The Institute is a member of the Swedish Council of America that sponsors Swedish Week and publishes a quarterly journal titled “Sweden and America.” In 1984, Swedish Week was celebrated in Seattle. His Royal Highness Prince Bertil of Sweden was named America’s “Swede of the Year.” The “Great Swedish Heritage Award” was presented to actress Ann-Margret and Nobel Laureate Glenn T. Seaborg.

The Swedes are rightfully proud of the late Raoul Wallenberg for his heroic efforts to save more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews from Nazi death camps. The Institute featured an exhibit of his work in 1985. When you go to Minneapolis, it would be worth your time to visit this fine center of Swedish culture. I have been a member of the American Swedish Institute for several years.

I have a great admiration for Sweden and the Swedish heritage. But then, I’m probably prejudiced. We have a charming daughter-in-law and three handsome grandsons who claim the Swedish heritage.

Next week: News from Norway.

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ARLAND FISKE, a retired Lutheran minister who lives in Moorhead, is the author of 10 books on Scandinavian themes, including 2012’s “Sermons in Psalms.”

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