Doorway to Norway
Art at Norway House iopens up a new world
MARY JO THORSHEIM
Stepping through the main door of Norway House, the first view is the inviting first-floor location of the Norway House Gallery. People may see fascinating exhibits there during open hours. Continuing to the second floor, the Norway Art® entrance welcomes visitors who come by appointment to see and purchase an exciting variety of artwork imported from Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
Architecture is art
The functionally designed remodel of the former bank that is home to Norway House deserves recognition. Well-known architect Dewey Thorbeck incorporated Scandinavian-inspired ideas that continue in the plans for the large expansion of Norway House that will be under construction very soon.
“Hjem” means “home” (and so does “heim” in “Thorsheim,” the home of Thor).
The slogan “Kom hjem to Norway House!” invokes poignant memories of one’s family home, or dreams of a warm, inviting place, even if home was not an idyllic environment for everyone. To draw attention to the slogan, this article includes images of paintings that show some homes in Norway in contrasting settings: beside a mountain stream, on the Drammensfjord, in a working-class neighborhood in Sarpsborg, and in the old section of the city of Bergen. They represent roots, heritage, belonging, and hospitality, traditions that appear to be building blocks for the Norwegian contemporary connections of Norway House (hjem) to Norway.
Norway Art and Norway House are separate entities. The Norway Art business founded by Mary Jo Thorsheim leases space from the non-profit Norway House. Norway Art and the staff of Norway House have worked together on several creative projects to promote interest in Scandinavian art. For example, Max Stevenson and I have collaborated on several displays of art from the Norway Art collection and produced two videos.
One of the videos presents “Mountains and Valleys, Fjords and Seas.” It can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n4FEKTvb7Y.
Another film was staged in one end of the main gallery at Norway House; it records an informal conversation about selected paintings from Norway Art that represent Nordic countries. It was intended to be part of the annual Leif Eriksson International Festival (LEIF) that is sponsored by Mindekirken Norwegian Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. The LEIF events involve area Scandinavian organizations cooperative project to observe the federal holiday that marks the arrival of Leif Eriksson on the American continent (see the YouTube video at https://youtu.be/44bfBG8Izg4).
Stevenson, Norway House exhibitions director, curates regular exhibits in the Norway House Gallery that showcase a variety of artwork. Themes have included displays ranging from tapestries to paintings to photography, as well as commercial products that are well designed.
Max shared a brief description of his background: “In 2012, I graduated from St. Olaf College [in Northfield, Minn.], where I earned my B.A. in Studio Art and continued my education by taking a course in art investment and collections management through Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Prior to my position at Norway House, I worked as an art consultant at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis—as well as consulted with private clients in Minneapolis and New York City.”
Royal art at Norway House
A print from Norway that is on permanent display at Norway House is an interesting example of the graphics talent of Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway. Her interest in creating graphics was nurtured by studies with Norway’s Ørnulf Opdahl and Kjell Nupen. Opdahl had studied art at the National Academy of Art in Oslo under Aage Storstein (see photo of Norway Art’s painting from Holmsbu on the Drammensfjord by Storstein). Kerstin Stråmark Johansen, mother of Norway House Executive Director Christina Carleton, donated the print by Queen Sonja.
Fall is a season of traditional “homecoming” celebrations that are now taking a different form at schools, colleges, and universities in America, including programs online. Although such limitations on tradition may be difficult adjustments to make, we can take advantage of new electronic opportunities to “visit” favorite places like Norway and Norwegian-American organizations, add to our knowledge about subjects such as art, and let our imaginations fly with future plans and past memories. This article aims to facilitate that fun and growth. It includes ideas, photos, information, and links to online resources.
It is hoped that highlighting art activity at Norway House and the Norway Art business may open a door that will engage the many readers who are not able to physically “kom hjem” to them at this time.
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This article originally appeared in the Oct. 8, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.