University of Minnesota Duluth block M and wordmark

Awed by Nordic Art

More UMD News Articles

Students on the steps in Vigeland park
UMD students Erin Gorski, Ava Heinrich, and Sonya Nayar work on their visual art journals in Gustav Vigeland's Oslo Sculpture Park.

Color and Light in Sweden and Norway: Study Abroad

Colin Garrelts chose Edvard Munch as the topic for his blog entry and for his tour guide talk.
Hannah Farmer (left), one of the students in the new graphic design/marketing major at UMD, had the opportunity to spend time with IKEA designer Sarah Fager.

"Art is integrated into Scandinavian society. It's unavoidable. You see it in art and design studios, galleries, schools, museums, public buildings, restaurants, signs, and parks."

Fourteen University of Minnesota Duluth students plunged into a two-week Nordic Art study abroad adventure in May 2014. The students were welcomed, by not only art, but Scandinavian people and culture in Växjö, Sweden; Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway. Each day was filled by meetings with gallery owners, artists, graphic designers, museum educators, university faculty, and university students. Train and motor coach trips immersed the travelers in the life of world-class cities and the countryside.

The class explored hundreds of years of history. The Växjö Cathedral, with its foundations in the 12th-century; Stockholm’s Gamla Stan, one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe; and Oslo’s Karl Johans Gate, which dates back to the 1500s, were only three of the many historic sites visited.

The class called for a high degree of participation. The students kept a journal of visual art and written reflections. They each became a tour guide for one of the places on the trip itinerary and they all contributed photos and reflections to the trip blog: Sweden Norway UMD 2014. The website structure of the blog was built by student Justin Anderson and one day after the blog was posted it had over 1000 hits.

Students Justin Anderson, Lydia Brewster, Hannah Farmer, Colin Garrelts, Erin Gorski, Karlee Hanson, Ava Heinrich, Eva Mueller, Sonya Nayar, Connor Nelson, Jenny Pilcher, Erica Preister, Lizy Richardson, and Jon Roth joined trip leaders Professor Alison Aune and Cheryl Reitan on the journey.

The students came from a variety of majors and minors including studio art, art history, education, and the new design/marketing major. Their interests were varied — costume design, fashion design, Viking history, Norse mythology, photography, and other areas — and it made a for a lively and academically rigorous experience.

The bombardment of unique and beautiful art and design was overwhelming, in a good way. Most notable were the Scandinavian masterpieces by Gustav Vigeland, Edvard Munch, Nils von Dardel, Anders Zorn, Eugène Jansson, Carl Milles, and Carl Larsson. International artists, Robert Rauschenberg, Paul Gauguin, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Auguste Rodin, to name a few, offered much inspiration.

This trip presented the distinctive opportunity to visit design firms, the most prestigious being IKEA at its corporate home in Älmhult, Sweden. There a training manager and an IKEA designer gave a behind-the-scenes look at how a product goes from the sketchbook, to research, to product development, to production, and then to every store in the world! Stockholm Graphics and Oslo's Ernö advertising agencies presented a colossal amount of information about themes, fonts, design considerations, and management. Mostly they dazzled their Minnesota audience with examples of their powerful work.

The theme of the trip was "Art for All," and it became a common occurrence for students to point out examples, such as a traffic barrier shaped like a lion or an unusual door handle. "Art is integrated into Scandinavian society. It's unavoidable. You see it in art and design studios, galleries, schools, museums, public buildings, restaurants, signs, and parks," said Aune. Linneaus University's classrooms, Plan B art gallery, the home of ceramic artist Annika Olafson, the children's art room at the museum Waldemarsudde, and many more places exemplified the Scandinavian style of abundant light, bright colors, the use of wood and stone, and simple yet elegant furnishings.

Heinrich agreed. "Glassware as art has become a part of Swedish daily life. Finding beauty in everyday items and household décor remains an important and perpetuated Swedish tradition."

For more information about the UMD International Education Office, contact: 218-726-8764 or see

Sweden Norway UMD 2014 more...

Connor Lydia Erica
Connor Nelson (here with his Swedish shadows) photographed, sketched, and gave a talk about Gustav Vigeland's sculptures. Lydia Brewster shared the story of Swedish artists Carl and Karin Larsson. Carl painted the domestic life of the home Karin decorated and furnished. Fairy princesses, elves, and trolls were Erica Priester's domain. Erica researched Swedish illustrator and children's book author, John Bauer.
Ava Eva Jon
Ava Heinrich, here at the medieval Kronoberg Castle, was interested in Sweden's Crystal Kingdom, the glass industry that dates from the 1700s. Eva Mueller, a UM-Twin Cities grad, was the Viking expert. She was an excellent guide when it came to interpreting the two runestones the group encountered. Jon Roth was the guide on the topic of Sami artist Lars Pirak. There was a good selection of Sami art in galleries and shops in Stockholm's Gamla Stan area.
Erin Justin Lizy
Erin Gorski introduced the trip to Acne Design, an international multi-faceted company that designed its 2014 fashion line around artist Hilma af Klint. Justin Anderson shared his expansive knowledge of rosemaling, Viking ships, stave churches, ancient carving, and decorative arts. Lizy Richardson impressed the travelers with her colorful and detailed visual journal. She absorbed the art around her and made more (great) art in response.
Sonya Karlee Jenny
Sonya Nayar, (with Edvard Munch's image "Madonna") gave the group a mini tour of Oslo's most famous street, Karl Johans gate, all from Munch's viewpoint. Karlee Hanson found Carl Malmsten fascinating. This renowned furniture designer was one of the artists credited for the 1920's Scandinavian Modern style. Jenny Pilcher is surrounded by fabric designed by Josef Frank. She's at the Stockholm interior design store, Svenskt Tenn, which is famous for its bold patterns.

Sweden Norway UMD 2014.

By Cheryl Reitan, June 2014.

UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan,

Did you find what you were looking for? YES NO

Choose appearance:
[ Desktop | Mobile friendly ]