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Swedish Culture

Learn About Our Dragon Story Exhibit: an Interview with Catherine Tong

Learn how ASI's new Family Gallery was made with inspiration from kids
February 14, 2022 By Lizzy Rode

Have you ever seen an exhibit made for kids by kids? The American Swedish Institute’s new Family Gallery experience is exactly that. Our Dragon Story is a unique immersive exhibit that came together with inspiration from fifth grade students at Hope Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Local artist Magdelena Mora’s bespoke illustrations join unique paper art by Bart Buch and Seth Eberle, and fabricated elements by Trent Stadler. Each component was created in collaboration with the Hope Academy students. Drawings, models, sculpture, video and picture share the creative process behind the finished experience and explore how the children fabricated and shared their stories through art and design.

Learn more about how the children fabricated and shared their stories through art and design in an interview with Hope Academy Art Teacher Catherine Tong.

How did the exhibit come to life? What was the creative process?

ASI’s team, led in this project by Lindsey Tscherne, was amazing. Lindsey brought in a number of different designers and artists to guide my students in the exhibition making process. My students were able to visit the ASI to learn about the important role of cultural centers and understand the space that they would be helping to shape. Through a number of workshops my students were encouraged to explore new ways to tell stories through art. They created models that influenced the interactive elements in the Family Gallery. They drew characters and scenes that are reflected in the paintings on the Family Gallery walls. My students sketched, cut and glued pieces that were used in a larger dragon sculpture. ASI is even hosting a grand opening for the students to celebrate their work and see their ideas come to life.

How did you collaborate with your 5th grade art students?

I worked alongside Lindsey and other ASI staff to create a plan that would provide a memorable experience for the 5th graders at Hope Academy. In a time when many opportunities are being removed from our kids due to the pandemic, ASI has stepped in with creative ways to support and inspire my 5th graders.

What surprised you in the process of making the exhibit?

I am thankful for how thoughtful Lindsey was the range of professionals she invited into the classroom, from graphic designers and exhibition managers to illustrators and puppeteers. These interactions create new categories of opportunity in the minds of my kids.

What are you most excited to see in the exhibit?

What starts with a small idea in the mind of a 10-year-old can quickly grow and provide families and children with fun experiences and new inspiration. I am most excited when I see my 5th graders grow in confidence in their personhood, in their unique ideas and capabilities.

What is something viewers may not notice right away in the exhibit?

It is easy to ask for ideas, seem to listen, but then implement your own ideas anyway, especially when the listener is an adult working with a child. ASI and partnering artists really listened to my students and let them shape many aspects of this project. The 5th graders’ ideas are woven throughout this exhibition.

Plan your visit to see Our Dragon Story or register for a Youth & Family Program today.