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The Soap Factory Goes to Sweden

The building, Kraftverket, in which Kultivera is located

Earlier this month, The Soap Factory team went abroad to visit our new partners in Tranås, Sweden; Colm Ó Ciarnáin and Emma Wood from Kultivera and representatives from Nya Smaland Project and regional arts Council, Mike Bode, Jörgen Lindvall, and Jonatan Habib Engqvist. In the month of August The Soap Factory will be sending four Minnesota artists to participate in Kultivera’s residency program. During our visit we had the opportunity to not only see where the residents will be staying and working but the opportunity to visit several of the rich cultural institutions in the Smaland region which the artists-in-residence will have access to for inspiration, research, and possible collaborations.

TSF Team talking to Kultivera staff and New Smaland Representative Mike Bode in shared-use/multipurpose studio space

A peak into one of the individual studio spaces at Kultivera

The apartment building where artists-in-residence live only a few blocks away from Kultivera

Kultivera, much like The Soap Factory is located in a building that was previously used as an industrial factory. Kultivera shares the building with a number of other creative organizations and facilities including an open studio available for the local community to use, studios for local bands to practice and record, and even a performance venue that attracts international musicians. The artists-in-residence will benefit immensely from these neighbors as they provide facilities and audiences that would otherwise be unavailable.

The Gallery space at the Utvandrarnas Hus

TSF Gallery Director, Kate Arford and Kultivera Executive Director, Colm Ó Ciarnáin exploring the archive at Utvandrarnas Hus

One of the cultural institutions we visited was the Utvandrarnas Hus (The House of Emmigrants) located in Vaxjo, Sweden, only an hour train ride from Tranås. It is home to a large archive of material on Swedish emigration (including information on the Swedes that immigrated to Minnesota) and also to a unique gallery space. The artists that TSF sends to Kultivera will have access to the large archive for research and/or material if they are interested.

Image of Vandorlum courtesy of

Vandalorum Museum Director, Elna Svenle talking with TSF Gallery Director, Kate Arford and TSF Executive Director Bill Mague.

Next we visited Vandalorum, a new museum in the Smaland Region for regional, Swedish and international contemporary art and design. The museum currently consists of four buildings/galleries designed to resemble traditional Swedish drying barns, with plans to build seven more. We had the pleasure to meet with their Museum Director, Elna Svenle and discuss how Vandalorum is making connections with their local community of makers and artists and designers from around the world.

Mike Bode, Kate Arford, Emma Wood viewing the project space at the Jönköpings läns museum

The last space our partners shared with us was the Jönköpings läns museum, an art and cultural history museum with premises in central Jönköping. Jönköping is only an hour train ride from Tranås and will be easily accessible for the artists-in-residence. The museum is also home to a project space run by the local arts council. The artists the Soap Factory is sending over in August, if interested may have the opportunity to us this space for an exhibition or other projects.

Selfie of Kultivera team, Mike Bode, and The Soap Factory team

The Soap Factory is very excited about this upcoming exchange, the opportunity to visit the residency and the surrounding area was extremely valuable in understanding their program and how the artists TSF is sending in August will benefit from the exchange. We are looking forward to this continued partnership and how we will continue to work and learn from them in the future. All of us at The Soap Factory are extremely grateful to Kultivera staff and representatives of the New Smaland project for their hospitality and the time they dedicated to showing us around and sharing their program with us.

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