History of the Minnesota Tile Festival

by Norma Hanlon

The first Minnesota Tile Festival was in 2002 on a balmy Saturday in September at the American Swedish Institute, located at 26 th Street and Park Aveune South in Minneapolis.  This event was a joint venture of the newly formed Handmade Tile Association, located in Minneapolis, and the Tile Heritage Foundation of Sonoma Valley, California.  The Saturday festival, which was a marketplace of tiles by handmade tile artistans and tile collectors, was the first of its kind in the Twin Cities area. It was attended by 700 - 800 people. It was the culmination of events of a three day tile symposium jointly sponsored by the Tile Heritage group and the local Minneapolis organization.

The first two days of the symposium consisted of seminars, tours of local tile sites and visits to local tilemakers’ studios.  Attendees of the symposium were from many states and surrounding areas in the upper Midwest.  The location for the first Minnesota Tile Festival, the American Swedish Institute, was chosen partially because of its central location, just south of downtown Minneapolis.  But the the most important reason for the choice of location  was the existence of the historic tile stoves in the ASI mansion. 

The tile stoves in the Turnblad mansion, which is the location and home of the American Swedish Institute, are renowned for their beauty and historic value.  The name for the stoves in Swedish is kakelugen.  These beautiful tile stoves are a reminder of the days when  these stoves  were state of the art in interior heating units.  They were heated with coal which warmed an interior chamber of air pipes which would radiate heat through the tile clad exterior of the stoves for many hours.  The are decorated with historic and mythological designs on the tile exteriors.  Each of the eleven stoves or kakelugen in the ASI mansion are unique works of art.

Since that first Saturday in September, 2002, there has been a Minnesota Tile Festival held every September on the third Saturday of the month.  The weather has been great for each festival.  This is an important fact because 14 tile artists set up their booths each year on the outdoors front lawn of the ASI mansion while an additional 26 tile artists display their tile arts in the lower auditorium of the mansion. 

In addition to the booths set up by the tile artists, which have come from as for away as Virginia and Seattle  to participate, there are workshop areas where people can make tiles and mosaics and  learn about design with tile ideas for their homes.

The tile festival always includes a silent auction of donated works by the festival participants and Swedish food is for sale by the volunteers of the ASI community.

Handmade Tile Association
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413

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