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Museum plans artistic update to Viking exhibit

In this sketch of the Runestone Museum’s Viking Home Exhibit, local artist Myron Sahlberg shows how a new portrait and mannequins will be added to the display. Sahlberg will paint the portrait of live subjects wearing authentic Viking Age clothing made by St. Paul period clothing researcher Kelsey Patton. The clothes will then be placed on the mannequins. (Contributed)

The Runestone Museum in Alexandria will soon begin a $20,000 project to bring art and authentic Viking Age clothing to its Viking Home Exhibit. The theme is “Using Art to Teach History.”

“A lot of museums don’t have a focus on fine arts, and we’re trying to do that. We’re trying to use art to teach history,” said Jim Bergquist, Runestone Museum manager.

With financial support from two local couples and Legacy grant funds, the museum will collaborate with portrait artist Myron Sahlberg of Alexandria and period clothing researcher and producer Kelsey Patton of St. Paul.

Patton will make four authentic Viking Age outfits and assist the museum in acquiring Viking Age accessories. The museum will also purchase replica Viking weapons using funds from the Legacy grant.

Sahlberg will then paint a large family portrait of live subjects wearing the clothing, accessories and weapons. Local cabinet-maker Rich Kephart will make the frame.

Native Alexandrians Andrew and Brita Soderholm, who own Soderholm Oral Surgery and Implants, have agreed to be the subjects for the portrait, along with their children, Kacey, Matty and Cedric.

Sahlberg will first do study sketches that the public can watch, according to Bergquist. They are drawings or paintings of the subjects’ head and shoulders to give Sahlberg a sense of who they are and how he’s going to paint them.

The people in the portrait will nearly be life-size, Bergquist said. The canvas itself will be 5 1/2 to 6 feet tall and about 4 feet wide. It will hang in the museum’s Viking Home Exhibit area.

The museum will clothe new mannequins in the Viking home with the authentic costumes to enhance the three-dimensional display.

The museum will then invite high school art teachers to bring students in to learn how to understand the painting process. Sahlberg will create a workbook for the students that describes color choices and color harmonies.

Additional events related to the project will be announced at a later date.

The museum plans to have a grand opening for the updated exhibit in early April 2015.

For more information or to leave a comment, call Bergquist at the museum at (320) 763-3160. For more information on the artists, visit for Sahlberg or for Patton.

This project is possible in part by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Lake Region Arts Council, from a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage fund.

Jessica Sly

Jessica Sly has been working as a content writer at the Echo Press since May 2012, contributing, proofreading and editing content for both the Echo and Osakis Review. A Wadena native, she graduated from Verndale High School in 2009 and worked that summer at the Wadena Pioneer Journal as an intern reporter. She attended Northwestern College in St. Paul (now the University of Northwestern - St. Paul), where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in writing and a minor in Bible. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the piano (and learning the violin), reading, writing novels, going to the movies, and exploring Alexandria.

(320) 763-1232