They were owned by identical twins Arvid Swenson and Aaron Swenson, who towered above her. Their love for Norwegian art had drawn them to his stall like “honey bees,” Jenson said with a laugh.
“Hi guys,” she said.
“They couldn’t even look at me and smile. They must have looked away, ”Jenson said, recalling their first timid encounter.
It was the start of a wonderful friendship and the start of what Jenson now calls “the best years of my life”.
The country twins from Flom, Minnesota have become regular visitors to her home in Milan.
The Swenson brothers are full-fledged carpenters and woodworkers. Like Jenson, Aaron Swenson is a gold medalist at the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. He is recognized for his Scandinavian woodworking, while Jenson, of course, is known for his Norwegian rosemary.
During continuous visits, the brothers transformed Jenson’s once indescribable home in Milan into the Trestuen Garden Gallery. The brothers started by attaching a studio to their hard-working artist friend after learning that she had been essentially trapped one day in the makeshift building she was using.
“One day, I slammed the door and everything happened ‘ugh’. I couldn’t even get out. I had to call Delores Thompson to throw her body against the door so I could get out, ”Jenson said, laughing at the memory.
The brothers cut evergreens in his garden and made beams in his house. Trestuen is the Swedish word for “tree room”. Their craftsmanship and hand-carved woodwork shaped the design piece by piece, and Jenson painted each in Norwegian Rosemaling and Swedish Dalamalning. Over 50 years of his craftsmanship make this house a work of art in itself, and so do the brothers’ wood craftsmanship.
“Everything is built around the love of nature,” said Ron Porep, director of the Milan Village Arts School.
The Milan Village School of Arts is now at the start of a campaign to buy the Jenson family home. The goal is to preserve the house and keep it as it has always been designed. Jenson and her husband bought the house in the 1960s and raised four children there.
Jenson, now 86, has been living in an assisted living facility in Appleton for the past few years. She makes occasional visits to the house. “Oof, it’s hard to leave him,” she said. “Every time I go back, it’s hard to leave. She said she hoped the campaign would save him.
The Milan Village School of Arts began renting out the house in March 2020, two weeks before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Porep said the goal was to rent rooms in the house to students and teachers participating in Milan Village School of the Arts programs, while keeping the house available for art exhibitions, tours and events. COVID interrupted these plans, but the mission did not.
The Milan Village School of the Arts raised $ 45,000 towards the eventual purchase of the house. The goal is to raise up to $ 400,000, with the intention of setting aside an endowment to help fund its ongoing operations and maintenance.
It might seem like a big undertaking for a relatively small, but worthy folk art school, according to Porep. “Until you see it and walk through the house, you don’t realize how special the house is.”
He is still unable to walk through the house without discovering something he had never seen before. The Milan Village School of Arts describes the house as a “masterpiece of Scandinavian design, color and art”. It includes a gallery, painting studio, master bedroom, Swedish bedroom, Norwegian bedroom, library and Swedish-inspired kitchen. The house is surrounded by gardens which reflect Jenson’s passion for gardening and nature.
Porep and the Milan Village School of Arts are optimistic about the goal of preserving the Trestuen Garden Gallery. This optimism is reinforced whenever he has the opportunity to guide someone through it. Invariably, he said, they are “astonished.”
For more information on how to support the campaign, visit givemn.org/organization/Milan-Village-Arts-School.