It’s not surprising to learn that former Minnesota Gov. Al Quie played a prominent role at the 2017 Legislature in securing a $5 million matching fund for a new cultural center at Norway House. It’s the local headquarters for all things Norwegian-American, located in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis that was the first landing spot for thousands of Norwegian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Though Quie recently turned 94 and ended a 28-year career in elective office in 1983, he remains a familiar figure at the Capitol and in civic life. He is plainly proud of his Norwegian heritage — something one in five Minnesotans share. Norway House officials report that Quie has been uncommonly active as honorary chair of Norway House’s capital campaign
What is surprising is word that no public building in this state has borne Quie’s name — until Friday. A dedication ceremony will formally name Norway House’s education building, which opened in 2015, the Albert H. Quie Center. The same event will kick off an exhibit of the art work of the late Gretchen Quie, a painter, potter and Al Quie’s wife of 67 years who died in 2015.
The event will also invite guests to contribute to the Al Quie Fund, a matching-gifts campaign to raise $500,000 for the center. It’s the next phase in a $20 million project that is planned to encompass an entire city block and be known as the National Norwegian Center in America.
There’s much to admire in Norway House’s ambition. It is attempting not only to preserve an important part of Minnesota’s story, but also to maintain a contemporary connection between a state and a nation that still have much to share and learn from each other. It’s doing so with a commitment to a neighborhood that will benefit from a flourishing institutional anchor. The fact that Norway House is also providing overdue recognition to a worthy elder statesman is so much the better.