Project description:

The Legacy of Ottilia


To be able to give GAIR good preconditions for a fruitful future, the two first years will be done as an art project in two phases. With an outlined research area and a clear structure, 2017 and 2018 present possible ways of how to organize contemporary art and activities related to art in the region of Dalarna. The project focuses on international cultural exchange and social practice, by inviting artists and speakers to reflect together with citizens of Dalarna on history, feminism, identity, and society. This in relation to the research area: the artist, illustrator, and author Ottilia Adelborg (1855-1936). GAIR invites six research-based artists, three with connections to Dalarna and three from abroad, to stay in residence during three weeks (28/6 -18/7 2017). All artists, approaching the project from the basis of each of their artistic practice and interests. In the summer of 2018, the same group of artists will be invited back to Gagnef, to compile their work and to give presentations around Dalarna.

Alongside the artistic research runs a public program: events series with lectures, workshops, and artist talks taking place at various places around the region, during the two first weeks of the project. The intention with a spread out program is self-organization, to encourage local interactions, collaborations and emphasize a decentralized structure. The program intends to appeal both to a specialist audience and a broader, curious public. The artist talks address professionals from the region such as curators, gallery owners, and artists, as well as the workshops which one of them will interact with youths. The presentations in 2018, will speak both to an art interested public, as well as to school classes, encouraging to discuss the subject matter history through contemporary art.


The Legacy of Ottilia draws attention to Ottilia Adelborg, examining her artistic practice and reflecting on her ideas and thoughts to see if those could be appropriated or questioned today. Why an Artist-in-Residence? In a similar way, Ottilia sometimes offered hers and her sister's home in Gagnef, where artist friends and creative people came to rest and to focus on their work. Simultaneously, the project examines conditions in Dalarna in terms of collaborations within the art field: artists, institutions, galleries, and organizations, as a part of a rewarding and consolidated working method. GAIR also arranges excursions for the invited artists, with the aim to introduce the foreign artists to the region and to enable meetings between artists and cultural institutions. In a beneficial way, these activities will also spread knowledge about Dalarna abroad. The public program offers events on a range of current topics related to history, gender, identity and society, formulated as three broad themes based on Ottilia Aalborg's life, and artistic practice:


Organizing through Art: Ottilia organized herself with other women to discuss literature, art and gender issues. This in a time when Swedish women had no legal right to vote. And her sister whom she lived with, Gertrud Adelborg, was a lead figure in the women's movement. Ottilia was concerned with preserving the folk culture and engaged in crafts movements. By founding a bobbin lace-making school, Ottilia supported youth women to organize themselves, get a profession within arts and crafts, and become less economically dependent.


Identity and Belonging: Ottilia Adelborg moved to Gagnef from Karlskrona in 1903 after a visit which made her very fascinated by the landscape and the people. She documented the folklife and people she met with her illustrations, collected objects from the surroundings and founded (together with Clara Wahlström, Anna Falk, and Lotten Falk) an open air museum 1909, Gagnefs Minnesstuga. Dalarnas oldest folk museum. This during a time when the characteristics of Dalarna, represented the essence of Swedish cultural identity.


Art and Social Commitment: Ottilia Adelborg is perhaps best known for her written and illustrated children's books, through which she became involved in the children's situation and their role in the society. The Swedish education concept “folkbildning” can be seen as a relevant aspect of her artistic practice and of her person, as for other women of her time. For instance, this interest yielded a library at the lace-making school, simply by asking the publishing house Bonnier and her friends to donate books and to write special stories to the pupils.


By reading Ottilia´s diary we know she lived a rich life: illustrating, writing, sometimes traveling, and having satisfactory discussions as well as developing ideas about culture and the situation of women and children in Dalarna From letters and contracts with publishers we also know that she struggled hard financially and sometimes lived very poor, due to her role as female artist which meant: not enough payment and expected ways of working. Also during her early career, she was tied to family duties, such as taking care of her sick mom. These aspects must have affected her as an artist, at least limited her working hours and perhaps her choice of material and artistic expression.


The main archive about Ottilia Adelborg is kept by the museum and by the Society of Ottilia Adelborg. The Legacy of Ottilia is curated by Sara Rossling, art historian and curator, Stockholm together with Mattias Norström artist, founder, and director of The art space Missionen, Gagnef. The first phase of the research project is supported by the Swedish Arts Grants Committee, Landstinget Dalarna, and Gagnef Municipality among others.


The bobbin lace-making school, which at first took place in Ottilia Adelborg´s kitchen.

Image Courtesy: The Association of Gagnefs Minnesstuga

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GAIR (Gagnef Artist-in-Residence Programme) is registred as a non-profit cultural association.

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