Planning CommitteeAaron Zierdt, Fundraising Coordinator
Monday through Friday, Aaron works at Borton Overseas and on Saturdays, he teaches “Svenska Skolan” to the pre-K group at The American Swedish Institute. In addition, he manages the blog for Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts. His family roots lie predominately in Sweden and that was his motivation to begin studying Swedish at Gustavus Adolphus College. Aaron went on to major in Scandinavian Studies and has spent significant time living, studying, and traveling in Sweden and throughout the Nordic countries. In past years, Aaron has been one of the Nordic Lights Film Festival’s most dedicated attendees and is excited to join the team and help make it a success!
Leah Bliss Lilja, Editor & Writer
Leah is a freelance editor and proofreader who has a strong appreciation for the odd, and finds beauty and comfort in the melancholy. These personality flaws are part of what drew her to move to Finland in 2003. Having been bred with a strong sense of Norwegian language and culture through her grandmother, summers at Skogfjorden, a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Concordia College including an exchange year in Oslo, she assumed Finland would be just as familiar to her as Norway, until she got off the plane in Helsinki and was utterly alone and confused. After nearly 7 happy and humbling years of living in Finland, she learned that these feelings were more an advantage than disadvantage in this small northern country and its introspective people. Her experiences have helped her learn and love the nuances of the different Nordic countries, and she is delighted to be part of an event that showcases the charm of these countries and cultures to the public.
Chris Pesklo, Sami Liaison
Chris Pesklo is the owner of Northern Lavvu, a Sami tent manufacturing company, and the owner of the Lavvu Coffee House, North America’s only Sami-themed coffee house. He is also one of the founding members of the Sami Siida of North America. Chris has supported a number of Sami-related projects over the years, such as the bi-annual Siidastaulan, and other related events. Chris learned of his Sami ancestry later in life, masked over and hidden oral history – a common situation for many North American Sami. He is a graduate from the University of Minnesota majoring in History and Scandinavian Studies, and is a Minnesota licensed Social Studies teacher, teaching in a number of districts within the Twin Cities area. He spends most of his time between teaching and making lavvus, but in his spare time (a rare thing…), he has an extreme weakness for foreign and silent films, and plans to perform in independent films in the near future. He is also a combative Wikipedia contributor, and believes that a well-served dish of reindeer meat and lutefisk will solve most of the worlds problems.
Christina Espey-Sundt, Norwegian Liaison
Christina is a recent graduate of St. Olaf College where she majored in Norwegian and Sociology/Anthropology. As the daughter of a Norwegian mother, she grew up with a strong desire to connect with her Norwegian heritage, and spent a year at Toneheim Folkehøgskole after graduating from high school. While at St. Olaf, she attended the International Summer School, and spent semesters on the HECUA Scandinavian Urban Studies Term, and at the University of Tromsø. She currently serves as a Lutheran Volunteer Corps Member working for the Refugee & Immigrant Program at the Advocates for Human Rights.
Nina Clark, Swedish Liaison
Nina Clark worked at the American Swedish Institute from 2001 to 2012, where she oversaw programming, exhibitions and collections, wrote the organization’s five year strategic plan, and was closely involved in planning ASI’s new Nelson Cultural Center. Nina formerly worked at the Minnesota Historical Society and Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and has served with the Minnesota Association of Museums and American Association of Museums. Her fritid is spent singing with the Swedish vocal quintet Flickorna Fem, doing fiber arts, biking, and hanging out with her Augsburg professor husband.
Todd Vandecar, Danish Liaison
Todd is the Danish connection to the NLFF - Twin Cities. While studying in Aalborg, Denmark through a program once offered by St. Cloud State University he discovered an appreciation for his Nordic heritage. Since his return to Minnesota, Todd has remained 'connected to Denmark' as an active volunteer, board member and event organizer at the Danish American Center (DAC) in Minneapolis. While a member of the DAC board, Todd was actively involved in the merger of the former Danish American Fellowship and Danebo Senior Residence to the create the Danish cultural and conference center known today as the Danish American Center.
Ove Lilja, Webmaster
Ove is a native bilingual Finn, who lives in the Twin Cities. He is happy to be part in advocating Nordic cultural awareness through this film festival. Ove has taught both Finnish and Swedish to high school students (and more recently adults only) at Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, MN. Ove has a degree in international business and is currently working as a Systems Administrator-Software Instructor combo. If you have any questions or comments regarding our website, you can reach Ove at webmaster at nordiclightsfilmfestival dot org One day Ove hopes to have his own sauna in the U.S.
Your Name Here, Finnish Liaison
We are currently still seeking a Finnish Liaison to join our committee. Interested? E-mail info at nordiclightsfilmfestival.org for more information.