Our Unique History

Sigmund Aarseth 1967

For 50 years, Vesterheim has nurtured folk artists and encouraged excellence in Norwegian-American folk art by providing classes with master instructors from Norway and America, by organizing study tours to Norway, and by offering an annual judged exhibition in which artists can present and sell their work.

The first two classes, held in 1967, were Hardanger embroidery, taught by Carola Schmidt of Decorah, and a rosemaling class, taught by Sigmund Aarseth, from Norway. The folk-art education program grew in 1968 to five classes with 63 students from 12 states. The Gold Medalist program also was born in 1967.

The rest is history. A vast number of students are now instructors teaching throughout the United States and other countries. Throughout the years, over 100 gold medals have been awarded in four categories—rosemaling, knifemaking, woodworking, and weaving.

Vesterheim’s study tours to Norway offer folk artists a unique learning opportunity based on the museum’s ties and relationships with the artists and institutions of Norway. Participants learn from leading Norwegian artists, surrounded by the beauty and traditions of this inspiring place.

The folk-art experience at Vesterheim doesn’t end with classes. Through The National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition. Vesterheim sets the standard of excellence as an artist in the Norwegian folk-art traditions. This program is vital for promoting folk artists and serves to ensure that these beautiful age-old traditions and skills are preserved.

To register for classes, please print a class registration form (pdf) and send the form, along with your class payment to:
Darlene Fossum-Martin
Vesterheim Museum
P.O. Box 379
Decorah, IA 52101

For more information, contact Darlene Fossum-Martin at 563-382-9681, ext. 215, or email at