View the ribbon winners list and gallery of images of the pieces here!
Registration for 2022 is closed. Check back for 2024!
View the ribbon winners list and gallery of images of the pieces here!
Registration for 2022 is closed. Check back for 2024!
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, it is our pleasure to roll out the official rules and guidelines for this year’s National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition.
Vesterheim has hosted and organized this exhibition for over 50 years. The exhibition is connected to Vesterheim’s Folk Art School, whose mission is to embrace, nurture, and carry forward these strong folk-art traditions.
Our programming efforts are designed to serve a large community of folk artists, both developing artists and Gold Medalists alike. Your entries inspire our programming, and we hope our programming continues to inspire you to create.
For 2022, little has changed in the way of rules and guidelines for each category. However, we have made some adjustments to best negotiate this very special project during the busiest time of year at Vesterheim!
One important change is that we will now offer gallery sales instead of a silent auction.
How to Enter: From May 1-23, fill out the online registration form for EACH entry. Payment of $25 per entry is required at the end of the registration process. Print the identification label PDF and complete for each entry. If you do not have access to digital registration and payment, please contact Vesterheim.
Future Schedule: It is important to note that going forward, the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition will be held every other year with the next exhibit in 2024. We are excited to be able to offer both this traditional exhibition and special-themed juried exhibitions (similar to the Social Distance, Creatively Connected exhibit that was presented during the pandemic). Alternating with the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition in odd-numbered years beginning in 2023, there will be a themed, juried exhibition open to all folk-art disciplines. The theme for 2023 will be “Embellishment” and we encourage artists to start thinking about how they might create work addressing this theme. See the Exhibition FAQs below for more general information. Specific information about the 2023 exhibit and how to enter will be posted on the Folk Art School webpage next year.
You can find answers to exhibition questions and the complete exhibition rules below.
WHAT IS IT: The National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition is a summer exhibition at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa. It showcases the self-expression of contemporary artists who create folk art rooted in Norwegian traditions. The mission of this exhibition is to celebrate the past, present, and future of folk art by encouraging and inspiring emerging and established folk artists to develop their craft. Artists submit work for evaluation by a team of judges, who offer feedback on their pieces and award ribbons to the very best work. The ribbons carry points that accumulate toward a Vesterheim Gold Medal.
ENTRY DATES: May 1 through May 23, 2022.
EXHIBITION DATES: July 2 through July 30 in Vesterheim’s Main Building. Ribbons will be placed next to winning entries on Thursday, July 28, when the exhibition opens to the public, except for the People’s Choice Award, which will be revealed at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 30.
WHO MAY ENTER: Any living artist who has resided in the U.S. or Canada for the past five years.
ENTRIES: Artists may enter three items per category for judging (rosemaling, weaving, woodworking, knifemaking, and metalworking). Due to museum construction and available gallery space this year, each artist is invited to exhibit one of their pieces. Artists will identify, on the registration form, the entry that they wish to be exhibited. In addition, all ribbon winners will be installed in the exhibition. Entries must have been completed in the last four years and not entered in any previous National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition. No items may be sent as “not judged.” Gold Medalists’ work will be considered for Best of Show and People’s Choice. All aspects of a piece must highlight the artist’s unique and personal technical skills and design decisions, so work partially or entirely created under supervision or in a class is not allowed in the exhibition. Vesterheim and the judges are solely responsible for deciding whether an entry upholds the rules of the exhibition. The museum reserves the right to remove any piece that does not follow the rules of the exhibition, and the piece will be returned at the artist’s expense.
JUDGING: Two or three judges, including specialists in each area of folk art, evaluate the entries for each category. The role of the judges is to provide positive and helpful feedback on entries and to award ribbons for exceptional work. The judges’ decisions about ribbons are final. The judging process will be filmed, and artists will receive links to view videos about their piece. These videos will not be made public in 2022 without permission of the artist. Artists without digital access may receive written comments upon request. Videos or written comments will be available three weeks after the close of the exhibition.
AWARDS: In each category, judges may award blue, red, and white ribbons accompanied by a cash award and a corresponding number of points.
Prize money will be sent to artists approximately three weeks after the close of the exhibition.
In addition to these ribbons, judges may also award Honorable Mention ribbons, which are given to encourage artists to keep working and developing their craft.
Judges may award more than one ribbon of each color, but they are not required to award any ribbons if they believe the entries do not meet exhibition standards outlined in the exhibition rules. To see examples of ribbon winning work, please visit goldmedalist.vesterheim.org.
Once an artist accumulates eight points in a category over successive exhibitions, they are awarded a Vesterheim Gold Medal. Although Gold Medal winners cannot compete for ribbons in future exhibitions, they are eligible for the Best of Show and People’s Choice Awards and are encouraged to participate.
Honorable Mention, Best of Show, and People’s Choice Awards carry no points toward a Gold Medal.
Best of Show Award: One Best of Show Award is given by the judges to the single most exceptional piece of folk art in each judged category (rosemaling, weaving, woodworking, knifemaking, and metalworking).
People’s Choice Award: Visitors to the exhibition may vote for their favorite piece in each category (rosemaling, weaving, woodworking, knifemaking, and metalworking). The votes are tallied at the end of the final day of the exhibition, and the winner receives a ribbon.
Pack carefully – UPS guidelines suggest two-inch, non-slip packing materials in all directions between object and box. The identification label must be attached to the object. In the case of weavings, the label must be lightly sewn to the back (no pins or staples please).
Send labeled entry to: Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Folk Art Exhibition, 502 W. Water St., Decorah, IA 52101
Or deliver your entry in person between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. daily from May 1 through May 23 to the Westby-Torgerson Education Center (502 W. Water St., Decorah, IA).
Objects may be picked up between 5:00-7:00 p.m., Saturday, July 30; or 9:00-11:00 a.m., Sunday, July 31, in the exhibition area in the museum’s Main Building. They may also be picked up during the following week between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. in the museum’s Main Building. Objects that cannot be picked up will be returned by UPS or other service and the artist will be billed for shipping and insurance costs. For pieces that are sold, the purchaser will be responsible for picking up the object or arranging for shipment.
We will offer gallery sales during Nordic Fest. Artists who wish to sell their work during the exhibition must provide a sale price on the registration form. This will not be an auction format. Prices will be listed on the object labels and exhibition sales will take place from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m on Friday, July 29, and Saturday, July 30. Buyers must be present to purchase artwork, and objects may be picked up after 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 30. Vesterheim Museum retains 20% of the sale price and the remaining 80% will be mailed to artists about three weeks after the exhibition. For insurance purposes, the sale price amount will serve as the declared value. Artists not selling their work will need to declare the insurance value for their piece on the registration form.
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum reserves the right to photograph any object submitted to the competition for any use. There will not be a CD with images of exhibition entries produced or sold through the Museum Store. Photography of exhibition entries by the public is permitted for personal, noncommercial use only. Artists have the right to take legal action against any unauthorized commercial use.
SPECIAL RULES AND JUDGING STANDARDS: Knives and their sheaths should be executed in techniques and/or with stylistic characteristics common to Norwegian knifemaking. Artists are encouraged to explore the use of non-traditional materials as long as the form of their sheath knife is within the tradition of Norwegian knifemaking. All pieces, except blades, must be made solely by the entering artist and not done under supervision. The materials used for the handle and sheath must be stated on the registration form. Judges will rate entries on functional and aesthetic values: technique and design of the knife, sheath, and overall impression.
For 2022, this category will only feature FORGED IRON AND STEEL work.
SPECIAL RULES AND JUDGING STANDARDS: The metalworking category showcases work done in steel and iron. Entries could be used for lighting (like candle holders), hearth or cooking tools, chest or door hardware (like locks and hinges), or other tools. These forged items were historically significant in Norway and were both functional and decorative.
Fantasy “Viking” or “Norse” weapons will not be accepted, but swords and axes inspired by or based on historic examples will be. Contemporary expressions of traditional forms and techniques are encouraged as long as some part of the entry is anchored in the tradition of Norwegian metalwork. Please include an illustration of the inspiration for your work and describe how your entry relates to the Norwegian tradition on the entry form.
Smiths are welcome to display their pieces on wooden doors or chests to demonstrate how hinges or locks would work when they are installed, but are not required to have made the wooden items themselves.
Judges will evaluate the quality of the forging, how well the item fits the purpose it was designed for (how well a lock works, do hinges open and close smoothly, etc.), the technical skill of the smith, how well decorative elements are designed and created, whether the finish of the piece is appropriate to its function and is visually satisfying.
SPECIAL RULES AND JUDGING STANDARDS: The rosemaling must be on wood. The design must be the artist’s own and the painting cannot be done in a class or under supervision. Your piece may, however, be inspired by another work. Please tell us about what inspired you to paint your piece on the registration form. Exceptional work should reveal the stylistic characteristics of rural Norwegian painting from about 1700 to 1875. The rosemaling must cover an area of at least 8 inches in diameter and must contain enough decoration to reveal the artist’s technical skill and design abilities. Judges will rate entries on color, design, technique, and overall impact. Vesterheim reserves the right to attach a hanging device to any plate or flat object if one is not provided.
DIVISIONS: Of the two divisions described below, weavers should choose the one that best fits their piece. However, judges may re-designate the division of a piece for judging. If there are not sufficient numbers for a separation by division, the entries will be judged together.
SPECIAL RULES AND JUDGING STANDARDS: Weavings must be the artist’s original designs and not done under supervision. Judges will rate weavings on overall impact, design, and weaving technique. They will look at the whole piece and consider the appropriateness of design, materials, and finishing. Important: The intended function of the piece must be stated on the registration form. Judges will examine the back as well as the front, so backings must be open in one section. Award-winning entries will demonstrate excellence in technical skills, show an understanding of both aesthetic and functional considerations, and express personal creativity within the long and rich tradition of Norwegian weaving.
DIVISIONS: Of the four divisions described below, artists should choose the one that best fits their piece. However, judges may re-designate the division of a piece for judging. If there are not sufficient numbers for a separation by division, the entries will be judged together.
SPECIAL RULES AND JUDGING STANDARDS: Entries should be executed in techniques and/or with stylistic characteristics common to Norwegian folk art. Contemporary exploration of these traditional forms and techniques is encouraged. Artists are welcome to experiment with non-traditional forms, colors, or techniques as long as some part of the piece is rooted in tradition. Items submitted for judging must be large enough to reveal the technical and aesthetic ability of the artist and should not be done under supervision. All carving and decorating must be done entirely by the artist entering. Entries in Divisions 1 and 2 may feature carving/decoration by the artist on a wooden form by another source. Entries in Divisions 3 and 4 must be made and decorated solely by the artist entering. The source of the design must be stated on the registration form. Judges will rate entries on technique, design, and overall impact.
The exhibition is made possible thanks to generous support of the Vesterheim Annual Fund from Decorah Bank & Trust and the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs; and the National Endowment for the Arts.