Piano with Rosemaling by Mounds Park Academy Students

It’s so exciting to see what Vesterheim students do with the knowledge they gain from classes in the Folk Art School!

Renee Sonka teaches art at Mounds Park Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, and, for the past 12 years, her students in Applied Painting have collaboratively painted a piano. Each year has a theme and this year’s theme was folk art. Renee recently took rosemaling classes at Vesterheim and used that knowledge to teach her students about folk art. After all, rosemaling is such a great way to study folk art.

In preparation for painting the piano, the 18 students began the semester with an introduction to rosemaling. They practiced traditional C strokes, S strokes, and details that are hallmarks of rosemaling while learning about characteristics found in traditional floral formations. They also viewed historical and current work from several different regions of Norway to help gain familiarity with the various styles. In particular, they looked at the work of painters Betty Dove and Bjorg Oseid Kleivi and referenced their work in the creation of the class’s own floral formations.

Students worked collaboratively to create the painted piano. They signed up to complete various stages of the process, including designing, transferring the design, deciding on a color palette, batch mixing colors, painting the base shapes, detailing the base shapes, and designing and detailing the molding.

After rosemaling together, students researched a folk art of their choice. The group selected art from various cultures, including Indian, Peruvian, Celtic, Suquamish, African, Americana, Mauritius, Mahbubani, Pakistani, Shipibo, Japanese/Mingei, Russian, and Chinese! They then used the folk art from these cultures to inspire their own individual paintings.

The painted pianos are part of Mounds Park Academy’s ongoing partnership with Keys 4/4 Kids, a local non-profit that refurbishes pianos, and supports art and music programs in under-resourced communities. The painted pianos are then placed around the Twin Cities, as part of the Pianos on Parade program. This is the twelfth piano Renee’s students have painted.

Thank you to Renee Sonka and her students for sharing their artwork. It’s wonderful to see the impact of classes at Vesterheim.