Meet the new Folk Art Apprentices and Artists in Residence who will participate in a year-long training at Vesterheim’s Folk Art School!

Vesterheim’s Apprentice Program allows aspiring folk-art teachers to learn from Vesterheim Gold Medalists and experienced teachers, explore Vesterheim’s specialized and extensive folk-art collection, identify a personal teaching style, connect with a cohort of aspiring folk-art instructors, and join a community passionate about moving folk art forward. Apprentices will have opportunities for one-on-one discussion with experienced instructors, a one-week immersive retreat, and three free folk-art classes. Each apprentice will create a Vesterheim class proposal inspired by the collection, which can be used for an online or in-person learning experience.

Vesterheim’s Artist in Residence Program is a professional development opportunity for practicing folk-art instructors to explore Vesterheim’s collection for object inspiration and future teaching ideas. Each awarded artist receives a stipend to use for the cost of travel, lodging, research, and materials for their residence project. At the end of the program, the awarded artist will create and teach a class based on their study of the collection.

Congratulations to these artists. We look forward to working closely with these talented and creative people over the next year!

Folk Art Apprentices

Charles Banks is an intermediate and secondary arts education instructor with a passion for Nordic arts. His love of figure carving in the traditional flat-plane style has merged with his interest in advancing the style of characters in more personal and unique poses.

Kelsey Barale lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and has been rosemaling since 2019. She primarily paints in the American Rogaland style, and is very excited to learn additional styles and meet other folk artists at Vesterheim. In addition to rosemaling, Kelsey enjoys quilting, sewing clothes, and running. She works at the Carleton College (Northfield, Minneesota) Center for Community and Civic Engagement.

Michelle Carlson fell in love with rosemaling when she saw a traveling Vesterheim exhibit in 1992 and then began taking classes. She is a member of the Twin Ports Rosemaling Society in Duluth, Minnesota, and Wisconsin State Rosemaling Association in Stoughton, Wisconsin. She enjoys learning from Vesterheim Gold Medal rosemaling teachers in the many different styles, such as Rogaland, Telemark, Vest Adger, Os, and Gudbrandsdal. She works full time as a Real Estate Broker / Property Manager in Northern Minnesota. She feels blessed with a loving and supportive husband, Guy, and a daughter, Marissa, who is just graduating from college. She enjoys painting, gardening, piano playing, traveling, and time with family on the lake.

Sam Gathje is an artist and craftsperson from Rochester, Minnesota. A third-generation woodworker, Sam draws on over eighteen years of cabinet making and traditional woodworking experience in a studio practice that focuses on material intelligence and storytelling. Sam was first introduced to Scandinavian handcraft at Luther College in 2013 by Harley Refsal and has been making wood chips ever since. After completing the craft education intern program at North House Folk School in 2016, Sam moved on to attain a Masters in Fine Arts from Montana State University in 2020. Now back in the Midwest, Sam is working as a cabinet maker, a sculptor of both wood and stone, and as an instructor of traditional craft at multiple institutions.

Artists in Residence

Carol Bender‘s first exposure to rosemaling was at a local vocational school. This was followed by more classes with Vesterheim Gold Medalists and native Norwegian rosemalers. She has also taken classes in Swedish folk-art painting, furniture painting, and faux finishing. An award from the Wisconsin Art Board, gave her the opportunity to apprentice under Pam Rucinski (Vesterheim Gold Medalist) for two years. In 2018, she travelled with Vesterheim on a folk-art study tour to Norway and Sweden. In 2019, Carol and Pam Rucinski were awarded a Scandinavian Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions Fellowship through the American Scandinavian Foundation, where they studied the folk art painting of Sweden. Carol has been fortunate to be able to teach classes in Norwegian Rosemaling, Swedish Dalmålning, and Decorative Furniture. She is especially proud that she has been the rosemaling instructor for Sons of Norway District 5 Youth Heritage camp for 20 years. Carol is an avid learner always searching out books, instructors, and images of folk art to study and learn from.

Liz Bucheit creates jewelry and body adornment inspired by her Scandinavian ancestry and keeps close ties to her heritage by drawing inspiration from Nordic folklore and myth. A goldsmith for over 30 years, she holds a master’s degree in metalworking and jewelry from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and has trained in traditional jewelry and metalworking techniques in Norway and Ireland. Liz has won numerous competitions and been awarded grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, McKnight Foundation, Sons of Norway, and the SE Minnesota Arts Council. She was recently awarded a Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions in the Upper Midwest Fellowship from the American Scandinavian Foundation to study Sámi silver adornment in Northern Norway. She has exhibited in museums and cultural centers and her bridal tiaras and wedding jewelry are in many collections. Liz is an active speaker on the topic of Norwegian filigree work and conducts workshops and classes in jewelry design and fabrication. She owns and operates Crown Trout Jewelers in Lanesboro, Minnnesota.

Vesterheim instructor Kayla Exworthy

Kala Exworthy learned to weave in Sandefjord, Norway, in 1980. It took a few years, but she finished her BFA in fiber art at Northern Michigan University. Now, any available time is spent living her dream: enjoying her studio space and teaching at the Weaver’s Guild of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She says, “Weaving, with its endless possibilities fascinates me. It’s like a tangible story with a purpose. My favorite ingredient is color. I can play endlessly with color combinations and textures.”

Kim Garrett lives in Ely, Minnesota, with her husband and three cats. She is a retired nurse practitioner and nursing educator. Kim’s family immigrated from Sweden in the early 1900s and settled in the Chicago area. Kim started rosemaling about 14 years ago, almost by accident. She was scheduled to take a class at a folk school in Minnesota, which was canceled at the last minute, so the school offered her a spot in a Valdres rosemaling class. In that class, she found her artistic soul. She has been in love with rosemaling and other Scandinavian folk art ever since. Kim has been teaching rosemaling and Swedish Dalmalning in the Midwest for about eight years. More recently she has been teaching on Zoom as well. Kim has studied with many Vesterheim Gold Medal rosemalers in the United States and had the opportunity to travel to Norway and Sweden several times to study with expert artists there. She has also studied the works of the old master painters in museums and private collections. She has received two grants to study rosemaling and received multiple ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair. Kim is active in the Wisconsin and Illinois rosemaling associations and a board member of the Rosemaling Coast to Coast Association.

Karen Nelson’s rosemaling journey started by being born to a Norwegian father and a Swiss mother in Stoughton, Wisconsin. She moved to California when she was 10 years old but has always called Wisconsin her home. While growing up many Norwegian traditions were taught and rosemaling played a big part in the decoration of her home. In 1998, her life took a sharp turn and she realized she needed to find a hobby. Having never taken any type of art class she went to a local craft shop and took a beginning decorative painting class. She knew from the beginning that she wanted to learn to do rosemaling. Not finding rosemaling classes near her, she discovered Vesterheim and the rest as they say is history. She has had the opportunity to take many classes with American and Norwegian instructors. She also participated in the 2007 Vesterheim folk-art tour to Norway. Many teachers and organizations have contributed to her achieving her goal of becoming a Vesterheim Gold Medalist. She says that the best part of this journey has been the many people she has met and the friendships that she has formed along the way.

Nancy Odalen said she is drawn to rosemaling because it is a part of her heritage. She is the great granddaughter of a sea captain and the granddaughter of an adventurous sailor who left Stavanger Norway and sailed around the world one and a half times before jumping ship in Australia and eventually ending up in the Midwest of the United States. Her grandmother traveled to the Midwestern United States from Stavanger Norway by herself at the age of 23. Her painting echos the colors found in the shimmering clear coastal light of the West Coast of Norway. The freedom and movement found in her rosemaling mirrors the traditions of her ancestors and the adventure that both her grandparents embarked upon as they left Norway to find a new life.

Her journey in the study of rosemaling began with her first Vesterheim rosemaling class in 2001. She has taken and continues to take classes from many instructors, and most notably, she worked with Andrea Herkert, Vesterheim Gold Medalist (VGM), in two apprenticeships through the Wisconsin Art Board (WAB) Folk Art Apprenticeship, the first in 2013-2014 and the second in 2018-2019. These apprenticeships offered the opportunity to focus on the Ryfylke, Agder, Hallingdal, and Telemark styles of rosemaling. Through her study, she received funding from the WAB Folk Art Apprenticeship program to be a Master Instructor with two apprentices – the first in 2020-2021 and the second 2022-2023. Nancy especially enjoy styles from the Western Coast of Norway that are rather eclectic, like Ryfylke, and that were developed and refined towards the middle of the ‘golden age’ (1750-1850) of rosemaling. Her journey continues as she learns from the old and creates pieces that come from her soul. It is her true joy to share her passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge of rosemaling with her colleagues and those she teaches.