Message from President/CEO Chris Johnson and Board Chair Ruth Ann Schultz

We look forward to sharing our Impact Report with you each year, and we are especially proud of the work that our staff carried out in 2022. This was a year of transformation for Vesterheim as we returned to a full year of on-campus programming and classes, and we also maintained a robust schedule of online offerings. Meanwhile, we managed a capital campaign and the ongoing construction of the exciting new Vesterheim Commons, designed by Snøhetta, that will open in fall 2023.   

Other highlights from 2022 that you will read about include a special Vesterheim reception at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in March; a unique animation project with students from Decorah and Norway; the return of the National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition in July; welcoming Norway’s Ambassador to the United States Anniken Krutnes for her first visit to Vesterheim; and hosting our first visitors from Viking’s new Mississippi River cruises for a day-long experience at Vesterheim.  

Vesterheim is stepping into a bold future, and the possibilities that lie ahead with the unified museum campus and flourishing online programming are truly awe-inspiring. We wouldn’t be at this exciting point in the organization’s history if it were not for our strong roots. Vesterheim’s museum collection began nearly 150 years ago in 1877, and the organization has grown in countless ways in beautiful Decorah, Iowa, during that time. Today, Vesterheim is home to the most extensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world and a unique Folk Art School that connects, encourages, and inspires the next generation of folk artists.   

Throughout this report, you’ll read about Vesterheim’s programming strengths, including exhibitions, events, and classes, with both online and in-person experiences to support our various audiences. You’ll also see the growth in our physical assets, like Vesterheim Heritage Park, which brought people together for celebratory events throughout the year; the newly renovated Bruening Visitor Center, which has been re-envisioned as a Folk Art School class hospitality and meeting space; and the new Vesterheim Commons that will be the welcome center for the campus, an inspiring community gathering place, and will also include a digital production studio to create classes and experiences to serve our growing online audiences.   

But our greatest asset, of course, is you. The community of people that surround and support Vesterheim is incredible, and we are grateful for every single visitor, student, member, donor, volunteer, staff member, and trustee who takes part in our mission. As part of supporting the people who participate at Vesterheim, we continued important work in 2022 in the areas of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. Vesterheim’s staff and board are dedicated to placing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion at the center of our daily work and committed to championing policies and practices that create a welcoming environment for all. 

We hope you enjoy taking a look back and seeing how your support made a difference at Vesterheim. Thank you to all of you for making 2022 an incredibly special year. Together, we look forward to great things to come in 2023!  

From all of us here at Vesterheim, tusen takk for supporting our mission!