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

Kristine Barton  Born in Decorah, Iowa, of Norwegian grandparents and great-grandparents, Kristine grew up with a love of all things Norwegian. She was particularly inspired by the courage and resilience of her great-grandmothers who left home and family behind forever. Bringing little to this country, their rosemaling was especially treasured.

Janette Dragvold is an artist, musician, writer and baker from Southeastern Minnesota. Having grown up in and still living in a rural area that is thick with Norwegian heritage, she loves being surrounded by nature, rosemaling, and fresh baked Scandinavian goodies.   

She enjoys everything Nordic and tries to learn as much as she can about traditional folk art, folk lore, music, and baked goods. Some of her fondest memories are baking lefse, flatbrød, krumkake, sandbakelse, and kransekake with her mother and grandmother.    

Christie Ericson grew up in Alaska and currently lives in Anchorage, where she works as an academic librarian. As a freshman in college, she taught herself how to knit from a library book. After stumbling across a book of Selbuvotter patterns in 2009, she taught herself how to knit Selbu mittens and has been hooked ever since. Her mittens have won several awards at district and international Sons of Norway Folk Art Competitions. Christie has taken a variety of folk art classes through Vesterheim Museum and has also been learning the Norwegian language for a number of years. After teaching an informal class on knitting Selbu mittens at her local Sons of Norway lodge, she became inspired to develop her instructional skills further. She is looking forward to participating in the Vesterheim Folk Art Apprenticeship program and exploring this folk art form in greater depth.

Sheila Oberreuter As a crafty kid with an interest in history, folk art was bound to lure her in. After taking a weaving class from Vesterheim in 2019, she quickly fell down the fiber arts rabbit hole. And it has been a great adventure so far! Drawing inspiration from history for artistic inspiration fueled an early interest in ceramics from around the world. Branching out into weaving has opened up a whole new world to explore. Learning about the endless ways that people have created objects in the past is fascinating and inspiring and encourages Sheila to try techniques for herselfShe is looking forward to seeing where the weaving path will take her and exploring this great opportunity!

Josh Torkelson has been carving since he was 12 years old when he discovered Harley Refsal’s books in a store. He fell in love with woodworking and ever since has dived deep into the intersection between handwork, his own cultural heritage, and pushing traditions forward. Josh is continuously inspired by how handwork can inform a more peaceful and sustainable modern life. He has taught greenwood carving, spoon carving, and knife skills classes at the American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis Community Education, Vesterheim Folk Art School, the Avon Hills Folk School, and the Lake Superior Traditional Ways Gathering. In the Vesterheim Apprentice program, he hopes to dive more deeply into Norwegian woodcarving and grow his skills as a craftsman and a teacher. Josh is also an avid knitter, banjo player, cyclist, and mountain biker 

Lorri Wright has been a weaver since 2001 after taking a workshop offered by her local Anchorage Alaska Weavers & Spinners Guild. She enjoys many textile arts, including garment sewing, quilting, knitting, crochet, sprang, rug hooking and variety of weaving techniques. Lorri has focused on Scandinavian textiles because it connects her to her family heritage. Lorri has offered various weaving classes at the Anchorage Sons of Norway lodge, the Anchorage Museum, and various schools in the Anchorage area. Lorri has a passion for learning traditional weaving structures and ancient weaving techniques and sharing the knowledge with groups who are interested.

Artists in Residence

Tara Austin In 2014 Tara Austin took her first rosemaling class at North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Since then she completed a yearlong Rosemaling Apprenticeship with a Vesterheim Gold Medalist focusing on Telemark and Gudbrandsdal styles. In 2020 she received a Scandinavian Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions Grant from the American Scandinavian Foundation. Tara received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and loves plants, painting, and her home on the North Shore of Lake Superior.

K.J. Groven grew up in Skien, Norway, and spent most of his childhood on the family farm working with his grandparents. In 1999 he left Norway to attend South Dakota School of Mines and received a degree as a mechanical engineer. After some time as an engineer, he built log homes and did custom woodworking. He was introduced to a blacksmithing club during this time and was soon making buildings, cabinets, and other furniture in the Norwegian style, as well as forging tools and hardware. He believes he has found his true calling. 

Susan Kolstad has been knitting since childhood with a long-time passion for challenging knits. She has sought out unusual techniques and historical connections for knitwear. Susan has taught knitting to adults and children, developed patterns, as well as traveled to attend many knitting courses, including technique classes in Norway and Sweden. 
Her daily knitting is often inspired by a vintage artifact (magazine photographs, colorful plate/dishes, or an article of retro clothing). She loves to knit toothy wool on wooden needles, some she has carved herself as a nod to early knitting times. Her motivation is a challenge in design or use of yarn or translating Scandinavian vintage or modern knitting patterns.

Becky Lusk is a third-generation folk artist and a Vesterheim Gold Medalist. She started carving as a teenager and has been a professional carver for over 30 years. Her work was included in the exhibition Norwegian Folk Art: The Migration of a Tradition, curated by Marion Nelson, Vesterheim’s former Executive Director. Becky carves ale bowls, figures, relief scenes, dragon style, and acanthus. She and her husband have a workshop near Coon Valley, Wisconsin.