Vesterheim Donor Impact Report for 2020

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Donor Impact Report


Vesterheim Donor Impact Report 2020 Mission Building community and creating experiences inspired by Norwegian-American stories and folk art.

Vision • explores connections between cultures, the historic and contemporary, and the U.S. and Norway. • creates an environment where each individual can explore their own identity, while connecting with the history of others. • fosters boundless learning, practice, sharing, preserving, and community. • pursues its Mission boldly.

Development Program Mission We intentionally build and nurture a growing network of friends that financially support Vesterheim’s mission as the national Norwegian-American museum and folk art school. Trouble with Trolls was the theme of one of the popular Family Book Adventures offered online by Vesterheim Folk Art School in 2020. This program was supported by the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund Phase 1, an initiative of Arts Midwest and its peer United States Regional Arts Organizations made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Four Key Values: • Integrity • Donor Centered and Mission Focused • Goal Oriented • Focused on Professional Best Practice

“I can’t say enough good things about your expanded efforts on engagement in such hard times . . . Your programming is among the best I’ve seen during the pandemic!”

—Robin L., Ohio

“There seems to be a class suited to everybody AND for many classes, the tools and materials needed arrive on your doorstep! The staff has thought of everything!!” —Kate M., Iowa 1

Vesterheim was excited to welcome many new Folk Art School instructors, like Evelyn Galstad, to teach online classes during 2020.

Message from President/CEO Chris Johnson

Message from Board Chair Ruth Ann Schultz

It is always an honor for me to share with you our annual Donor Impact Report. This report is our opportunity to reflect on the past year and to show you how your gifts are making a difference at Vesterheim. The year 2020 was one that none of us expected and one that impacted us all in ways that we couldn’t even imagine. Yet when I reflect back, I realize that amid all the challenges we faced, there were many blessings and reasons to be thankful. Even though 2020 was far from a typical year at Vesterheim, I am proud of all the new and different ways Vesterheim staff were able to serve our audiences despite the realities of the pandemic. They did amazing work in less than ideal circumstances. I am also grateful for our Trustees for their leadership and the decisions they made to help sustain the museum through the uncertain days. But what I’m most grateful for this year is having friends like you. Everything that we were able to accomplish happened because of YOU. Please know that your support and encouragement is always important to us, but we appreciated it even more in 2020. We have a lot to look forward to in 2021. Even though there are still challenges ahead, I am hopeful and optimistic that TOGETHER we will continue to reach new audiences in a variety of different ways and share Norwegian-American stories and folk art for years to come.

On behalf of Vesterheim’s Board of Trustees, I would like to thank you for your support during 2020. Thanks to you, we learned that we can face adversity as an institution, and emerge stronger. By July of 2020, Vesterheim transitioned its programming and classes to digital formats hosting online events; launching virtual exhibitions; live-streaming cooking and baking demonstrations; and offering bokprats (book groups), family, and youth experiences, in addition to traditional folk-art classes. Members of the Vesterheim community embraced these new initiatives participating in and connecting with others across the United States, Norway, and beyond. For this ability to reimagine how Vesterheim delivers its mission, we owe our thanks to the generous support of YOU, our donors, as well as the judicious stewardship of grants and other funding sources. The year 2021 will bring new opportunities as Vesterheim works to blend digital initiatives and return to on-campus programming. We hope for your continued financial support to meet those challenges. Vesterheim is more than a collection of beautiful objects in historic buildings – we are a community. We have learned that by staying connected, trying new things, and engaging with one another – even if it is virtually – we are stronger and better equipped to thrive in the new normal of a postpandemic world. Thank you, donors and friends, for your 2020 gifts to Vesterheim. We are honored by your generosity and support.

Mange takk,

Tusen takk, Chris Johnson Vesterheim President/CEO Ruth Ann Hove Schultz Vesterheim Board of Trustees

Mary Klimesh models a lefse face mask. In 2020, 1,640 Nordicinspired face masks were sold from the Vesterheim Museum Storeall sewn by Mary!

Mary and Bob Lake receive their Pewter Kroneklubben award in recognition of lifetime giving during a socially-distanced visit to Vesterheim. In the foreground are chip-carved ornaments, which are made by Bob and available for sale at the Museum Store.


Board of Trustees Honorary Chair H.M. Harald, King of Norway Chair Newman T. (Thor) Halvorson, Jr. Ruth Ann Schultz Vice-Chair Ruth Ann Schultz Lorie Reins-Schweer Secretary Cindi Huebner Alan Brian Rude Treasurer Walter Rugland Cindi Huebner Alan, Storrs Mansfield, CT Dan Alsaker, Spokane Valley, WA Carol Birkland, Decorah, IA Helen Bruening Barbier, Decorah, IA Mette Bowen, Lake Forest, IL Lindsay Erdman, Decorah, IA Newman T. (Thor) Halvorson, Jr., Washington, DC Louise Hanson, Rochester, MN Becky Hegstad, Stillwater, MN Jill Lendu Johnson, Naples, FL Maren Johnson, Decorah, IA Jill Nokleby Kaiser, Brooklyn Park, MN Jane Kemp, Decorah, IA Thomas Mannes, Aksdal, Norway and Clifton, TX Kirk Mies, Lindenhurst, IL Heather Miller, Urbandale, IA Bradley (BJ) Nichols, Silver Spring, MD Neal Nottleson, Racine, WI Elizabeth Platou, Barrington, IL Lorie Reins-Schweer, Iowa City, IA Rachel Reitan, New Orleans, LA Brian Rude, Coon Valley, WI Walter Rugland, Appleton, WI Ruth Ann Schultz, Loch Lloyd, MO Ruth Sorenson, Washington, DC Craig Trygstad, Ridgefield, WA

Honorary Trustee Dr. Eugene Nordby, Madison, WI

Founders Council Members Evy Alsaker, Winnetka, IL Robert W. Anderson, Mount Horeb, WI Ingrid Carlson Barrier, Denver, CO Helen Hexom Basler, Decorah, IA Owen Bekkum, Verona, WI Michael J. Bovre, Verona, WI Ingrid Callaghan, Decorah, IA Veronna Capone, Brookings, SD Brenda Carlson, Decorah, IA William E. Cary, Cedar Rapids, IA Sallie Haugen DeReus, Leighton, IA Audrey Dybdahl, Madison, WI Clarence Engwall,* Rochester, MN Richard Enstad, Eagan, MN Lowell P. Erdman, Decorah, IA Ron Fadness, Decorah, IA


Staff Tom Fjelde, Northfield, MN Bjarne Flølo, Oslo, Norway Gary and Miriam Gandrud, Bloomington, MN Dean H.* and Ann U. Gesme, Cedar Rapids, IA Dale Goodman, Decorah, IA Karen Gray, Spring Grove, MN Larry Grimstad, Decorah, IA Stephen R. Grinna, Decorah IA Hon. Perry J. Gulbrandsen, Antioch, IL Marilyn Hansen, Alamo, CA Dr. Jon R. Hart, Decorah, IA Dick Hemp, Reno, NV H.A. and Pat Hetland, Houston, MN Scott Ingstad, Muscatine, IA Dennis Johnson,* Morris, MN Myrna E. Johnson, Northwood, ND Heyn Kjerulf, Richmond, VA Gail Larson, Bozeman, MT Martha Ylvisaker Limburg, Rochester, MN Kate M. Martinson, Decorah, IA Kurt Meyer, Saint Ansgar, IA Suzanne Mineck, Waukee, IA David and Linda Brekke Mona, Edina, MN Dr. David L. Nelson, Stoughton, WI Dr. Eugene Nordby, Madison, WI Liv Paulson Norderhaug, Chanhassen, MN Karen Owen-Tuzcu, Minneapolis, MN Jerome Pederson, Edina, MN Dr. Hamlet Peterson, Rochester, MN Sonja Peterson, Battle Lake, MN Ardys M. Pfundheller, Stoughton, WI Kate Nelson Rattenborg, Decorah, IA Dr. Kristin Robbins, Denver, CO Wayne A. Rohne, Arlington, TX Lee Rokke, Bloomington, MN John Satrom, West Fargo, ND Michael Schmidt, Longboat Key, FL Dr. Rebecca Shaw, Des Moines, IA Gary Smaby, Palm Springs, CA Marilyn Sorenson, Edina, MN Louise C. Sundet, Minneapolis, MN Daniel Thurmer, Decorah, IA O. Jay Tomson, Mason City, IA Harold Ulvestad, Shorewood, MN Joann Voltmer, Decorah, IA Mike Voltmer, Decorah, IA William K. Wangensteen, Minneapolis, MN Jeanne and David Wright, Jr., Decorah, IA Signe Wrolstad-Forbes, Chagrin Falls, OH *Founders Council members who passed away in 2020. We are thankful for the many years of leadership, support, and friendship they shared with Vesterheim.

Chris Johnson, President, CEO Sandy Bishop, Store Sales Staff Diane Brondyke, Director of Development Aaron Burmeister, Folk Art Education Program Assistant Kathy Buzza, Guest Services Tammy Carolan, Human Resources Administrator Martha Davis, Guest Services Sharon Del Vento, Guest Services Sharon Drews, Receptionist Sue Edison-Swift, Guest Services Andrew Ellingsen, Folk Art Education Program Coordinator, Digital Learning and Outreach Initiatives Danette Franzen, Office Manager Linda Gebel, Chief Financial Officer Paul Gilbert, Communications and Marketing Director Laurann Gilbertson, Chief Curator Martha Griesheimer, Coordinator of Volunteers Betty Hanson, Receptionist Debbie Hanson, Membership Coordinator Kirsten Roverud Heine, Gifts Officer Shelley Hendricks, Museum Store Assistant Manager Betty Hopperstad, Guest Services Brent Hovden, Facilities Assistant Becky Idstrom, Editor Katherine Johnson, Coordinator of Tours to Norway Mary Klimesh, Guest Services Ken Koop, Museum Store Manager Jennifer Kovarik, Registrar Charlie Langton, Communications and Marketing Manager Lea Donhowe Lovelace, Director of Folk Art Education Marcia McKelvey, Director of Administration Lizzie Nation, Social Media and Content Manager Jim Nelson, Facilities Manager Zach Row-Heyveld, Exhibitions Manager Anna Runestad, Development Event Coordinator Peggy Sersland, Database Administrator Isaiah Solheim, Communications and Marketing Assistant Molly Thompson, Annual Fund Gift Officer Josh Torkelson, Folk Art Education Program Coordinator, Onsite Learning and Engagement Kim Toussaint, Associate Director of Development and Campaign Manager

2020 Impact at a Glance


people from 174 countries visited

14,000 people followed


pieces in the collection

33 objects from the collection


Vesterheim memberships, from all 50 states and 9 countries

Vesterheim on social media

on loan to institutions in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Washington

372 new memberships, and 218 Gift Memberships given




Students signed in from 49 states, Washington D.C., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and Norway

34 videos added to Vesterheim’s

members attended Vesterheim From Home, our first online, members-exclusive event Members signed in from 41 states, Canada, and Norway

registrations for 63 online Folk Art School programs

participation kits were packaged and sent out for online events and Folk Art School programs YouTube channel

1,599 people financially supported the Vesterheim Annual Fund giving a total of 2,667 gifts. 7 granting agencies awarded much-appreciated funds to Vesterheim. Thank you for your ongoing support! 4

2020 in Review Tusen takk!

Our work happens because of the generosity and support from friends like YOU. And together, we can do so much more!

Throughout 2020, 262 families enrolled in Vesterheim’s family programs, including Family Book Adventures, Family Heritage Cooking Classes, and Norwegian Language Adventures.

Decorah fourth-grade students learned about Norwegian immigration to America during the Pioneer Immersion Program.

Tusen takk to the Dahl Family Foundation for providing a generous matching gift for GivingTuesday, an international day of giving that takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Pictured from left to right are Tyler Dahl, Andrew Dahl, and Jansen Dahl.

Vesterheim Folk Art School offered an online series of family-led cooking demonstrations, including Family Heritage Cooking: Kringle with the Mineck Family. Here, Suzanne Mineck and her daughters, Mari and Bryn, show their kringle.


Programming Barnetimen (Children’s Hour)

Sponsored by David and Brenda Carlson and Norwegian Mutual Insurance Association, and supported by the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund Phase 1, an initiative of Arts Midwest and its peer United States Regional Arts Organizations made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Pioneer Immersion Online

Sponsors for the 2020-2021 school year for this fourthgrade program were Voltmer, Inc., Richard and Barbara Amundson, Ruth and Randy Schultz, Joann Voltmer, and the Depot Outlet. Video production for the digital presentation of this program in 2020 was supported by Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area Covid-19 Resilience Grant.

Vesterheim’s Marketing Team filmed and managed many online presentations during 2020, like this one by Vesterheim Chief Curator Laurann Gilbertson.

WOW (Window on the World)

While WOW could not take place in 2020 due to Covid-19, we thank Gundersen Health System for their longtime support of this program, ensuring that over 150 area third graders and their families will have access to meaningful and fun learning experiences that support and enhance the school curriculum.

Vesterheim Virtual Tour for Viking.TV

Vesterheim was featured in September on Viking.T V, a service of Viking Cruises, which provides free livestreams and ondemand programming online.

Family Heritage Cooking class series Sponsored by A & J Petersburg Agency.

Folk Art Intergenerational Programs

We started 2020 offering Free Second Saturday activities highlighting demonstrations by master folk artists and related “make and take” activities, as well as monthly Family FolkArt Fun Workshops. These activities are funded by the Folk Arts and Cultural Traditions Public Program Grant from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and will continue in the second half of 2021 with online FamilieTid (Family Time) programming.

Families enjoyed Adventures with Waffles during one of the popular Family Book Adventures offered online by Vesterheim Folk Art School in 2020.

Folk Art Digital Content

Support for these programs is provided by United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund Phase 1, an initiative of Arts Midwest and its peer United States Regional Arts Organizations made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the Iowa Arts Council Emergency Relief Grant (NEA and Cares Act); and the Huebner Education Fund. The generous support from the Huebner Education Fund allowed Vesterheim to purchase necessary equipment for launching new digital initiatives during the pandemic.

Family Book Adventures, Bokprat, and Family Handcraft at Home

Supported by the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund Phase 1, an initiative of Arts Midwest and its peer United States Regional Arts Organizations made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Lea Donhowe Lovelace (right), Vesterheim Director of Folk Art Education, accepts an award from Kristen Underwood (left), representing the John W. Kurtich Foundation in support of the Vesterheim Folk Art Education Travel Fellowship.


Heritage Park Heritage Park was a major project for 2020, and we are excited to open the park to visitors in Summer 2021! Heritage Park is built with support from Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative Urban Conservation Project, the Paul D. Pratt and Marguerite Olson Pratt Fund of InFaith Community Foundation, and Kate Nelson Rattenborg. Creation of the Heritage Park signage is supported by the Winneshiek County Community Foundation as well as Humanities Iowa and National Endowment for the Humanities.

5 glades – These outdoor “rooms” will be key

programming areas and include the Entry Glade, Interpretive Glade, Connecting Glade, Working Glade, and Civic Glade.

12 historic structures – Buildings that exemplify or contrast Norwegian and Norwegian-American construction methods and forms. 112 trees planted – Representing 19 varieties 2 carved portals - The portals, one acanthus and one dragon-style, were carved by folk artist Jock Holmen with help from a number of volunteer carvers.

Vesterheim has planted 112 trees in Heritage Park.


Registrar and Youth Educator Jennifer Kovarik gave weekly video tours of the exciting progress in Heritage Park. The videos are available to watch on Vesterheim’s Facebook page and website. Video tours of construction work are supported by the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area Covid-19 Resilience Grant.

Dale Kittleson and Matt Spencer-Berg installed the acanthus portal in Heritage Park.

Exhibitions Water: An Exhibit of Contemporary Art

This exhibit is sponsored by Decorah Bank & Trust, Marilyn and Julien Hansen, and Jeff and Marilyn Roverud. The exhibit features works by 19 contemporary artists with Nordic 5 Arts, an international organization of professional artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

New Nordic Cuisine

This exhibit is on loan from the Museum of Danish America and is made possible by lead sponsors Jon and Mary Hart with additional support from Jim and Marge Iversen, Phillip and Sarah Iversen, John and Birgitte Christianson, and Tom and Linda Brandt.

Innovators and Inventors

This exhibit and lecture series is sponsored by the Tomson Family Foundation and has been rescheduled to open in September 2021 due to Covid-19.

The traveling exhibition Rocks and Hard Places: Emigration through the Lens of Knud Knudsen was open for viewing during 2020 in Stoughton, Wisconsin, at Livsreise Norwegian Heritage Center. This exhibit is sponsored by Lars and Martha Alsaker on behalf of Dan Alsaker and his sister Pam (Alsaker) Hemingway, Alsaker Corporation, John K. and Luise V. Hanson Foundation, Mary Jo Hanson Boman, Rob and Janet Coe, and Greg Boman.

Vesterheim Magazine Issues of Vesterheim in 2020 were generously sponsored by Thompson Investment Management, Inc. and the late W.R. Sauey.

Tusen takk, Vesterheim volunteers, for your dedication! Vesterheim has hundreds of active volunteers under normal circumstances, for whom we are very grateful. Their devotion to Vesterheim is deep, and we can’t wait to welcome them back to their volunteer activities!

Jeff and Marilyn Roverud, sponsors of Water, receive a virtual tour of the exhibit by Vesterheim Exhibitions Manager Zach Row-Heyveld while the museum was closed due to the pandemic.

“Thank you for an excellent class. I never thought I would get to Vesterheim to study with some of the best rosemalers in the world, but the online class format has made this possible!”

— Amanda M., Australia

Decorah photographer Chip Peterson photographed 1,970 collection artifacts in 2020, thanks to a generous grant from The Edwin E. and Janet L. Bryant Foundation to improve the photos in our online Virtual Gallery.


Events Barneløpet

Sponsored by Jon and Mary Hart of Decorah in memory of Kjell Arne Berntsen, and three Sons of Norway Lodges— Valdres #503 in Decorah, Iowa, Heimbygda #376 in Lanesboro, Minnesota, and Valheim #364 in Spring Grove, Minnesota.


An international day of giving targeted at pandemic relief. Forty-six donors contributed over $19,000, including a generous $10,000 matching gift from Decorah Bank & Trust.

Online Syttende Mai

With a livestream concert by Vidar Skrede. Sponsored by Jeff and Marilyn Roverud and Sons of Norway Decorah Valdres #503 Lodge.

Online Nordic Fest Concert

During an online Syttende Mai celebration, Vidar Skrede, a freelance Nordic folk musician from Haugesund, Norway, performed a livestreamed concert.

Dawn Svenson-Holland and Josh Holland sponsored an online concert in memory of Dawn’s father, Gary, during the weekend Nordic Fest would have been held. The Gangspil Trio with members Sonnich Lydom on accordion, harmonica, and vocals; Kristian Bugge on fiddle and vocals; and Malene Daniels Beck on piano and harmonium was streamed live from Denmark!

Vesterheim From Home

Vesterheim’s first, online, members-exclusive event. Thank you to Decorah’s Impact Coffee for donating 50 pounds of Vesterheim Blend coffee that were mailed to members before the program!

Folk Art Benefit Auction

Tusen takk to everyone who donated pieces for the auction, and to the 159 people who placed bids! Special thanks to Viking for their generous donation of an eight-day European river cruise. The auction raised over $24,000 for Vesterheim’s Folk Art School.

Online Exhibit Opening for New Nordic Cuisine

Many families enjoyed Barneløpet, one of the last in-person events in 2020 before the pandemic.

Dylan Reed-Maxfield, owner of Decorah’s Courtyard and Cellar, presented a Scandinavian-inspired craft cocktail demonstration. Tova Brandt, Executive Director and Albert Ravenholt Curator of Danish-American Culture, gave a gallery talk.


An international day of giving. Our thanks go out to 102 donors who raised over $32,000 for Vesterheim’s Annual Fund! This includes generous matching gifts from The Dahl Family Foundation and Vesterheim’s Trustees and former Trustees.

Online Norwegian Christmas

Sponsored by Sons of Norway Valdres Lodge #503 in Decorah, Iowa; and former Vesterheim employees Sue Edison-Swift, Carol Hasvold, Kirsten Roverud Heine, and Anna Runestad. Families near and far participated in GooseChase adventures to win points during Online Norwegian Christmas.


Did You Know? Vesterheim has donors and members in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and in 9 countries (Norway, Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, and Sweden).

During the online opening of the New Nordic Cuisine exhibit, Dylan Reed Maxfield taught viewers how to make a “Scandi-Old Fashioned” cocktail, inspired by New Nordic Cuisine values.

Vesterheim has an online database containing information about the lives and service of 11,027 Civil War soldiers who were born in Norway. This data was compiled from research conducted between 1997 and 2003 by Jerry Rosholt, a journalist and later producer for the NBC Nightly News. To view this extensive database, visit

400,000 people connected with Vesterheim on

Vesterheim’s social media channels - Vesterheim has active accounts on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

757 objects from the Vesterheim collection are

featured in the Virtual Galleries on Vesterheim’s website at

Mother and daughter duo Katherine and Sylvia Munsen enjoyed a cup of Vesterheim Blend coffee while watching Vesterheim from Home, an exclusive members-only event.

Vesterheim’s online Gold Medalist Portfolio honors the artists who have earned Gold Medals in Vesterheim’s annual National Norwegian-American Folk Art Exhibition at

In 2020, the Vesterheim Museum Store shipped products to 49 states and the United Kingdom. The proceeds of all sales in the Museum Store support Vesterheim.

End of Year Matching Gift Challenge

Ben Grimstad, President and CEO of Decorah Bank & Trust and John Schroeher, Business Banker, tour Vesterheim with President & CEO Chris Johnson. Decorah Bank & Trust supported the Water exhibit and GivingTuesdayNow, a day of giving targeted at pandemic relief, by providing a matching challenge gift.

Thanks to incredible supporters like YOU, our 2020 year-end fundraising campaign was a huge success and we exceeded our $65,000 matching gift challenge goal! The generous gifts we received combined with the matching gift from Vesterheim’s Trustees and former Trustees resulted in over $148,000 raised for the Vesterheim Annual Fund.