DECORAH, Iowa —Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum announces a new exhibition of fine art from the museum’s collections, “The Norwegian Art and Craft Club of Brooklyn, 1938-1956.” The exhibition is sponsored by Robert and Evy Alsaker. “Rob and I are delighted to sponsor this exhibit drawn from Vesterheim’s extensive collection of Norwegian-American fine art in honor of our special friends and Vesterheim’s patrons Norman and Eldrid Arntzen,” Evy Alsaker said.
The exhibition will be open from October 21, 2010, through August 2011. There will be an opening reception at the museum’s Main Building on Thursday, October 21, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. with comments at 6:00 p.m. “Held in conjunction with Vesterheim’s Free Thursdays, sponsored by Decorah Bank and Trust, this reception is a great opportunity to view the exhibition,” said Laurann Gilbertson, Vesterheim’s Chief Curator.
The Norwegian Art and Craft Club of Brooklyn, New York, was organized in 1938 by a group of amateur and semi-professional artists. The objective of the club was to promote interest in art and craft among its members and the public through exhibitions, lectures, discussions, and classes.
“Vesterheim is privileged to own so many pieces by club members,” said Gilbertson. “We are excited to share them with the public,” she added.
The club, although founded and led by Norwegian Americans, did not restrict its membership by ethnicity or by gender. It also gave equal status to fine art and Norwegian decorative arts. Members created and exhibited paintings, sculpture, carving, rosemaling (Norwegian decorative painting), tapestry, and knitting.
There were 28 founding members. By the late 1940s, the club membership had grown to more than one hundred. Some more well-known members of the club included Bernhard Berntsen, Michael Hoiland, Karli Waagenes Johnsen, Karl Larsen, Vilna Jørgen Morpurgo, Maria Mundal, Finn Nord, Thorn Norheim, Sigurd Olsen, August Satre, and William Torjesen.
Many classes were taught at the club, which, from 1943 to 1956, had its own location at 501 46th Street. The group held exhibitions at the club, local studios, the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Staten Island Museum, and the Riverside Museum.
Vesterheim uses the story of Norwegian Americans to explore aspects of identity and culture common to everyone. The museum cares for over 24,000 artifacts, among which are some of the most outstanding examples of decorative and folk art to be seen in this country. For more information on the museum’s exhibits, activities, and membership opportunities, and on ways to make a contribution to Vesterheim, consult Vesterheim’s website at vesterheim.org, call (563) 382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 523 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.