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Flom artist wins blue ribbon at national exhibition

Aaron Swenson of Flom, Minn., won a blue ribbon in the “National Exhibition of Folk Art in the Norwegian Tradition” at Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center in Decorah, Iowa. With this award he earned a Vesterheim Gold Medal.

This judged exhibition is Vesterheim’s major summer show and was on display from June 10-July 26. The awards were announced in conjunction with Decorah’s Nordic Fest celebration, held this year from July 24-26.

Swenson won the Blue Ribbon in woodworking with a hand-carved ale bowl.

The exhibition also includes rosemaling (Norwegian decorative painting), knifemaking, and weaving. Vesterheim, which has some of the most outstanding examples of decorative and folk art to be seen in this country, established the rosemaling exhibition at the first Decorah Nordic Fest in 1967 and added weaving, woodworking, and knifemaking in later years.

“Some of the best practitioners of these traditional Norwegian arts enter the exhibition, which attracts national attention,” Laurann Gilbertson, Vesterheim’s Chief Curator, said. “This year’s exhibition included 170 pieces of beautiful contemporary folk art,” she added.

Each year, judges award Blue, Red, and White Ribbons representing points that accumulate over successive exhibitions toward a Vesterheim Gold Medal. Judges also present Honorable Mention Awards and Best of Show Awards.

Judges this year for woodworking were Steve Speltz, Vesterheim Gold Medal woodworker from Rollingstone, Minnesota; Kim Glock, Vesterheim Gold Medal woodworker from Decorah, Iowa; and Nancy Sojka, art educator from Decorah, Iowa.

Through 24,000 objects and 12 historic buildings, Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center in Decorah, Iowa, shares the most comprehensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts in the world. This treasure is also a center for folk-art education, offering a wide variety of classes in authentic Norwegian folk art every year. For more information on the museum’s exhibitions, classes, events, membership opportunities, and ways to donate, check Vesterheim’s website at, call 563-382-9681, or write to Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, 502 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.