A Trip to Decorah: Beautiful Despite the Cursed Coronavirus Disruption

For my first trip beyond the boundaries of Minneapolis and St. Paul, I drove to Decorah to pick up a replica of the medieval Baldishol Tapestry for the upcoming exhibit at Norway House, The Baldishol: A Medieval Tapestry Inspires Contemporary Textiles. It is one of three replicas owned by Vesterheim, as described in this article.

Alma Guttersen, St Paul MN (1980.090.001) 1928, 47″ x 66″. Alma Amalie Guttersen of St. Paul, Minnesota, studied tapestry weaving in Norway and had the yarns dyed there.  Alma was on the planning committee for the Norse-American Centennial in 1925 and was inspired to learn Norwegian weaving after seeing the replica of the Baldishol Tapestry that was presented to President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge.  Alma was born in 1865 in Trondheim, immigrated to Minnesota in 1866, and died in 1966 in Florida.  

The Museum is not open to the public now. Curator Laurann Gilbertson met me outside the building.

Laurann pays attention to coronavirus precautions, but not very many people at the Kwik-Stop gas station along the way did!

After the tapestry hand-off, I met with Lea Lovelace, the Education Director for Vesterheim Folk Art School, properly distanced on her lovely porch just blocks from the museum. In-person classes have been cancelled for all of 2020. I had two classes this fall: a beginning tapestry class and a class on the Frida Hansen-style wool transparency technique. I plan to offer the transparency tapestry course online instead–a combination of Zoom lectures and chats, substantial print handouts, and video technique tutorials. I’ll figure out the details this summer.

I also volunteered to hold a Zoom lecture in September for Vesterheim, highlighting the political tapestries of Lila Nelson. Lila was the long-time Textile Curator for Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum and the weaving (and life) mentor to many people, including me. I will be collecting stories this summer to share. If you have any stories about Lila and her political views or how her activism was reflected in her work, please let me know. Details about the lecture will be available soon. Meanwhile, enjoy a wonderful tapestry I own, one in Lila’s “Terrorist Cat” series.

Lea and Vesterheim Folk Art School staff members are doing their best to develop ways to maintain community among folk art practitioners in our current social-distancing environment. This is not a permanent situation! We can’t wait for in-person classes to resume.


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