Choose your own “Artventure” at Vesterheim

Christian Midjo’s newest art exhibit was designed to be experienced in different ways

Christian Midjo

Image courtesy of Vesterheim
Shelter Cove” by Christian Midjo.

Decorah, Iowa

Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, opened the exhibit “Christian Midjo: Choose Your Own Artventure” on Aug. 25. The exhibit is sponsored by Greg and Karen Bruening of Decorah and runs through April 21, 2019.

Christian Midjo has one of the most distinctive styles of all of the artists in Vesterheim’s collection. His paintings include lush nature scenes and voluptuous physical forms. In this exhibit, visitors get to choose their own “artventure” though several gallery “tours” that present different perspectives on Midjo’s paintings.

“We’re excited for this new way to interact with Midjo’s work,” Zach Row-Heyveld, Vesterheim’s exhibition manager, said.

Christian Midjo

Image courtesy of Vesterheim
“Red Mountain” by Christian Midjo.

“Vesterheim exhibitions are usually organized by our team of curators who make all of the decisions,” Row-Heyveld continued. “We decide the story line, choose which objects to use to tell that story, determine how visitors will move through the gallery, etc., so we thought it would be fun if our visitors got to decide what they wanted to learn in an exhibition,” he added.

The self-guided tours include: “Art for History Lovers,” an exploration of the context and background of artist Midjo’s life and work; “Art for Art Lovers,” a dive into the technical aspects of Midjo’s work and his place in art history; “How to Look at Art,” an introduction to the basics of fine art; and “Midjo in His Own Words,” a revealing look into Midjo’s life and work through his own letters.

Born in Trondheim in 1880, Midjo began to draw at an early age. A scholarship from the Norwegian government allowed him to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen for five years. Midjo came to Chicago in 1906 and was hired to teach drawing and painting at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a position he held from 1909 to 1947. He continued to paint until his death in 1973.

The exhibition includes 14 oil paintings from Vesterheim and five on loan from the Boys Town Hall of History in Omaha, Neb.

Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American museum and heritage center, in Decorah, Iowa, includes world-class exhibitions and 12 historic buildings. It is also a center for folk-art education. For more information, 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.

This article originally appeared in the September 7, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.