Weaving together the story of a culture

Inspired by Vesterheim

Photo courtesy of Vesterheim
The collections at Vesterheim include many unique pieces, including this 1908 tapestry from Oslo. Designed by Gerhard Munthe, it was once presented to the Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., by King Haakon VI and Queen Maud. It is available for viewing in Vesterheim’s online archives.

Dear readers and friends,

With leaves having turned colors in many places across Norwegian America, fall is here, and at our newspaper, it is a busy time. For many reasons, I have always loved fall, not in the least because it is a time when many of us reunite at community events. It is a time when we can share stories about our summer adventures, as we start to regroup in our various organizations and activities.

This fall has already proved to be an exciting one with the official opening of the new Vesterheim Commons at the National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School, in Decorah, Iowa. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit Vesterheim on several occasions. Each time I am there, I am received with an unprecedented hospitality, and I always learn so much­. Therefore, it seemed entirely fitting that this issue be devoted to the extraordinary work done at Vesterheim to weave together the story of a culture.

It also seemed fitting that our Travel Editor Cynthia Elyce Rubin should share her opinion about Vesterheim with you. While it is not usual for any of our staff to appear on the Opinion page, Cynthia’s unique perspective offers the perfect introduction to this issue with its focus on Vesterheim. Not only is Cynthia an expert on folk art, she is also one of the most enthusiastic “adopted” Norwegian Americans I know. And, of course, as a seasoned traveler, she is eminently qualified to give you a travel recommendation—and for what’s it’s worth, I second it.

Yes, we have a wonderful staff here at The Norwegian American,  and, as always, they have given their all to make this another great issue. Where else will you find an exclusive interview with mountain climber Kristin Harila, an in-depth feature on advances in aviation (both by Business and Sports Editor Michael Kleiner), kitchen-tested recipes of your favorite Nordic dishes (brought to you by Taste of Norway Editor Kristi Bissell, who is also an instructor at Vesterheim)—and so much more. I have to thank all of our other contributors and our entire staff working so tirelessly behind the scenes.

For this edition, I also need to give a special thanks to our editorial assistant, Synneva Bratland, who was one the ground for the Commons opening at Vesterheim. She was an invaluable help there and has also stepped up to the plate with two special features. Contributor Christie Ericson, a recent scholarship participant at Vesterheim Folk Art School, also brings us a new Norsk 101 about her experience there. And perhaps most of all, we were fortunate to have the entire team at Vesterheim supporting us to make everything come together. Our interaction with the staff there has inspired our creativity to tell the story of this very special place.

With this issue, we are also publishing our subscriber numbers for the U.S. Postal Service. I am happy to report that we are holding steady through a sharp economic downturn, but I also wish that we had better numbers to report. As we have said many times, we need to increase our subscriber base to survive and thrive. It is simply the reality of doing business.

Recently, I have heard from some of you that you are trying to reduce your yearly expenses and that, while you love The Norwegian American, you want to cancel your subscription to save money. We are sad to see these readers go. But for those of you who are still with us, we hope you will see the incredible value that our newspaper offers. We want to thank you for staying the course as subscribers and donors—your support is immensely appreciated by our staff and an entire community across North America and beyond.

“Culture is the identity of an entire society, the backbone of a people,” is the quote for this issue. We couldn’t agree more, and we are so proud to be part of the Norwegian-American identity, together with other fine institutions such as Vesterheim and Norway House, our parent organization in Minneapolis.

Finally—as always—wishing you many hours of happy reading!

Lori Ann

This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Lori Ann Reinhall

Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American, is a multilingual journalist and cultural ambassador based in Seattle. She is the president of the Seattle-Bergen Sister City Association, and she serves on the boards of several Nordic organizations.