Dala horse by Natalie Vestin who will present “From Dala to Data Horse: Scandinavian Folk Art Responds to COVID-19” July 30, 7:30-8:30 p.m. (CDT) on Zoom through Vesterheim Folk Art School. (Submitted photo)
Dala horse by Natalie Vestin who will present “From Dala to Data Horse: Scandinavian Folk Art Responds to COVID-19” July 30, 7:30-8:30 p.m. (CDT) on Zoom through Vesterheim Folk Art School. (Submitted photo)
Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School announces a new schedule of online book groups, family programs, conversations, museum collection tours and classes.

Participants can learn new skills, converse about Scandinavian folk art, make new friends and reunite with old ones—all from the comfort and safety of home. Pre-registration for all programs is required and space is limited. Sign up at folkartschool.vesterheim.org.

Looking for new reading ideas? Maren Johnson, Luther College's associate professor of Nordic Studies and Torgerson Center for Nordic Studies director, will facilitate a monthly Bokprat (Book Group) inspired by Scandinavian authors and Scandinavian life. The first session is Thursday, July 23, from 7 to 8 p.m. (CDT) on Zoom. There is no cost. Participants may come each month, or pick and choose.

The first discussion will unpack Derek B. Miller’s crime novel, “Norwegian By Night.” The book follows Sheldon Horowitz, a Jewish New Yorker, as he settles into a new life in Norway with his granddaughter, following her marriage to a Norwegian citizen. This hour-long event will start with a brief discussion and background to ground a conversation on how the book addresses themes of immigration and integration, culture-clash, and inclusion.

Vesterheim Family Book Adventures will go live on Vesterheim’s website Saturday, July 11. This monthly program of intergenerational reading and outdoor adventure is $20 per family and an engaging kit will be delivered to participants’ homes. Decorah schools librarian Shannon Horton will help participants get reading, thinking, creating and even up and moving with book ideas, crafts and a scavenger-hunt-type adventure.

Infectious disease researcher and painter Natalie Vestin will speak on Zoom Thursday, July 30, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. (CDT). She will present “From Dala to Data Horse: Scandinavian Folk Art Responds to COVID-19.” There is no cost for this program.

In March 2020, Vestin began painting Dala horses to deal with the complexity and sadness of seeing so much COVID-19 data every day. The rosemaling and dalamålning strokes on the horses became a way to represent data on infection rates, clinical signs and symptoms and the changes that quickly affected everyone's day-to-day lives.

During this presentation, Vestin will talk about how she's adapted a folk-art technique to respond to a current event, discuss her process and personal relationship with art and science and offer insight into her "data horses" and what they can teach about the power of folk art to make meaning during a pandemic.

Vesterheim also is offering a “Collection Connections” series of monthly hosted conversations between the museum’s collections staff and folk-art school instructors. Each gathering will highlight a piece or two from the collection as explained, interpreted and appreciated by a master folk artist. The online gathering also will include the opportunity for the small group of participants to show and share their own work.

The schedule includes metalworking Wednesday, July 22, from 12 to 1 p.m. (CDT), with blacksmith Tom Latané; woodworking Thursday, July 23, from 1 to 2 p.m. (CDT), with woodworker Rebecca Hanna; weaving Wednesday, July 29, from 12 to 1 p.m. (CDT), with fiber artist Laura Demuth; and rosemaling Thursday, Aug. 13, from 12 to 1 p.m. (CDT), with painter Andrea Herkert. All “Collection Connections” cost $20 per person.

Along with these programs, Vesterheim Folk Art School is offering online classes, beginning with jewelry making and more options coming throughout the fall.

Support for these programs is provided by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts through the federal CARES Act legislation; Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area; the Huebner Education Fund; and The American-Scandinavian Foundation.