About the WSRA

the Wisconsin State Rosemaling Association

In the late nineteenth century, rosemaling was a dying tradition in Norway. In the 1940s American interest in this folk art form awakened. Rosemaling became an ethnic artistic expression for many women and a few men who now had leisure time. This revival of rosemaling in the Norwegian American community was largely associated with the name of Per Lysne, although there were other contemporaneous practitioners of this art form.

In America, Lysne developed a following for his work beginning in the 1940s. Lysne never taught classes but did share his knowledge with his daughter-in-law who painted pieces that he designed and sold. Lysne was influential to other Norwegian American rosemaling artists such as, Ethel Kvalheim, who lived down the street from Lysne in Stoughton Wisconsin. Kvalheim took notice that Lysne was selling wooden ware he had painted with rosemaling. Although she never had a lesson, she started rosemaling and supplementing the household income with her painting.

Although interest was awakened in the 1940's, this folk art form did not begin to flourish until in the late 1960's and 1970's. Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center, held its first folk art exhibition in 1967. Kvalheim (Stoughton, Wisconsin) entered this competition and in 1969, the first year a gold medal was awarded, received a gold medal. Also receiving the gold medal was Violet Christophersen (Marinette, Wisconsin) and Agnes Rykken (Seattle, Washington). Later, Vi Thode (Stoughton, Wisconsin) received her gold medal in 1970. Thode had no Norwegian background but took an interest in rosemaling.

Wisconsin State Rosemaling Association (WSRA) was founded in Stoughton, Wisconsin in 1967 and held its first Rosemaling Exhibition and Sale in conjunction with the annual Norwegian heritage celebration of Syttende Mai on May 17. On that day in 1814, the Norwegian Constitution was signed giving Norway independence from its 500-year union with Denmark. During the early years of WSRA, 200-300 individuals were members of this association. Member were from various ethnic backgrounds and included men and women. This was a very active group whose talents and interest in this art form reached far beyond Stoughton, Wisconsin. Many of the charter and early members still belong to WSRA and are active.

During the late 1980's – 1990's membership in WSRA decreased to approximately 100 members. With the availability of information through internet research, people wanted to understand more about who they were and where their family came from. Rosemaling became the quintessential visible call to a unique heritage. It spoke about an individual’s search for roots and identity with the past. We are now proud to say that our membership has increase to almost 200 members.

WSRA continues to hold an annual exhibition and sale during the City of Stoughton’s annual Syttende Mai celebration. Members can compete and sell pieces in many of the different styles and categories. In the fall, during the last weekend in October, the WSRA's Fall Bazaar is wonderful opportunity to purchase holiday gifts, in association with the Norwegian Destination Weekend.

The WSRA holds approximately 4 classes each summer and fall, where members and non-members can learn the art of rosemaling from Vesterheim Gold Medalists. A few times a year, members meet together at Skape Days for fellowship and painting. They can also just seek advice on a their project. WSRA General Meetings are held each spring and fall. A newsletter is electronically published 3 times each year to keep members update on activities and opportunities.

Whether you are Norwegian and want to learn more about your heritage or just have an interest in this unique art form you are invited to join WSRA.