Hanson Family Foundation Gift


Vesterheim Receives Gift from Hanson Family Foundation for Commons Project

Vesterheim is very pleased to announce a $1.5 million gift from the Hanson Family Foundation for Vesterheim Commons.

The Hanson Family Foundation was established in 1971 by John K. and Luise V. Hanson as a way to give back to their community and to enhance the quality of life in North Iowa through activities involving youth, parks, recreation, and other programs affecting the greater community. Nearly five decades later, their family vision has touched tens of thousands of lives through more than 700 organizations in 104 communities. 

The Hanson Family Foundation has supported many Vesterheim projects over the past 27 years. Vesterheim values the generosity and partnership of the Hanson Family Foundation, and this friendship has benefited the museum in many ways ranging from climate control to special exhibitions. We are incredibly grateful for this new gift and the way that it will uplift the museum’s mission to build community and share experiences. 

Vesterheim Commons is economically significant for the museum, Decorah, and Iowa. The building project points to current and future audiences and will impact local economic development and tourism through expanded in-person folk-art classes, specialized programs, exhibitions, and digital outreach across the United States and the world. 

The building, which will unify Vesterheim’s campus together, is the first structure in Iowa designed by Snøhetta, the renowned international architecture and landscape architecture firm. The design of Vesterheim Commons was driven by programming that inspires community engagement and experiences.  

The Commons, with three levels and 7,600 sq. ft., provides the museum with a spectacular front Water Street entry, easy access into Heritage Park, and a welcoming community gathering space. There will be a multi-use space on the ground floor that seats 100 people for lectures, meetings, concerts, receptions, and classes; a commercial kitchen; an intimate gallery; an artifact collection study room, a digital production studio; and an outdoor patio with seating options for events and receptions. 

Thank you, Hanson Family Foundation! Find out more about the organization here.

Renderings Gallery

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If you want to speak to someone about how you can support Vesterheim’s bold new future, call Diane Wagner or Kim Toussaint.

Diane Wagner: 563-382-9681 x103

Kim Toussaint: 563-382-9681 x105

A Re-imagined, Open, and Accessible Heritage Park

The first major project of the Strong Roots | Bold Future campaign is the re-imagining of Heritage Park, the outdoor exhibit and program space for Vesterheim’s 12 historic buildings. Heritage Park opened in summer 2021. Guided by the Snøhetta master plan, Heritage Park has been designed by Damon Farber Landscape Architects to be an accessible and open public space reminiscent of Norway’s forests and glades. Here, people can connect with one another amidst tangible historic buildings set in nature.

Beginning at the plaza that depicts the 1825 voyage of immigrants on the ship Restauration, meandering pathways will guide visitors around gentle glades, past a community amphitheater, and through the expanded parkwhere history comes alive by experiencing how Norwegian pioneers lived.

Special care has been given to create an environmentally sensitive community park with native plantings and woodlands appropriate to this Driftless Area of America’s Midwest, permeable pavers, and sustainable stormwater management.