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Harley Refsal documentary online screening and discussion event to be held in Decorah Iowa May 15
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Harley Refsal

DECORAH, Iowa — Pioneer PBS, Iowa PBS and Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School will be celebrating the career of beloved Vesterheim instructor and gold medalist Harley Refsal with a free online event to be held Sunday, May 15, at 2 p.m. CDT. Participants must register for a Zoom link at https://store.vesterheim.org/collections/online-folk-art-courses/products/celebrating-harley-refsal-documentary-screening-and-panel-discussion

The event will include a film viewing plus live storytelling and conversation with woodworkers Charles Banks and Liesl Chatman, who studied with Refsal. The 20-minute film by award-winning Producer Dana Conroy of Pioneer PBS is about Refsal’s teaching and legacy. This screening event is cosponsored by Pioneer PBS and Iowa PBS. 

Harley Refsal lives in Decorah, Iowa, and is an internationally recognized figure carver, specializing in Scandinavian flat-plane woodcarving. After retiring from teaching at Luther College, in 2010, he is now Professor Emeritus of Scandinavian Folk Art. Refsal has shared his knowledge of and skills in Scandinavian carving with thousands of carvers through courses and presentations in North America and Scandinavia.  

Raised in Minnesota, he lived in Norway in the 1960s and 1980s, and has traveled extensively throughout Scandinavia. He has won numerous carving awards and in 1996, he was decorated by the government and King of Norway for his contributions to Norwegian folk-art studies. Refsal is the author of “Art and Technique of Scandinavian-Style Woodcarving” as well as seven other carving-related books and numerous articles for wood carving magazines. 

Charles Banks is an intermediate and secondary arts education instructor with a passion for Nordic arts. His love of figure carving in the traditional flat-plane style has merged with his interest in advancing the style of characters in more personal and unique poses. In addition to his teaching in the public schools, he has taught classes for North House Folk School, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and Vesterheim Folk Art School. 

Liesl Chatman is a greenwood spoon carver, kolroser, and teacher. Her journey with kolrosing started by listening to Harley Refsal give a talk and demonstration on kolrosing at the Milan Spoon Gathering in 2016. “The eye has its needs, too,” she remembers Harley saying. She loves that spoon carving and kolrosing are crafts that are accessible, affordable, and enjoyable.  


About Vesterheim

Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum and Folk Art School, welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds to engage in the conversation of the American immigrant journey through the lens of the Norwegian-American experience. Vesterheim offers innovative and interactive exhibits, classes, and programs, both at the dynamic campus and park in scenic Decorah, Iowa, and online at vesterheim.org and Vesterheim social media. For more information on exhibits, classes, programs, tours, membership opportunities, and ways to donate and volunteer, connect at vesterheim.org, (563) 382-9681, and Vesterheim, 502 W. Water St., P.O. Box 379, Decorah, IA, 52101-0379.