Artist Sallie DeReus is recreating one of Sigmund Aarseth’s murals on the side of the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center building in honor of this late Norwegian painter. Another larger mural has begun on the west wall with DeReus and two other artists working on it.
Artist Sallie DeReus is recreating one of Sigmund Aarseth’s murals on the side of the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center building in honor of this late Norwegian painter. Another larger mural has begun on the west wall with DeReus and two other artists working on it.
The Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove continues to build its rich cultural history, most recently by adding a visual interpretation of history to the exterior of its building.

The late Sigmund Aarseth created the unique story-telling murals on the interior walls of Immigration Hall. His colleague, Sallie Haugen DeReus, assisted him with the indoor project, and she continues now with the outdoor project.

DeReus is recreating two of Aarseth's murals. One scene depicts a bride with a crown and a groom dancing, and in the next scene, people are watching others disembark from a boat. The two murals flow from one to the next.

"This is the first time that I have recreated murals," DeReus said. "He [Aarseth] was a very good friend, and we worked together for at least 35 years. This mural is in honor of Sigmund as a gift to the Heritage Center."

Once this mural is complete, DeReus will have spent about 65 hours working on it. "My mind is working all of the time recreating the scenes and matching the colors that Sigmund chose. The cloudy days have been nice for painting; when the sun is out, I move with it to stay in the shade."

This mural is only one part of the outdoor project. Two other artists, Doug Eckheart and Lisa Beiwel, have been commissioned along with DeReus to create an even larger mural this week on the west wall of the Heritage Center's courtyard area.

The large mural will be another recreation of Aarseth's and will depict a scene from a fjord including a ship. There will also be dancers and a fiddler.

"The fjord will represent the Hjørn Fjord from Sigmund's homeland," explained DeReus. It is said to be the view he would have seen from his home in Norway.

"It is going to be a challenge to create such a large mural," DeReus added. "We will be working on scaffolding and at times will be using long poles with rollers to reach areas of the mural. We only have a week together to complete it, so we are hoping that the weather also cooperates."

The paint that the artists are using is regular home exterior paint tinted to the colors that match what Aarseth would have used. The Heritage Center applied for and received a grant from Valspar Paints for the paints for this project.

The entire completed project along with other updates will be dedicated in the summer of 2015. The Heritage Center is also sponsoring a sculpture of Aarseth to be incorporated with the murals. The sculpture is not able to be completed until 2015. The celebration will include activities around Aarseth and his life's work.

If anyone is interested in viewing the progress of the murals, they can be seen from the alley-side of the Ballard House building. The artists will be very busy painting during their limited time together and will not have a lot of spare time for visiting, but they welcome people to stroll by.

DeReus lives with her husband on a farm near Pella, Iowa. She began studying rosemaling with Aarseth at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, in the late 1960s. She is a Gold Medalist in the museum's annual national competition.

Her work is in Vesterheim's permanent collection. Much of the accent stenciling and rosemaling throughout Vesterheim's Amdal-Odland Heritage Center is by DeReus. She was selected to help decorate the Norwegian Pavilion at the Epcot Center in Florida.

Her degree is in applied art from Iowa State University. Her Norwegian immigrant relatives settled north of Decorah near Hesper and many years ago her parents lived near Dorchester.

Aarseth died in December at the age of 76.

Sculpting class coming up

Spring Grove native, Craig Bergsgaard of Colorado, will be leading a figurative sculpture workshop Aug. 20 to 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The workshop will include: basic anatomy principles, use of armature, use of varied clays and lost wax process. The cost is $150 plus materials. The deadline to register is Thursday, Aug. 15. Contact the Heritage Center at (507) 498-5070 for more information and to register for the class.