The Norwegian capital of Texas and an arts center:
Clifton officially became the Norwegian Capital of Texas in 1997, but its Norwegian heritage has been apparent for much longer than that. As the final resting place of Cleng Peerson, the recognized “Father of Norwegian Immigration to America”, this town has been on the map for Norwegians for over 150 years.
The traces of the Norwegian immigrants are easily visible in the Clifton area. In Norse county, just outside of Clifton, two Norwegian-fashioned churches were built by Norwegian settlers: Our Savior’s Lutheran Church was constructed in wood in 1869, and St. Olafs Church was built in stone in 1886. With traditional Norwegian ornaments and decorations, these Churches stand out as notably different from other churches in the area. The Norwegian Christmas Celebration, where the two churches host Christmas ceremonies, is an annual event which draws a considerable Norwegian crowd to Clifton.
In a successful attempt to revive the city center, artists were hired in 2007 to decorate various buildings in Clifton. Most notable is perhaps the statue of a cowboy on a horse, situated in the middle of the main street. The statue is made by Bruce Greene, and it incorporates the city’s frontier history into its visual image. Martin Grelle and the mentioned Bruce Greene, both born and raised in Clifton, are nationally famous artists within the cowboy art scene. Today, most of the downtown businesses revolve around art or culture, and Clifton is one of the towns in US with the highest artist per capita rate.
Who is Cleng Peerson?
Cleng Peerson, born in Tysvær, Norway, recognized as the father of Norwegian emigration to the US, led 17 Norwegian immigrants to Clifton, Texas, in 1854 in search for a better future. His legacy of discovery and leadership inspires Norwegians and Americans today. Having lived in Clifton until his death in 1865, he was buried at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in the Norse community outside Clifton. King Olav V of Norway came to Bosque County in 1982 to honor the memory of Cleng Peerson and his service to Norway. More recent distinguished visitors, include the visit in October 2011 by Norway’s Minister of Research and Higher Education, Tora Aasaland.
What is the Cleng Peerson Institute?
The Cleng Peerson Institute will honor Cleng Peerson’s legacy as a non-profit organization dedicated to exploring academic and educational solutions in crucial fields like energy, business, health care/medicine, and promoting contemporary research on today’s Norwegian society through scholar and student exchanges at the university, college and high school levels. The institute will present exhibits, cultural and musical programs about contemporary Norway, and will promote educational programs for Americans to learn about the Norwegian language, culture and their genealogical history.
Cleng Peerson Institute goals and location:
- Prepare the individual who enters its doors for leadership positions in the public and/or private sectors.
- Promote the study and research of cultural issues of mutual concern to Norway and Texas
- Provide a forum for the discussion of mutual business concerns affecting both Norway and Texas
- Promote educational and research exchanges between Norway and Texas.
The Cleng Peerson Institute is strategically located to support the implementation of these goals. Clifton is two hours from Austin, the capital of Texas; two hours from Dallas/Fort Worth, the financial capital of Texas; four hours from Houston, the oil, energy, medical and space capital of Texas; and three hours from San Antonio and the Alamo. In addition, it was designated a Texas Cultural Arts District in October 2011.
The Royal Norwegian Consulate General in Houston is actively engaged in having CPI launched. In this endeavour, the Consulate has facilitated direct contact between Clifton and Tysvær in Rogaland, Norway, where Cleng Peerson came from. Talks are under way for a possible Sister Cityr arrangement between the two. The Mayor of Clifton, the Honorable Fred Volcansek, will visit Tysvær, Haugesund and Stavanger this year.