Crafts and Community Blend to Create Folk School

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A successful folk school in Grand Marais is the focal point of discussion in Ely.

The small north woods town is considering connecting its own craftsmen and artists with tourists and others in the community.

In order to understand why Ely is proposing their own folk school you have to get a feel for what makes Grand Marais’ school so special.

In just the last year North House Folk School’s Program Director Jessa Frost, told us they had offered more than 400 classes.

“We welcomed over just 2,000 students from 35–different countries,” said Frost.

All of the opportunities are made possible at North House Folk School.

An idea for the school blossomed along the shores of Lake Superior in 1997.

“That idea of learning together and in a community, and making things with your hands but also connecting with other people,” said Frost.

She told us one of the biggest draws for people taking classes is the opportunity to work with their hands.

It’s a connection with people and things you can harvest in nature.

For many the half-day classes or even multiple day courses offered inspire and rejuvenate.

More than 17 different classes are offered from blacksmithing, bread making and boat building, even sailing.

All of the courses have one thing in common.

“It’s a place where we teach people to do things with their hands,” said instructor John Beltman.

“When you sit down to sew a pair of moccasins, to make bread, you are reconnecting with things in front of you and your own body in a very different way,” explained Frost.

For many in today’s busy society being present in the moment is a lost art.

At the folk school what so many people long for, a sense of simplicity, is restored.

“A lot of the people who come here are not experienced woodworkers or craftsman, but they find they can do these things,” said Beltman.

Case in point – when we visited the school two neighbors from Hovland were building a Norwegian boat for the first time ever.

“Very simple boat not built with molds or plans, you start planking and bend the wood up if it looks good it is good,” said Beltman.

It’s a tangible object with the power to reconnect people to the northern forest.

“Deep inside of every human is this desire to connect with their hands and the people in their lives and land. Craft really allows you to do all those things,” said Frost.

The folk school offers classes year round geared towards adults.

To learn more information or even sign up for a class check out their website at:

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