The North House Folk School’s mission is to enrich lives and build community by teaching traditional northern crafts. Currently, they host more than 300 classes and 3,000 students at their Grand Marais, Minnesota campus. The North House got its start more than 30 years ago when a gentleman by the name of Mark Hansen moved to the North Shore. He came here, initially, to build birch bark canoes as his trade. When Mark arrived in Grand Marais he immediately felt a connection to the area. Magic happened and Hansen stayed to build one of the most vibrant non-profit organizations in Minnesota: North House Folk School.
What Is a Folk School? Why Grand Marais?
A folk school is a place where people come to learn new skills or expand the knowledge they have on a certain trade or concept using traditional methods. Mark saw the North Shore as the ideal place to bring together like-minded people and form a community of creators, and he did just that. Mark surrounded himself with others who shared his vision and, from that, The North House Folk School was born.
Courses and Offerings
Since North House Folk School came to life in the late 1990s, many changes have come their way. When first created, the school was just two buildings (the red and blue buildings), then it started gaining popularity. Now, the North House is an entire campus with numerous buildings and features. Each year, visitors come from all over the world to learn trades and skills that aren’t taught elsewhere. Expert instructors also come from around the world to teach traditional northern crafts. Some of the offerings you can find at North House closely resemble its original concept. Classes like boatbuilding, woodcarving, and blacksmithing. The original courses are still being offered, but have been joined by a variety of other courses. These include fiber arts, timber framing, foods, sustainable living, and even kids’ courses.
In addition, the school offers numerous events throughout the year. Two of their most-attended events are the Wooden Boat Show and Summer Solstice Festival in June and the Unplugged and Birch Bark Bash in September.
There are many ways that both locals and visitors can get involved at North House. Of course, the easiest way is to take a course. You can easily browse the course catalog and find a course (or two or three) that interests you. Then, just reserve your spot online and your journey with North House has begun! There are also plenty of volunteer opportunities if you frequently travel in the area. Volunteering at the school can earn you credits towards free programs.
Finally, North House Folk School offers a variety of Workstudy and Internships that bring creators to the North Shore to study and learn the traditional ways. These programs include residency programs and their participants become part of the North Shore community during their time at North House. They are ideal for someone looking for a more immersive experience at North House.
If you can’t take a class or do a full internship, you can visit their store in the yellow house right off Highway 61. The store features products and goods created by students and instructors as well as books on traditional crafts.