These folk schools bring old skills to a new audience

Do you yearn for a simpler day and age? Whether you’re interested in birds, butchering or weaving baskets, Wisconsin Folk Schools teach skills that have been lost to generations. “Slaughtering a chicken or making sauerkraut means understanding these things [our] “Grandparents were doing it and they didn’t learn yet,” says Jacob Hundt, co-founder and principal of Driftless Folk School in Viroqua.

Students of all ages go to these rural areas spread across the state to learn self-sustaining skills from the pioneer era to the early 1900s, including sewing, carpentry, soap making, and painting. With six each, Wisconsin and Minnesota are associated with the largest concentration of folk schools in the country.

“There has been an explosion of interest in folk schools over the past 10 to 15 years, especially in the upper Midwest,” Hundt says. “It tracks closely with the spread of the internet. The time people spend on their screens inspires them to look for things to do with their hands.”

Joanne Powers took a class for the first time at Clearing Folk School in Door County in 1981. “The mood strikes you. You can’t stay away once you are,” she says. She continued to attend regularly in the decades that followed, and made lasting friendships with Other frequent visitors. Now, she takes a bird class every May and takes a class on watercolor painting and folk music. “I ended up doing things I never thought I could do,” she says. “When you make something with your own hands and you have something To show him, this is healing. …people who spend their lives in jobs under extreme stress are returning to The Clearing. It’s like a decompression chamber.”

1. Driftless Folk School


Founded in 2006, this popular school’s courses include pickling foods, making clothes, foraging, and butchering and range from one day to one weekend. Teachers often hold lessons in their homes or studios. The school offers housing options, but many students choose campIn nearby state parks or natural areas.

2. Folklore Village


Founded in the 1960s by Jane Farwell, who is credited with founding modern folk dance, Folklore Village offers traditional dance workshops. Courses also cover topics such as blacksmithing, turning pumpkins into banjos, caning chairs, lace weaving, and making fermented beverages. Students can sleep in on-site warehouses for $15 per person per night.

3. clearing

Ellison Bay

One of the oldest folk schools in the country, this 120-acre campus was founded by landscape architect Jensen Jensen in 1935. Many of the school’s offerings are based on the natural environment (birds, landscape design, landscapes, watercolor painting, and painting). .) Courses are week long in high season (May through October), and dormitory-style rooms are available on site.

4. Shak Raj Alley Arts Center

metal point

Besides traditional folk school options, this school offers courses in poetry and fiction writing, as well as paper and book arts. Class topics also cover blacksmithing and welding, carpet making and even baking the perfect apple pie or fresh tomato galette. Three private rooms are available for rent in the Coach House, as well as two apartments owned by the Center within a five-minute walk.



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