Earth Arts unites artists and artisans in the upper St. Croix valley to promote creativity, mutual support and awareness of the arts. The members organize and promote special events such as the annual Spring Art Tour and Fall Salon Art Exhibition. Many Earth Arts members teach classes throughout the year.
Nancy Eha, Bead Artist: The Queen of Bead Explorers, Nancy, is the author of two books. She’s inventive, designs commissioned work, teaches and exhibits nationally. Nancy’s work was featured in the 2013 Fiber Art Almanac and Nancy was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Showcase Exhibit at the Textile Center.
The Ely Folk School – a DIY Antidote to the Digital World EFS is a do-it-yourself place for learning traditional crafts; skills associated with Ely’s cultural heritage; wilderness legacy. Our school is on the vanguard of a growing movement that launched in Scandinavia over a century back. The earliest schools were started by grassroots groups of local farmers and later labor unions, and then the movement was carried forward by rural townspeople. Their thrust was to return education to the community at a time when it was largely restricted to the upper classes. The movement continues today with over 200 folk schools in Scandinavia and Europe, though the thrust is now low-tech, high-touch learning rather than educational reform. Nearly 50 folk schools exist in the United States and Europe and the numbers are growing, each has an identity linked to its geography. For example, North Dakota’s Crooked Lake Farm Folk School focuses on the prairie and rural roots, while North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN, features the northwoods and Lake Superior. Ely’s rich Balkan and Finnish cultural heritage and its internationally renowned wilderness offer a rich trove around which EFS is creating its identity.
Work with Your Hands – Learn from Your Peers – Create Something Lasting The Ely Folk School offers classes, workshops & events for folks of all ages involving hands-on, cooperative learning. People are geared to create. Our ancestors survived by procuring or crafting all of life’s essentials. That hard- wired propensity for creation may no longer be critical for our survival, but it enhances our well-being. The contemplative nature of handwork skills still provides an enormous sense of satisfaction that allows people to lose themselves in time – an increasingly rare experience in today’s fast-paced lives. Folk schools are havens for interaction and renewal. Their mission is to inspire, not compel. They are also inter- generational and non-competitive with no grades and no credits. They encourage learning for life instead of for exams.
Interactive Learning Experiences Serve to Build Community Tilling the soil to grow your own food, carving a paddle to propel your own canoe, notching the logs to craft your own home — these activities connect hand to heart. And by learning these skills from one’s peers they connect people to the cultural context of their communities. In fact, a key & cherished component of folk schools is nurturing community. When you partake in a folk school class or event, you join other curious individuals to share interests & ideas. In our modern digitized culture where direct human contact is diminished, folk schools offer interaction, dialogue & shared experience. Coming together through learning and conversation enhances our individuality, dispels isolation and reinforces connection to community.
Bruce is a craftsman, an artisan who learned to weave, spin and dye in the ethnic tradition of northern Minnesota. His focus is on technique, those skills which not too many generations ago were relied upon to make household textiles that provided warmth, comfort and basic needs. Living in the Smokey Hills State Forest, which locals call ‘in the hills’; Bruce’s homestead and studio can be found at the end of a forest road somewhere between Osage, Ponsford and Park Rapids.
His studio is separate from the house, in what farmers would call an out building. Bruce spends his time making pieces such as rugs and kitchen cloths primarily to use, secondarily to sell. He is in the process of restoring a 19th century loom and has just started a weekly open house at his studio. Each week, he’ll set up a community project in which open house visitors can participate. The outdoor oven will be fired up to serve fresh bread and soup. Mondays from noon to midnight, now til the first week of November and after that he’ll see how the forest road is holding up.
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