For the past week or so, Robbie and I were part of a large group of mostly Northfielders immersed in a timber framing course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais, all working on the project for a Northfield couple who’ll be building a house up north next year.
To participate in this course, students select from a list of stock full-sized frames or custom design a building to meet their individual needs. To make the larger projects possible, students also recruit a group of assistants who journey to North House together to participate in the project.
Looking at the mission of the North House Folk School and their course offerings, something similar would seemingly work here in Northfield, given all the instructor talent in the area and the growing popularity of folk schools. See the March MPR story: Low-tech handcraft has never been more popular at North House Folk School
The chance to work with their hands, learn from peers and create something lasting draws a growing number of people like Belanger to North House, and to other folk schools sprouting up around the region: from the Driftless Folk School in southwestern Wisconsin, to the Milan Village Arts School in southwestern Minnesota. North House started with 14 students taking a single kayak-building class 15 years ago. Last year the school hosted 13,000 participants from 36 states.
Or maybe Northfield could become the southern campus of North House, given that the organization appears to be reaching south. See the PDF of their Spring Gathering in the Twin Cities. (We already have a timber framing connection to North House. Both the Memorial Chime Tower (2003) and Flaten Art Barn (2012) at St. Olaf were constructed with their help.)
Here’s a crazy idea: marry the effort to Save the Northfield Depot with the creation of a Northfield folk school.
IMHO, the big problem with fundraising for the Depot right now is that there’s no compelling function or purpose for its use. See the Mission/Vision page. Locating the beginnings of a folk school inside the Depot would not only be compelling but would offer many more possibilities for partnership including the colleges, local high schools, local arts organizations, etc.