North House: learning from the past, enriching the present

Building a cabin, or a yurt. Making a basket, and a knife. Learning how to do the work of a blacksmith, and then making your own tools to carry on the trade. Building a hand drum. Learning how to bake with ancient grains, and learning how to build an oven in which to bake your loaves. Building a canoe. Harvesting wild rice, and cooking with it. Making moccasins.
These are just a few of the things you could learn at North House, in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Centered in several revitalized wooden buildings on the shores of Lake Superior near the Boundary Waters, North House looks a lot like the folk schools common in Norway and other parts of Scandinavia, and indeed that’s where the inspiration came from when the school began. The idea is to nurture and pass on northern crafts, both northern in the Scandinavian heritage of many of the area’s early settlers and present day residents, and northern in respect to the unique culture and ecology of this part of North America.

The people of North House believe in the power of learning across generations, too, so many of the classes, from fiber arts to jewelry making to outdoor skills to food ways are structured to allow parents and children and grandchildren to learn together if they wish. Instructors are drawn from the deep well of traditionally skilled artists and craftspeople in the region, as well as from experts from across the country.
making jewelry

As you might expect from this description, the people of North House believe strongly in sustainability and respect for the natural environment. In addition to taking this into account in regular classes, Northern Sustainability: Homestead is the topic of a symposium coming up in early May. Later in the summer there’s the Northern Landscapes Festival, with a focus on birds in the region, and a wooden boat show combined with a summer solstice festival. In September, there’s a three day music festival, which draws top talent from across the country, as well as, this year and last, producers from the public radio Show Mountain Stage.

Learn more at the North House web site

photographs courtesy of North House

you may also wish to
take a look at last year’s music festival at North House,
with Jon Vezner, Kathy Mattea, Cathie Ryan, and others
learn about the Boundary Waters
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