The Folk School Alliance Newsletter
A project of Folk Education Association of America
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Folk Education Association of America Board of Directors 

Jennifer Rose Ramsay
     Escobar, Chair

Mary Cattani, Vice Chair,
    Newsletter Editor
Dawn Murphy, Secretary
Christopher Spicer, Treasurer
Marilyn Jackson
Geraldine Johnson
Carol Voigts

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Folk School Alliance

news | winter 2019

Welcome to the Folk School Alliance (FSA). 

Please email us:

if you have comments, news to share through our newsletter or would like us to feature your organization!

In this issue:

Tour Opportunity for FSA Members: 
A Heritage Craft Tour: Hands of Ireland

- The Folk School Fairbanks;
- Bee Tree Folk School; and
- Three Pines Farm Folk School

FEAA and WISeR Connections from East to West

Journal of a Folk School Founding: Dear World

FEAA Board Member Grant Project: Leading from the Roots

Board Notes:   New Board Member:
Irish Heritage Craft Tour:

Special Rate for FEAA members!

Folk School Alliance member, The Homestead Atlanta, has teamed up with Wild Routes Ireland to offer a heritage craft tour of Ireland next May, 2019. "Hands of Ireland" will feature experts in thatching, chair making, woolen weaving, boat building, wild food & seaweed foraging, herbal medicine, strawcraft, leatherwork, sustainable farming, traditional storytelling and more.

As a Folk School Alliance member benefit, The Homestead Atlanta would like to offer a $300 discount for folk school
members and friends when they book before February 1! A private link with the exclusive discount is available here:

Feel free to present this as a perk for your organization's students or members, and please don't hesitate to reach out to Kimberly Coburn at if you have any questions at all.

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019 full of learning and adventure from The Homestead Atlanta and the Folk School Alliance.

Folk School Features

Folk School Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK

The Folk School Fairbanks began in earnest with our flagship program, Week in the Woods, over 10 years ago. Week in the Woods is a group of instructors and students that gather in the boreal forest around the summer solstice, communing and making art and crafts from the natural materials available. This concept was the seed that grew into our current school.
The Folk School Fairbanks has roots in traditional craft, offering many classes in woodworking, often utilizing local materials, such as the abundant birch, spruce, willow and alder. We have offered wood carving, spoon making, many types of furniture, spoon carving, Kuksa making, bowl carving, snowshoe making, and birch bark baskets and ornaments. In the last few years, we have also ventured into the fiber arts as well, offering needle felting, wool felting, spinning and knitting. We also venture outside the realm of traditional craft with classes in cooking, music, health and wellness, and outdoor topics such as wilderness first aid and skijoring.
The Folk School began by offering classes in homes, community centers and parks. We have struggled over the years to find a permanent home, unable to pay high rent and find a space large enough for a full woodworking shop. Last fall, we moved to a new location, right in the heart of Fairbanks, to a park facility owned by the borough. We have rented a couple of buildings that had been closed down, mainly due to a lack of funding and maintenance. This new location has proven to be a both a blessing and a challenge. We have been filling classes, which is wonderful, but we are also responsible for building maintenance, heat, and improvements, so we have many things on our list yet to be completed. Overall, though, the move was a positive experience for us, and we are looking forward to expanding our programs now that we are able to reach a much wider audience.

We are committed to multi-generational learning, affordable classes, hands-on experiences, and supporting the DIY movement. We want to connect people to the place they live, and
introduce folks to the wonders of the boreal forest

~Kerri Hamos
  Programs Director 

Bee Tree Folk School
Weiser, Idaho
We are presently under construction at our new location.  After terminating our lease at a previous location, we began searching for another home.   We landed in the "Pythian Castle" in downtown Weiser, Idaho. Our new location is on the National Historic Registry and is a truly unique building with a colorful history. Since September, 2018 we have completely gutted the interior of the ground floor and started with a fresh slate. I anticipate that we'll be operational by March 1st. It's really hard to have classes in a location with no plumbing or HVAC! We have continued to have classes on a reduced scale at two other locations.
We will have two ADA restrooms, a full kitchen, offices, classroom areas, and nine amazing collections of artifacts that should draw visitors from around the world!
After we are finished with the ground floor we will begin restoration of the upper floor which hasn't been changed significantly since opening in 1904, including 17 foot, six-inch barrel ceilings with the original pressed tin still in place and in near-perfect condition.  We practice what we preach, using local contractors and retailers for our materials and work. We encourage everyone reading this to do the same!
Our vision is three-fold:
The Bee Tree Folk School
An interactive museum for sharing the Simpson-Vassar Colle
A small business incubator.
Because our new home is in a C-1 commercial district we will need to obtain or build a second location in a C-3 or industrial zoned area for woodworking, construction, and blacksmith classes after the Castle is completely restored. We are actively searching for our second location.

~Dennis and Sandy Cooper 
  Founders and Directors


Three Pines Farm
Folk School

Cedar Falls, Iowa
Three Pines Farm is a fifth-generation family farm, rich with history and beauty, nestled in the heart of the Cedar Valley of Iowa.  In our charming barn-studio, we host classes and events with a mission of building community, supporting artisans, and preserving arts & crafts.

Since our opening in 2014, we have welcomed educators, students, and visitors from near and far -- from across the road to across the world.  Our events center around the ‘living arts’ and aim to connect folks with more mindful, inspired, creative, and slower ways of being.  We offer a diverse selection of classes -- cooking, woodworking, broom making, weaving, natural dyeing, silversmithing, basketry, and much more -- along with farm-to-table dining events.  Through these offerings we aspire to connect our community with the artisans surrounding us – the baker, the crafter, the farmer, the chef, the artist, as well as connecting folks with a more revitalized and vibrant version of themselves.

We would be delighted to have you join us at the farm for a class, event, or simple visit, and hope that you will find yourself enriched with the warm memories and newfound skills that come with time shared at Three Pines Farm.

For more about our history and mission, please click on this link:
~Kara Grupps
 Founder and Director

The Western Institute for Social Research-WISR


FEAA and WISeR Connections from East to West

Have any of you involved in folk schools considered doing academic social research on your folk school activities?  I want to tell you about an opportunity to do this at the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR, pron. wiser, in Berkeley, CA, and about my experience there. I enrolled there in the mid-1990s, wanting to develop my interests that included the folk school movement through their Education for Social Change PhD program and am involved there now as staff and faculty. Folk schools can have a variety of themes that promote education in individual communities. WISR helps learners take their work a step further by encouraging action research such as interviewing and being mentored as they write while their knowledge grows.
Many in the WISR community know about either Highlander or folk schools as well as popular educators such as Paulo Freire (who wrote a book with Myles Horton of Highlander) and adult educator John Ohliger. We have often watched the invigorating film, You Got to Move about Highlander. Students are required to study social change and one of WISR’s themes is Multicultural is WISR as they strive to be inclusive of people of all backgrounds.  Though students mainly work in their own communities, when we gather together, I’ve encouraged folk school like values of sharing culture as well as check-ins where everyone can make a meaningful introduction and feel comfortable chiming into the discussion. Another requirement is to engage in action research such as interviewing. I have never been to Highlander but as part of my writing on folk schools I interviewed Aimee Horton, Myles’ second wife, who later in life was involved with the Eduard Lindeman Center in (see references below).

I grew up near and attended the Swedish Lutheran college Augustana, in Rock Island, Illinois. Professor Sonya Knudsen, daughter of Danish Grundtvigian theologian Johannes Knudsen, gave me one of Kay Parke's Folk Education Association of American's (FEAA) newsletters. 

My connection to the FEAA deepened when I attended a gathering in Amherst, MASS at the Scandinavian Seminar. I enjoyed the collaborative  atmosphere and even slept in their office in my sleeping bag. Since then I have attended various Danish-American folk gatherings, including the August Folk Meeting at Danebod, MN and the Farstrup-Mortensen Life & Learning Conference in Solvang, CA.  Years years later I joined the FEAA board, which meets by Zoom as we enjoy this exciting time of folk school growth in the United States.
WISR is now reaching out to other organizations such as the FEAA to collaborate and is looking for people who would benefit from their unique program. Currently WISR is developing their curriculum for easier online access using Google Education Suite.
WISR’s highly personalized programs allow one to study for individual courses or towards a BS/MS/EdD degree and they have a strong counseling/LMFT program.  Together with FEAA, WISR could create a course on folk schools so that about half of each student’s degree program could involve writing and action research about their folk school work/involvement and expansion of knowledge around this subject.  If you or a friend would like to know more about WISR, please contact me (


Here’s a song I wrote about WISR to the melody of the well-known Swedish tune, Flickorna I Småland.
1) Way out in California
Where the orange poppies grow.
Where Redwood forests whisper susilull and susilo.
There you can see them one by one
and sometimes two by two;
Those social action researchers in their community.
Western Institute for Social Research right in Berkeley
Offers individualized instruction for adult learning
And action research for nonprofits and for other social change.
It’s that action research school in Berkeley;
Try it for a change
2) As you ponder in you’re searching
For the school that suits you best;
As you question and you wander
To the east and to the west;
You may hear the wind’s voice whisper susilull and susilo
For WISR gives direction that you really ought to know.
3) From Nigeria to South Africa
And over to Japan
From Bangladesh to Boston
And from Colorado too.
Those social action research students
Come from east and west
WISR social action research students really are the best.
Marilyn Jackson is the author of two chapters, ed. by Torry Dickinson, WISR Faculty Emeritus: Education for Life at Danish Folk Schools and Highlander, in Democracy Works, Joining Theory and Action to Foster Global Social Change, 2008 and The Life of the People: The Legacy of N.F.S. Grundtvig & Nonviolent Social Change Through Popular Education in Denmark, in Community and the World, Participating in Social Change, 2003; also a blog where she integrates lifelong learning themes of popular education, music and social change, creation spirituality and more:

Journal of a Folk School Founding:

Happiness Hills Folk School

After dinner with Henning and Bodil Møller Andersen, family friends and co-founders of the Danish-American Exchange

Dear World,
In the blink of an eye, as the saying goes…
Last time I wrote, I was feeling that I was on the edge of everything, ready to rappel down to new adventures. Now, some major adventures are under our belts and others await us around the bend. What a great few months this has been!
We offered our first folk school weekend – a blacksmithing class – in August, and it went very well. The learners and instructors unanimously said they want to do more of what we are offering. Hooray! Now to schedule and market new experiences for this spring and summer…
At the end of September, my daughters and I were honored to participate in the Folk School Alliance Regional Meeting in Minneapolis. We hadn’t been to Minneapolis before, so that was a great adventure! The people we met, the place we stayed, the Danish American Center, and the things we discussed at the meeting were all unforgettably delightful.
From Minneapolis, we flew straight to Denmark for a three-week tour of concerts promoting our new CD, Harmony in the Valley, my eleventh recording but the first featuring my daughters in full harmony with me. The tour was BUSY but was a wonderful success. Alfredo spent a week painting a mural with students at Han Herred Efterskole in Fjerritslev and then traveled with us for the remainder of the tour. The girls and I performed 13 concerts in 19 days and visited with friends and fans all over the country, sometimes eating three meals a day at three different homes or cafes! We were able to visit overnight with Joan Rask, one of the journalists who visited us last year while reporting on the influence of Grundtvig in the USA, and it was lovely to reconnect with her. We spent the whole evening talking about the importance of folk education – food for our souls! One of our friends on the west coast of Denmark is involved in founding a brand-new folk school in his area, and I was able to encourage him in his efforts by telling him about the momentum in the American Folk School Movement and the work of the FEAA and FSA. Other friends who are or have been involved in Folk Education in Denmark were glad to hear about our involvement with the FEAA and about the establishment of our own school here at Happiness Hills.
We arrived home exhausted but happy, and minus one child… Lydia went from Denmark to England, where she spent two months in the home of friends we know through traditional dance. We missed her at home, but she had a life-changing experience there. Our goals for her “study abroad” were very Folk-Education oriented: she was tasked with helping the family she stayed with in their volunteer efforts (a community preschool, weekly mommy-and-me sessions for low-income mothers, and a Saturday folk music school) and journaling about what she learned as she lived and helped in a culture different from her own.
Now, we’re all back together and gearing up for the next phase in our adventure. Come join us!
Jennifer Rose Escobar
Happiness Hills Folk School

FEAA Board Member Grant:

Leading from the Roots

Thanks to the inspiration and work of FEAA board member Dawn Murphy, a PhD student at Fielding Graduate University, Fielding has been awarded a two-year, $200,000 federal research grant through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).  Centered on Arbutus Folk School of Olympia, Washington, community and university researchers will develop and implement a community-based research project in the five-county region (the Pac5) in the Pacific Mountains of Washington State. 

The project, entitled  “Leading from the Roots,”  will engage local artisans, craftspeople, and tradition-bearers in a study of economic vitality and resiliency through arts, culture, and heritage-based activities.  Specifically, Murphy and her co-principle investigators aim to answer these questions: “How can place-based, traditional artists and craftspeople help reduce their region’s dependency on external or unsustainable economic drivers?” and “What impact does engagement in a Community Based Participatory Research process have on scope of service in folk schools?”

As Murphy has said:  “Folk schools have a long history of inspiring social change by awakening, enlivening, and sustaining the communities in which they are located. Communities across the country are turning to folk schools for this reason with 92 new folk schools founded since 2001.  Through this research project, Arbutus Folk School will serve as a model in broadening and measuring their impact. This could mean a ripple effect with communities in more than half the U.S. states reaping benefits.”

Stacey Waterman-Hoey, Director of Arbutus Folk School, has put it this way:  “At our core, Arbutus works to empower people and communities… through the joy of sharing a cultural tradition, the pride of learning to make our own useful and beautiful goods, or the richness of connecting and celebrating with others.  Craft and cultural traditions have been the foundation of local economies worldwide for millennia.  We look forward to investigating the potential of a renewal of these enriching and economically viable activities in our region’s rural communities.”

In the first few months of the grant, project leaders including representatives from Arbutus Folk School, Fielding University, and Highlander Research and Education Center have traveled to Washington, D.C., for presentations and training.  Within the Pac5 county region of Washington state, project leaders have begun cataloging Heritage Arts organizations and advocates and creating a communication plan in order to recruit study participants.

"Leading from the Roots" will examine the possibilities of economic resiliency through a bottom-up community driven approach, engaging the region's untapped resource of local artisans and craftspeople who practice the skills and artistry of place-based traditional culture. Through this process the community may find more than just a means for economic resiliency; it may also find identity and connection to place.  We are very excited about this project and look forward to reporting further as the research progresses.    

News from the Board

New Board Member Geraldine Johnson:

My name is Geraldine “Gerry” Johnson. I am the founder and creative director of Aspire Artisan Studios & Folk School in Waconia, MN. As an educator and art instructor of 25 years, I dreamt of creating a space that would preserve historical arts. A communal place where art enthusiasts of all ages could come together to learn, teach and collaborate. In 2015, I decided develop and launch an interactive and educational Folk School that promotes and preserves contemporary and traditional hand-arts through youth and adult classes. Our mission at Aspire Artisan Studios & Folk School is to enrich the community by allowing students to develop their unique talents and artistic abilities. In addition to being the creative director at Aspire Artisan Studios & Folk School, I have dedicated the past 26 years of my career to being a special education paraprofessional within the Minnetonka School District, as well as a program leader and art instructor for community education programs.  It is a great privilege to become apart of the Folk School movement and support artist communities across the United States. As a board member, I look forward to contributing to and strengthening the greater mission of the Folk School Alliance."

To see a working list of folk schools in North America, visit the Folk School Alliance's website at

Copyright © 2019 Folk Education Association of America, All rights reserved.

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