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Group looks at potential for ‘folk school’ in Homer

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 3:26pm  |  Updated: May 9, 2014 - 1:49pm

There’s a new kind of education brewing in Homer.

Several citizens, including Chad Jones and Kevin Walker, are pushing for a nonprofit school that would emphasize traditional folk skills such as boat building, woodworking, northern ecology, fiber arts and more. 

The group is calling the new nonprofit organization the North Pacific Folk School and began collating efforts in late April.

Jones, who is spearheading the efforts, describes the school by saying, “In essence, a folk school is a school of craft. This school can bring a campus to the area providing a place for people to come together to teach their crafts, and teach others about sustainability and what you need to be self-sufficient.” 

Anyone who is skilled in a particular area can become an instructor at the school, with students paying on a class-by-class basis. Classes would range from one to several days, depending on the subject to be learned. 

Jones brought the idea and the organization structure to Homer after moving from Grand Marais, Minn., last July. In Grand Marais, Jones was a part of another folk school called the North House Folk School, which offers more than a hundred classes on everything from sailing to blacksmithing. These types of schools are prevalent on the East Coast, but not in Alaska. 

“I’ve noticed there isn’t really good collaboration between all the different groups here in Homer. This place can be a venue to form a collaboration between a lot of different cultural skills that already exist in town,” Jones says of the new folk school. “I’ve called a lot of people that may be interested in offering classes and the support has been overwhelming.”  

The campus would be a common outlet for multiple Homer organizations to reach a wider audience.  

Walker says the institution could improve Homer’s culture of tradition and possibly boost the tourism industry.

“This school would be teaching the skills that are handed down generation to generation, and allow them to be carried on,” says Walker. “It’s a tourist-oriented type of industry that is clean and sustainable, giving tourists the chance to learn something Homer has to offer while they’re in town.”  

Jones says the organization in Grand Marais is a community nexus that brings in events like wooden boat shows and sustainable living conferences, generating an income for the town.   

He thinks the system that has worked in Grand Marais and other places could work even better here in Homer.  While the school in Grand Marais is fairly large, the town has a population of only about 1,200.

Jones believes a folk school here in Homer would work even better with more people and a wider variety of skills to offer.  

Walker agrees. 

“There are fiber groups in town, the Wooden Boat Society, and even the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club could give ski lessons or classes on how to build skis,”  he says.

The group is holding a meeting at 6 p.m. May 14 in the Cowles Council Chambers of City Hall to get public feedback on the idea.  

“We would like to know what kinds of courses people would like to see offered, what kinds of courses they would want to teach, as well as get feedback on a location for the school and how we can keep the ball rolling,” says Walker.

The group encourages interested people to visit their website at northpacificfolkschool.org and to come to the May 14 meeting for more information.  

Aryn Young is a freelance writer who recently relocated to Homer from Texas.

 

 

North Pacific Folk School Meeting

When: 6 p.m. May 14

Where: Cowles Council Chambers of Homer City Hall

More info on the web: northpacificfolkschool.org

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