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Folk School opens in NY Mills

The Continental Divide Folk School has officially begun offering classes at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.

In an interview, Director Jamie Robertson said the cultural center's board of directors has been studying other folk schools in Minnesota since Bob and Bonnie Thompson donated the creamery building at the end of 2011. And though the creamery building is not yet ready, the folk school took off last month.

Robertson said one thing they learned from folk schools in Milan, Grand Marai and Bemidji, was that "folk schools do not follow a cookie cutter model," but instead emphasize the cultural activities of certain geographical areas.

The folk school in NY Mills will focus on a variety of arts, including culinary, jewelry making, mosaic, weaving and gardening, just to name a few. The school will offer these classes thanks to help from area residents as well as visiting artists.

For example, last month Bob Sonnenberg, who lives outside of NY Mills, led a seminar to share his experience with sustainable forestry. Sonnenberg was the 2010 Outstanding Tree Farmer of Minnesota as well as North Central States.

Skills of area residents will continue to be shared in the months to come through future classes like Kathy Connell's four-part gardening workshops. Connell will guide aspiring gardeners through the process of preparing and planning their 2013 garden plots.

Robertson said the folk school is also strengthening the artist-in-residency program, which the cultural center has been a part of for 22 years. Artists who are staying in the residency home in NY Mills are asked to offer workshops at the folk school emphasizing their skills.

Another way the cultural center has expanded its programming into the folk school is by asking musicians to offer workshops in addition to their concerts. For example, jazz singer Allison Scott, who visited last month from Minneapolis, not only gave a concert at the cultural center, but also taught a workshop about the 'business side' of being a musician.

Robertson said the folk school classes help improve quality of life in the community by providing opportunities for conversations with experts and artists.

Some classes are offered free of charge. For more information, including a complete calendar of events, visit or call 385-3339.