Our Mission is to build community by providing learning experiences that celebrate the wilderness heritage, art, history, culture, and craft of the people of northern Minnesota.

Classes in Northwoods Skills & Crafts

We work with instructors whose passion and skills align with our mission. It is our honor to provide the facilities and infrastructure to help teachers share their knowledge, thus building our community. We offer both on-site and virtual classes, with topics ranging from snowshoe weaving to homemade Slovenian Potica. 

Land Acknowledgment

The Ely Folk School is located on the homelands of the Anishinaabe people, and within the ceded lands of the Treaty of 1854, where they retain rights to hunt, fish, and gather. We also recognize other Indigenous peoples lived on and utilized this land before the Ojibwe people including the Dakota, Cree, and other Tribal Nations. Our programs strive to highlight and preserve the art, history, culture, and craft of the Ojibwe people by hosting Anishinaabe instructors and speakers and uplifting their stories and compensating instructors fairly, taking into account the emotional labor of sharing ancestral knowledge with a majority white audience.

We’re deeply grateful for the multitude of ways that the Anishinaabeg have and continue to contribute to collective well-being through sharing of knowledge and time. As a place of lifelong and place-based learning, EFS commits to building and strengthening connections to Anishinaabeg communities, including our neighbors, the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa.

Meet Our Team

Our team is made up for a small group of dedicated individuals who are committed to enhancing the Ely Folk School mission and vision. We live and work in the community and each bring something unique to the table.

Current News & Events

Getting to the Ely Folk School

The Ely Folk School is centrally located, at the top of the hill on Sheridan Street. Students and visitors are welcome to park behind EFS, on the west side of the St. Anthony Catholic Church Parking Lot. Walk through the EFS Pocket Park to Sheridan Street and enter through our front doors. While the front door does have a step, the back door is wheelchair accessible. The Ely Folk School is surrounded by excellent dining options and only a few blocks from a grocery store. Visitors are welcome to visit EFS on Fridays, Saturdays, and while classes are running! 

Folk School Origins

The Ely Folk School was founded in 2015, but the folk school movement dates back to the mid-1800s. At the heart of this growing movement is a desire to increase connection — mutually beneficial connection between people, between people and their places, between people and the materials necessary for craft.

The movement continues today with over 600 folk schools in Scandinavia and Europe, though the thrust is now low-tech, high-touch learning rather than educational reform. More than 200 folk schools exist in the United States, where each has an identity linked to its geography. For example, North Dakota’s Crooked Lake Farm Folk School focuses on the prairie and rural roots, while North House Folk School in Grand Marais, MN, features the northwoods and Lake Superior. Ely’s rich Balkan and Finnish cultural heritage and its internationally renowned wilderness offer a rich trove around which EFS is creating its identity.

Folk schools are havens for interaction and renewal. Their mission is to inspire, not compel. They are also inter- generational and non-competitive with no grades and no credits. They encourage learning for life instead of for exams.

Nikcolai Frederick Severin (NFS) Grundtvig is credited with envisioning the folk school model. He sought to close the gap between life and learning inherent in the classical studies of Greek and Latin that were popular in his time. His vision of “schools for life” was aimed toward instilling pride for place-based culture and a love for lifelong learning.

The Ely Folk School is proud to be a part of the folk school movement, and honored to carry forth the folk school model to place relationships, culture, and personal & community empowerment at the center of learning and life.