ELY - Like many non-profits challenged by the COVID-19 crisis, Ely Folk School was forced to cancel in-person classes this spring. The school turned instead to online classes, which have been …
ELY - Like many non-profits challenged by the COVID-19 crisis, Ely Folk School was forced to cancel in-person classes this spring. The school turned instead to online classes, which have been successful.
“We’re struggling to hang in there,” said coordinator Betty Firth. “But we’re demonstrating resilience.”
She noted that EFS was among the first folk schools to pivot to online classes.
“Our Zoom cooking classes by Lacey Squire have been very well received, with over 160 participants making pizza, biscuits and gravy, Brazilian pastries, and Thai curried chicken,” said Firth. “A photo editing class received rave reviews and participants enjoyed swapping memories during a storytelling evening. Most classes have been offered on a donation basis, and many folks have shown their appreciation through generous contributions.”
With Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement allowing limited opening this week of entities like EFS, the school is taking “baby steps” toward resuming on-site classes.
“One of our first on-site classes will be Photographing Orchids on Saturday, June 20, and we’re scheduling others, including ceramics and blacksmithing, that will work well and safely within suggested guidelines,” said Firth. “DyAnne Korda will be reading from her new book in July, and Kay Vandervort will be offering several jewelry classes.”
Upcoming online classes include Advanced Adobe Lightroom Classic on June 17; The Wonders of Basswood Bark on June 18; Summer Sky Star Gazing on June 19; Storytelling on June 24; and Intermediate Rosemaling on June 27. Classes to be scheduled soon include Celebration of Poetry & Music, Songwriting, Watercolor, Writing Children’s Stories, and more cooking classes.
As a non-profit, EFS is supported in equal portions by grants, donations, and on-site class revenues, all of which have been curtailed by the crisis. The school received a $9,000 grant from Iron Range Resource and Rehabilitation (IRRR) to develop its blacksmithing program and launch ceramics and stained-glass classes.
“We’ve got beautiful new forging tools, pottery wheels, and a donated kiln ready to install. We hope to offer classes soon,” said Firth.
The IRRR grant also includes funds to develop a map in collaboration with the Bois Forte Band featuring Boundary Waters lakes with their original Anishinaabe names.
“This is an exciting spinoff of our connection with area tribal communities through our birch bark canoe program,” said EFS board chair Paul Schurke. He notes the map was first proposed a century ago by USFS planner Arthur Carhart and renowned Bois Forte band member Leo Chosa.
“We hope that residents and visitors alike will be pleased to learn that our famous lakes, many now named after loggers, miners, numbers, or days of the week, actually have beautifully lyrical and descriptive native names. It’s a novel and exciting project that will honor our canoe country Ojibway legacy,” said Schurke.
The IRRR grant on which EFS is dependent for its summer survival requires a dollar-for-dollar match from community donations.
“Our EFS friends have been generous in the past,” said Schurke “While these are tough times, we’re hoping their support will ensure we can unlock this critical grant. Our spring fund appeal is being launched this week to help keep EFS afloat.”
Donations are universally deductible up to $300 per individual or $600 per couple, Schurke noted, due to a provision in the recent federal CARES Act.
“We hope people will visit our website, www.ElyFolkSchool.org, where our spring fund appeal and our upcoming online and on-site classes are posted. During these restrictive times, community connecting points like EFS are more valuable than ever.”