Resource Guide to U.S. Folk Schools
Written by Sarah Lahm
This resource guide to American craft schools and folk schools, organized by region, is a work in progress—and far from comprehensive. More than 100 folk schools currently operate in the United States, offering instruction in timeless, artisanal pursuits while also providing space for people to gather and share resources, or simply a post-project meal. The course list at a folk school is typically informed by the cultural traditions present in the surrounding community. You can take a Black Ash basket weaving class from an Indigenous instructor in Minnesota, for example, or spend a week in North Carolina learning how to make an Appalachian-style broom.
Many more folk schools and private workshops can be found in our growing Artisans’ Directory, as well as through the Folk School Alliance. The American Craft Council also maintains an excellent list of schools offering craft workshops and courses.
All images courtesy of John C. Campbell Folk School.
West (including Alaska)
- Folk School of Fairbanks (Fairbanks, AK)
Fairbanks’ folk school began more than 30 years ago, growing organically from local interest in hands-on learning opportunities. Participants can find a range of classes and activities here, from boat-building to “bone, antler, and skin work.”
- Palmer Folk School (Palmer, AK)
Learn how to make a besom broom at this folk school, located north of Anchorage, or try your hand at crafting a boot knife in the Scottish tradition. Mushroom foraging classes are also a popular offering.
- Anderson Ranch (Snowmass Village, CO)
Located in western Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, Anderson Ranch was founded more than 50 years ago with a mission to be a creativity-fueled visual arts center. This mission is carried through today with small classes, 24-hour access to the Ranch’s studio space, and workshops in a range of visual art mediums.
- Bee Tree Folk School (Weiser, ID)
Take traditional folk classes such as sewing and food preservation inside a stone building built more than a century ago—known locally as the Pythian Castle. Bee Tree is also known for its music classes and community recording studio.
- Montana Folk School (Missoula, MT)
Learn how to get along in the wilderness at this 4-year old folk school focused on sustainable living skills. Beginners are encouraged to learn survival essentials such as fire-building or cordage-making techniques.
- Arbutus Folk School (Olympia, WA)
This folk school emphasizes inclusivity, offering ceramics and other courses led by and designed for people from racially and economically marginalized backgrounds. An appointment-based workspace is also available for those with tools and skills, but no woodshop of their own.
- Cedar Root School (Nordland, WA)
Handcraft a pair of felted boots, or earn a wildlife tracking certificate at this rural Washington folk school, which offers classes that seek to fortify the local community. An emphasis on youth programming is evident here, with a focus on immersing young people in nature.
- Mesa Arts Center (Mesa, AZ)
A range of art-focused classes are available here, including printmaking, photography, and glass-blowing. All ages are welcome, and the site also features a museum, community events, and educational opportunities.
- Sedona Arts Center (Sedona, AZ)
Learn a new skill amid unique surroundings: Take an on-site class in ceramics or visual art, or venture out for an Arts Center-sponsored course held at the Grand Canyon, or even in Mexico.
- Native Roots School (Taos, NM)
This school offers many unique courses both in-person and online; and some are free of charge. The emphasis here is on herbalism, as well as ancestral healing and teaching methods, with a focus on spiritual and cultural well-being.
- Vesterheim Folk Art School (Vesterheim, IA)
In-person and online classes are offered at this school, which emphasizes the region’s ancestral ties to Norway and long history of Norwegian immigrants. You can learn the Norwegian decorative art of rosemaling here, for example, or take a Nordic cooking class.
- Villages Folk School (Keosauqua, IA)
Many traditional folk school offerings are available here, from blacksmithing to soapmaking, all in a quiet, rural setting within the historical communities of Van Buren County, Iowa.
- Chicago Mosaic Workshop (Chicago, IL)
Visit this school’s open studio sessions to work on an individual project, or take one of their many mosaics courses. Although the emphasis is on mosaics, this doesn’t mean the course offerings are limited. You can take a drawing class to prepare for creating a mosaic, or apply this art form to jewelry or stained glass, for example.
- Finnish American Folk School (Hancock, MI)
Traditional Finnish crafts take center stage here, through courses in tapestry, Finnish folk music, and Nuno wet felting, among others. Other classes include wheel-throwing, mending, and beginning weaving.
- Michigan Folk School (Ann Arbor, MI)
The focus at this school is on homesteading skills, and they offer an extensive range of related courses—from learning to use wax canvas to “Roadkill 101.”
- Avon Hills Folk School (Avon, MN)
For more than 50 years, friends, neighbors, and students have been gathering at this wooded site to try their hands at a traditional, seasonal craft (think maple-sugaring) or join an immersive event, like a weekend of “forest-bathing.”
- Ely Folk School (Ely, MN)
In the far reaches of northern Minnesota, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe Area, participants can join a community dance party, gather for a makers’ event, or learn about the Indigenous Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe.
- Marine Mills Folk School (Marine-on-St.-Croix, MN)
Take a welding class, or learn how to make your own mozzarella. This school’s widely varied courses are offered online and in person, in a small village alongside the Minnesota River.
- North House Folk School (Grand Marais, MN)
Students at this Lake Superior-based school will find a variety of offerings, many with a regional emphasis. In addition to timber frame-building and woodfired pizza-making courses, you’ll find classes on topics ranging from “Tramp Art” to studying the lichen that grows in nearby forests.
- The Clearing Folk School (Ellison Bay, WI)
Founded in Northern Wisconsin’s Door County nearly 100 years ago to give people a place to reconnect with nature, this folk school’s mission is evident in its programming, which encourages close contact with the surrounding environment.
- Driftless Folk School (Viroqua, WI)
Study herbalism or organic farming methods in the unique Driftless regions of Southern Wisconsin. Seasonal art and craft classes are offered, as well as courses geared towards sustainability and land stewardship.
- Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts (Mineral Point, WI)
Retreats, lodging, workshops for adults and youth — this Wisconsin folk school seems to have it all. Mineral Point is a draw, too; the town boasts strong ties with Cornwall, and includes a collection of preserved, 19th century stone houses built in the Cornish style.
East (including the South)
- John C. Campbell Folk School (Brasstown, NC)
Since 1925, this well-established American folk school has offered a broad range of programming in the mountains of North Carolina, in service of its motto: “I sing behind the plow.” The school is known for pairing immersive experiences with the study of craft in all its various forms, from beekeeping to textiles to decorative gourd work.
- Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program (Williamsburg, MA)
Small classes and workshops led by working artists shape the programming here: Classes take place on a 50-acre farm site in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, near Springfield. Snow Farm emphasizes inclusivity and has programming options designed to welcome students and instructors of color.
- Baltimore Clay Works (Baltimore, MD)
A group of artists founded this community-centered school more than 40 years ago, with the intention of bringing joy, creativity, and ceramics instruction to all Baltimore area residents. Take a sculpture class in-person or online, and bring your project to the Clay Works community woodfire event.
- Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (Deer Isle, ME)
This coastal Maine school blends innovation with tradition: Through a partnership with MIT, Haystack has a fabrication lab that all students may use, as well as a range of programming options from in-person residencies to community events. Focus areas include blacksmithing, ceramics, and woodwork.
- Peters Valley School of Craft (Layton, NJ)
Learn how to make chainmail or study the art of repairing broken pieces of pottery at this rural New Jersey folk school. Other course offerings include darning, woodshop specifically for women and trans/nonbinary people, and beginning, hands-on blacksmithing, among many other options. The school also hosts residencies and off-campus trips.
- Adirondack Folk School (Lake Luzerne, NY)
Set in New York’s Adirondack Park, this folk school offers classes and events that reflect this region’s unique ecosystem and cultural traditions. Participants can make an Adirondack chair, learn paddle-building techniques, or take a woodcarving class, among many other options.
- Appalachian Arts Craft Center (Clinton, TN)
Once an outpost in the back of a grocery store, the Appalachian Arts center is now an extensive, education-focused craft center with deep roots in the local community. Take a class in gourd art, learn how to paint using flowers from the garden, or explore many of the other folk school offerings here.
This school has an emphasis on homesteading skills, including the care and keeping of animals, cheese-making, and organic gardening. Ploughshare also offers courses in blacksmithing, woodworking, and fiber arts, among many others, amid a self-sustaining, intentional community.
- Fletcher Farm School for the Arts and Crafts (Ludlow, VT)
Explore Early American decoration techniques, or a take course in silversmithing, basketry, or quilting in a historical farm setting. This school offers a range of immersive courses in locally themed craft pursuits, including Native American Arts and Crafts.