Spotlight on the Rocky Mountain Folk School
Written By: Katie Hearsum
community engagement manager, Town of Grand Lake
The Grand Lake Creative District aims to support local organizations by helping promote artistic programs, classes, fundraisers and other cultural events in the Grand Lake area, of which there are many! The district is guided by an executive board as well as a committee made up of representatives from well-known local organizations such as the Grand Arts Council, the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, and the Juniper Library, among others. Although most of these events and activities occur in the summer months when the town’s population swells with seasonal visitors, the schedule expands more each year into the winter months helping to increase off-season visitation as well as provide full-time residents with things to do indoors during darker days.
The most recent addition to this roster is the Rocky Mountain Folk School (RMFS). The folk school formed in 2021 with the intent to bring more traditional artforms (think pottery, woodworking, quilting, etc) to the town’s creative scene and further enhance off-season programming. According to their website (www.rockymountainfolkschool.org) the mission of the RMFS is to provide “year-round learning experiences of traditional arts and crafts that engage the hands, warm the heart and stimulate the mind, in an inspiring and inclusive mountain lake community.”
The folk school concept originated in Denmark in the 1800s and made its way to America in the early 1900s. The John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina, was founded in 1925 and remains the largest folk school in the country. With an emphasis on Individual expression and social interaction, these “schools of life” have experienced a recent resurgence as a way of cultivating connection and creativity within communities.
The organization specializes in curating experiences with both local and national artisans alike, from intensive weekend workshops on art forms such as wood-turning and boat-building, to casual classes such as this summer’s popular fly-tying workshop presented by Kirk’s Fly Shop, where participants learned how to hand-craft various types of classic fly-fishing ties from start to finish in just two hours. This fall, the folk school welcomes back its acclaimed 5-week ceramics class series, which offers an introduction to various sculpting techniques and tools that participants use to make functional pottery, jewelry and wall art.
The pottery classes, led by long-time Grand County resident Patty Alander, were one of the first offerings by RMFS and remain a cornerstone of the organization. The community pulled together to provide supplies, space and other funding to make the class possible in the early days of the school’s founding, and it continues to be one of the best attended programs offered. It is especially popular with locals jonesing for activities to fill their time during cold, dark winter evenings.
“All I heard from my students last winter was, ‘I can’t believe we get to do this in Grand Lake!’” Patty said. “It’s really a great benefit to the community.”
Other upcoming events feature acrylic painting, rug-hooking, mixed media mosaics and wet felting, to name a few. The majority of classes are held in the Rocky Mountain Folk School building, also known as Grand Lake’s Pitkin House–the space was donated by the Town of Grand Lake in a show of support for the cultural enhancement that the folk school brings to the community–but some are held in other
locations around town, such as the Grand Lake Center. As it grows, the RMFS plans to expand its offerings to other locations throughout Grand County in the future.
With the ability to offer community connection and collaboration, it is the hope of the Grand Lake Creative District that this unique new offering will provide enriching local experiences for both residents and visitors alike, while adding greater vibrancy to Grand Lake’s cultural heritage.
Learn more at https://rockymountainfolkschool.org/.