What began as an idea and a graduate school project is celebrating its first year bringing artists and students together to share knowledge and learn traditional skills. Marine Mills Folk School has breathed new life into a neighborhood and former school building in the city of Marine on St. Croix, creating an arts learning center known as a ‘folk school.’
“The St. Croix river valley, and Marine on St. Croix in particular, has attracted artists and others interested in its natural beauty for generations. We wanted to help support local artists and also create a destination for people to visit the Marine area,” noted Robin Brooksbank, board chair. A longtime resident and former city council member, Brooksbank began considering creating a new folk school after the local school district announced plans to close Marine Elementary School.
“I knew folk schools were springing up around the country because of growing interest in hands-on learning by baby boomers, as well as by those wanting to explore arts and craft skills as an antidote to the pervasiveness of screens and technology. We knew our location near the Twin Cities plus demographic trends increased the chances of success, “ she explained.
Using a business plan created as part of a graduate school class, and with only volunteer help, the school and its board of directors have accomplished much in the first year. That includes moving not once but twice in less than a year, as the school recently began offering classes at the former Marine Elementary School building.
“The elementary school was an important part of village life for everyone, not just families who had children attending the school,” said Nanc MacLeslie, another board member and nearby resident. “We all felt a loss when the school closed. Many locals have stopped by to tell us how excited they are to have the folk school moving into the school building. It’s rewarding to know our nonprofit organization is making an impact, helping local artists and creating energy in this wonderful small town.”
during its first year:
• Worked with over 50 artists and teachers
• Over 500 class attendees
• Collaborated with local organizations such as the Gammelgarden Museum, William O’Brien State Park and Christ Lutheran Church
• Received support from granting organizations, including the Stillwater Area Foundation, the Whitson Fund of the St. Paul Foundation and the Alice M. O’Brien Foundation
To celebrate its first year of operation, the folk school is hosting a community picnic and open house at its new location, 550 Pine Street, Marine on St. Croix, on October 12 from 10-3. The school will have free food and beverages, music, tours of the school building and classes, a bouncy castle and fire truck rides. All are welcome! Those interested in classes or joining the picnic are encouraged to find more information at https://marinemillsfolkschool.org/ .
Founded in 2018, Marine Mills Folk School’s mission is to support and strengthen connections by inviting all people to discover the joy of learning and creating together. Located in Marine on St Croix, MN, the school offers adult and intergenerational classes in traditional arts and craft skills. Please visit https://marinemillsfolkschool.org/ for additional information or to see a complete listing of classes.