Power is Out at Pioneer Park

If you tried to call The Folk School any time since Thursday morning, 9/3/2020, the phone just rang and rang. That’s because the power is out at Pioneer Park, and will be well into next week. We’re really sorry for the inconvenience, but in the meantime please email us at instead of calling. 

The News-Miner has an article about it in today’s paper: Electrical problem shortens Pioneer Park’s concessionaire season. The article is behind a paywall, but here’s the crux: “Underground electrical lines in the parking lot between the Frontage Road and the Salmon Bake appear to be the source of the problem… The borough is hiring a contractor to evaluate and make repairs….” And the work won’t be done until well into the week, if not after.

Please note that The Folk School is not a seasonal concessionaire as mentioned in the article. We’re open and operating in the park year-round.

COVID-19 Update, 8/23/2020

The Folk School is continuing to work to expand our offerings in the reality of the ongoing pandemic. Our schedule lately has been much lighter than our usual summer, but we’re encouraged by the enthusiasm that the community has shown for our online, video-based, and socially distanced outdoors classes. Thank you!

Our fall schedule is starting to come together. We’ll do outdoors, in-person, small-sized classes as long as weather permits, and are looking at some outdoor heating options to extend that a little. We’re continuing to develop other ways to engage people who want to continue to learn interesting things, including:

  • Innovative online courses, some with kits and other prepared materials so you can work along with the instructor. (If you have any ideas about how to make online classes more engaging, we’d love to hear from you!)
  • Kits that you can buy and create on your own, sometimes with accompanying instructional videos.
  • In-person classes through the winter, if we can do them in well-ventilated spaces that allow social distancing and other pandemic best practices. This may include outdoors classes that explore the winter world of Interior Alaska.
  • More products in our online store, many created by our very creative and talented instructors, as well as other artists of various kinds in Fairbanks.

We are deeply grateful for the financial support of our wonderful community during these difficult times. It’s because of you that we can keep operating. Thank you! We are also pursuing grants for both operations and programs that will help us keep pursuing our mission: to perpetuate the joy of hands-on learning.

For earlier updates, please see our Blog page.

COVID-19 Update, 5/31/2020

The Folk School is moving cautiously forward in our class offerings. Pioneer Park has re-opened buildings, which allows us to utilize our facilities there. We are currently offering a number of classes that are open to small numbers of students and take place in an outdoor setting.

Students, instructors and staff are being required to wear face masks for the duration of their time at The Folk School in an effort to protect our community as best we can. Cloth masks are available for purchase, and we are also offering hand sanitizer and hand washing stations at both buildings. Our in-person classes will be structured to accommodate social distancing whenever possible.

We continue to offer online classes as well, so be sure to check our calendar for the most recent schedule. Whether in the garden, the workshop, in your home, or outdoors, we hope you keep the spirit of The Folk School alive, and continue to enrich your life through creative pursuits, even during this time of social distancing!


COVID-19 Update, 4/25/2020

The Folk School has now canceled all in-person classes through May 2020, and we are continuing to monitor the pandemic and various government mandates. We’ll only resume in-person classes when we are comfortable that it is safe for the health and welfare of The Folk School Community.

As of today, Pioneer Park is closed through May 8th. It remains to be seen whether the borough will extend that closure.

That said, we are continuing to work to bring more classes online. Check out the calendar to see what we’ve added! And we’re starting to add a few classes for this summer and fall, in the hopes that we’re through the worst of the pandemic by then.

Stay active, stay healthy, and keep doing creative things!

COVID-19 Update, 3/20/2020

As the new coronavirus continues to spread and now that Alaska has multiple COVID-19 cases, we have made the painful decision to extend the closure of The Folk School through April 2020. We’re working with instructors for a very few exceptions in extraordinary circumstances, but otherwise all classes and events are either canceled or postponed. We’ll notify you about the change if you are registered for any classes during our closure.
Thank you for your understanding, and we hope that our wonderful community remains healthy.

Folk School Cancellations Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Two-week cancellation of all Folk School classes and events.

Dear Folk School Community,

As you know, the new coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness is a major and growing health threat around the world. The board and staff of The Folk School have been watching the developing situation over the last several days, out of great concern for our students and instructors and everyone. We have a vibrant community, and fervently want to see it stay that way. Everyone’s health and well-being are tremendously important to us.

Alaska has now seen its first confirmed case of COVID-19. Although that is a transient crewmember of a cargo plane, it appears inevitable that more cases will appear in the near future, because we enjoy visitors from around the world and enjoy traveling the world ourselves.

Alaska is at a crucial point in the spread of the coronavirus, and The Folk School needs to do its part to help slow the infection rate. As a result, we are following the lead of several of our partner organizations, as well as UAF and the school district, and are canceling all classes for the next two weeks, though Sunday, March 29.

Hopefully we can reschedule the classes. If that isn’t possible or you can’t make the new date, we’ll of course issue a full refund. Please give us a little time to sort all this out; this is new ground for us.

For continuing classes–Woodworking for Kids, Basic Home Repair for Women–watch for more information as we work with those instructors. We don’t yet know if we will make up those classes later or make other accommodations.

We will continue to monitor the situation as well as any directives from the state and federal government, and will re-evaluate the situation to decide what other steps to take, including whether to resume classes after the 29th or continue the closure.

This is a painful decision to make, but hope that you understand the reasons for it.

In the meantime, please consider donating to the following local organizations who will likely be called upon to help with the response and care of our most vulnerable community members when COVID-19 hits Fairbanks:

And please follow the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Thank you,
Gordon Williams
President, Board of Directors

2020 Summer Program Assistant Job Posting

The Folk School in Fairbanks is looking for a summer program assistant for Summer 2020. The person in this position will provide support for summer programs at The Folk School, and could include:

  • offering short course programs directed at both kids and adults
  • management of our small retail shop
  • providing information about The Folk School to visitors and locals throughout the summer, at both our Pioneer Park cabin and during local events, such as farmers and art markets
  • marketing of both summer and year-round classes and programs
  • logistical support for both summer immersion experiences, Week in the Woods and Weekend on the River
  • opportunity to learn new things and interact with a vibrant community of creative people.

This is a multi-faceted position, and we will take into account the skills and experience of the successful candidate when determining day to day activities.


  • Ideally, the candidate would have a background in arts and/or crafts, and have a desire to promote hands-on learning to the community and visitors
  • Must complete a background check
  • Candidates should be able lift 35 pounds, and have the ability/desire to work outside during both Pioneer Park events and camp and work outside at summer programs Week in the Woods and Weekend on the River
  • Have a flexible schedule that may include some evenings and weekends, and overnight during summer immersion programs


20-30 hours per week, with schedule and hours varying, according to the needs of The Folk School. The position will be from mid-May to early September after Labor Day.

$10-12 per hour, including the opportunity to attend summer immersions as an assistant.

Please check out our full range of courses and programs at

To apply, please send a letter of interest and a resume highlighting relevant experience by April 3rd, 2020, to Don Kiely, Operations Director,

Click here to view a printable version of the job posting.



Printmakers Portfolio Raffle & Print Sale

Bill Brody Print

The three prints above, by Glenna Gannon, Bill Brody, and Ina Timling, are a few of the many prints that will be included in our upcoming Printmakers Portfolio Raffle & Print Sale! 

We are raising funds with the goal of setting up the Folk School basement for printmaking. Thanks to Bill Brody we have a printing press, but now we need to make the space workable.

The Print Opening & Sale will be November 22, 7:00 – 9:00 pm, and November 23, 12:00 – 5:00 pm in The Folk School cabin.

In addition to the print sale, two complete sets of original prints from at least 15 artists (from Alaska and beyond) will be raffled. 

Tickets will be available at The Folk School cabin, The Bear Gallery at Pioneer Park, and online between Oct. 4 and Nov. 22.

Click here to purchase raffle tickets online.

Tickets are $10 each, or 3 for $25.

Raffle Drawing: November 22, 2019 at 7:30 pm (in the cabin).

Artists include: Mandy Bernard, Hannah Rose Berry, Bill Brody, Glenna Gannon, Scott Hansen, Jessie Hedden, Kayde Kaiser, Yumi Kawaguchi, Mary Maisch, David Mollett, Tony Perelli, Macy Possenti, Gail Priday, Natalie Ott Schuldt, Sara Tabbert, Ina Timling, Jesse Venable

Updating the TFS Membership Program

Dear Folk School Community,

In pursuit of our mission to perpetuate the joy of hands-on learning, we are constantly working to make our classes more accessible to the community. To that end we are changing our class fee structure and our membership program.

Starting with our classes in September, we are moving to single rate pricing for all of our courses. Instead of having different rates for members and non-members, we are going to have just one low rate available to everyone in the community. We also are developing our scholarship program to make classes available to students of all means. We’ll be posting more details about how to apply for a scholarship, as well as an easy way to make donations to our scholarship fund on our website soon.

Memberships have always been about affirming your commitment and support of The Folk School. We use funds raised from memberships to support our programming and keep costs as low as possible. To better reflect this commitment, we’re modifying our membership program so everyone who donates more than $50 is included as a member of The Folk School. Starting in September, members will receive our Annual Report, our newsletter, access to members-only events, 10% off Folk School store purchases, and Folk School Library privileges. More information about making a donation and about the benefits of membership is available on our website.

If you have an existing membership, it will of course remain in effect until it expires and we thank you for your support. If you have any questions or concerns about your membership after this change, feel free to email me or our operations director Don Kiely. As always, we thank you for your support and participation in The Folk School.

Gordon Williams
President, Board of Directors

A Finished Birch Bark Canoe

Finished Canoe

Finished Canoe

A Folk School class, taught by Randy Brown, recently built a 20 foot long birch bark canoe over nine days, starting at the end of June through the first week of July. During this time period there was a relatively constant flow of people streaming though Pioneer Park. Many of these people stopped by to examine the work and ask questions about the canoe and the materials being used. There were children and adults, some local and some from other states and countries. They were able to see how roots were used and to handle pieces of the thick bark

Using draw knives on the shaving horses

Using draw knives on the shaving horses

Peeling Roots

Peeling Roots

Birch bark canoes were essential to the early people in Alaska and northwest Canada, just like they were farther east in North America. However, birch bark canoes in Alaska were constructed somewhat differently, probably because of the different types of trees and materials that were available here compared to farther east. Birch bark canoes in Alaska retain a narrow bottom frame held down by a series of widely spaced ribs. This results in a flat bottom with hard chines and sides that slope out towards the gunnels. Tappan Adney, a birch bark canoe fanatic who documented many different building techniques in North America during the late 1800s and early 1900s, called this classic canoe profile the “kayak-form” birch bark canoe.

Bottom frame spreader

Bottom frame spreader

Preparing the building bed

Preparing the building bed

Randy Brown led the class of five builders (he led a similar birch bark canoe class in 2013). The five students worked diligently each day using classic hand tool methods to shape and fit white spruce gunnel pieces, thwarts, and the bottom frame. They split five foot sections of green spruce logs for rib material. They learned how to use draw knives and spoke shaves with a shaving horse to shape, thin, and corner all the wood pieces. They also collected spruce roots and pealed and split them for lashing and sewing material. 

Nice gunnel lashing

Nice gunnel lashing

Bark on the building bed

Bark on the building bed

Sewn seams on bark

Sewn seams on bark

Once all the wood components were ready, the group traveled to the woods to collect large sheets of birch bark and compiled them on the building bed, where all the pieces would be held in place for sewing. They steamed and bent the ribs and eventually wedged them up under the inwales and pounded them into place, stretching the bark tight. They sealed the seams with spruce pitch, and paddled the canoe in the Chena River. Several other folks who had gathered to watch took a turn as well. 

Although the class used modern hand tools in the building process, the materials in the completed canoe are the same as they were when built by the people who lived here long ago.

First water

First water

First ride

First ride