Homer Folk School is here to stay and provide intergenerational learning of folk arts — from homesteading to maritime skills — to Homer and the surrounding areas, said folk school board member, as well as organic farmer and herbalist, Robin McAllistar.
“I am such a fan. I am so excited about this amazing thing that is being created. We’re hitting the ground running. We’ve got classes up. Our first year anniversary is going to be really telling,” McAllistar said. “I have full faith that this is the first day of Homer Folk School and it will be here for a long time.”
To say the topics the folk school teaches are varied would be an understatement.
In the next month, the folk school has multiple classes available to willing students. Beginning quilting classes are offered on Oct. 14-15 and 21-22, as well as a classes on carpentry basics and winter gardening on Oct. 22. A course titled “Change your tires, change your life!” teaches basic car maintenance — tire repair and changing, oil changing, wiper replacement and battery jumping — Oct. 23. The last weekend of October finishes with Introductory Musicking for those who wish to go further with music with acoustic instruments on Oct. 28 and Alutiq Kayak Paddle Making on Oct. 29-30.
Homer Folk School holds its classes at Ageya Wilderness Center, which has classrooms, a certified commercial kitchen, a shop, hi-tunnel gardening and yurts for lodging, according to homerfolkschool.org. The school had an opening day event on Saturday, Oct. 8 with activities, food, music and dancing throughout the day that attracted many families from the community.
Those wishing to teach classes at Homer Folk School can find information on the folk school’s website. The school will also have courses on how to teach classes for people with skills who might not feel at home at the front of a classroom, McAllistar said.
Putting the folk school together took about a year after a meeting at Ageya spurred action from several community members with a wide variety of skills McAllistar had been talking with organizations and people in Homer about opening a folk school after hearing about North House Folk School, located in Grand Marais, Minn.
“It was perfect. It accesses all the wisdom that’s here. It teaches and passes on the information for homesteading and maritime culture. It gives a venue for the newest innovation,” McAllistar said. “It changes the face of tourism. It’s sustainable and supports the community and the environment. North House is fabulous for the economy of (Grand Marais). It’s really a magical place.”
The Homer Folk School board members responsible for getting Homer Folk School off the ground are familiar faces in the Homer community, including McAllistar, homesteader and musician Atz Kilcher, program director and co-founder of Ageya Wilderness Education Patty Dolese, business consultant Kevin Dee, holistic healer Nancy Lee Evans, retired entrepreneur Neil Wagner, and social entrepreneur Hannah Gustafson.
A previous attempt was made a establishing a folk school popped up in Homer in 2014 when Chad Jones moved from Grand Marais, Minn., to Homer and brought the idea of starting a folk school similar to North House. The nonprofit organization would be called North Pacific Folk School, according to a May 2014 Homer News article titled “Group looks at potential for ‘folk school’ in Homer.” Kilcher also attempted to start a folk school out Fox River, but to no avail, McAllistar said.
While the plan did not take off two years ago, McAllistar said now is the right time for a folk school to flourish in Homer. Two other folk schools in Alaska — the Alaska Folk School in Talkeetna and The Folk School in Fairbanks — recently opened as well.
“The synchronicity of everyone together, it’s pretty amazing and I think its time,” McAllistar said. “This is ours, this is Homer’s folk school — Homer and the surrounding areas. It gets to be our community space. We’ll build adobe pizza space. We’ll have mentor talks around the fire.”