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Mission & History

Our Mission

The Adirondack Folk School celebrates and preserves the cultural heritage of the Adirondacks and promotes creativity and self-reliance by teaching the arts, crafts, and traditions that define our legendary region.

Message from the Founder

I remember working with so many wonderful volunteers in early 2010 painting, building, and repairing the building in preparation for our first classes that June. One day we looked around at what had been transformed from a vacant building into a real school – benches, tools, chairs, bookcases, looms, and more. And then we realized while it looked great, there was something missing – STUDENTS! The “folk” in our name is YOU. Without your support, spreading the word, and most importantly taking classes, it would have remained just an empty building.

Our History

Before our building became The Adirondack Folk School, it was many things over the years – an Odd Fellows lodge, an elementary school, and even the Lake Luzerne town hall. Through the vision of founder Jim Mandle and with endless encouragement from the community, the building is a school once more, this time focusing on the crafts and traditions of the beautiful Adirondack region. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers, the Town of Lake Luzerne, SUNY Adirondack, and the Adirondack Museum of Blue Mountain Lake, AFS officially opened its doors for its very first class on June 5th, 2010. Our first summer, the school offered over 90 classes taught by 40 instructors, and we had the privilege of serving nearly 300 students.

As demand grew, so did the vision. The generosity of our community granted us enough funding to build the H.H.M. Pavilion. H.H.M., which stands for “Inspiring Hands, Heart, & Mind”, is a multipurpose space that allowed us to expand offerings for blacksmithing, ceramics, boatbuilding, and more. Our outdoor wood-fired baking oven was built during this same period, and thanks to our first Timber Framing class, a beautiful, solid structure was built around it. Today, the multipurpose H.H.M. Pavilion is now home to a nationally recognized blacksmithing program where you can learn from some of the best blacksmiths in the country.

This historic school building currently houses classrooms for Fiber Arts, Basketry, Woodworking, Woodcarving, Quilting, Felting, and so much more. Our Lake George Annex location – the Alfred Z. Solomon Weaving and Woodworking Studio – has allowed us even more space for some of our larger classes, such as the Wee Lassie Canoe, and our many Fiber Arts classes. In 2023, we served over 1,000 students who had 60 artisan instructors and over 250 classes to choose from. We look forward to sharing the magic of AFS with even more friends in the years to come.

You don’t have to sign up for a class to come and see what we’re all about – although after a visit you just might want to! Stop in to take a tour, visit our gift shop and see this little gem nestled in the great Adirondack mountains for yourself.

What Is A Folk School?

Folk schools originated in Denmark when Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig found himself concerned about the direction of traditional education. Grundtvig felt education should instill a pride in national culture to create a lifelong love of learning. The goal was to give all Danish people the opportunity to build the foundation of skills and insight necessary for creating a diplomatic and just society.

Although Grundtvig was not a founder of any schools himself, his philosophy was put into practice by Christen Kold with the creation of “Schools for Life”. These schools aided people in understanding their own identity and empowered communities as a whole.

In the early 1900’s, folk schools found their way to the United States and thus began an educational approach that prioritizes relationships, culture, personal growth, and community empowerment. At AFS, we hope you, too, feel empowered as an individual and welcomed as part of a special community of learners when you walk through our doors.

Join the Waiting List We are sorry, but this course is currently full. If space(s) become available, we will notify users in the order in which they requested to be added to the waiting list.