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Boreal Community Media

Nothing plain about 2017 Plein Air winners

Sep 22, 2017 12:56PM ● By Editor
Plein Air Quick Paint winner James Turner used a different view to create his landscape titled “Hidden Jem,” seen in the insert. The town was filled with painters this past week who were participating in the competition sponsored by the Grand Marais Art Colony. Staff photo/Laurie Johnson 

By Molly Rider - The Cook County News Herald - September 22, 2017

Each fall in northeastern Minnesota, painters converge on the North Shore of Lake Superior for Plein Air Grand Marais, a weeklong competition hosted by the Grand Marais Art Colony, followed by an exhibit of 240 paintings. The event is marked by spectacular scenery, the warm glow of northern lights, artistic camaraderie, and some of the finest emerging plein air painters in America.

What makes Plein Air Grand Marais especially unique however, is the incredible community among artists. A traditional Thursday night hootenanny inspires artists to bring instruments, share stories, and sing around a fire at the local campground.

This year’s juror was internationally recognized painter Kami Mendlik, who founded the St Croix River School of Painting in Stillwater, Minnesota. Kami had her work cut out for her with 80 artists participating in the event. 

North House Economic Impact

In 2008, its tenth year, an economic impact study indicated that North House contributed approximately $6.1 million to the local economy. Today that number has grown to $10,648,395.

Helping NHFS prepare the study was The Northspan Group, Inc., from Duluth. Northspan is a regional economic and business development consultant that has conducted numerous economic impact studies for cities and organizations in northeast Minnesota.

Wright said Northspan drew on input and resources from community members and adapted methodology used in 2007 to ensure consistency and the ability to compare results over time.

While the social and economic impact of North House is indisputable, a further upside is that the financial implications are spread out over a full year. As Wright noted, “The rhythm of North House’s year-round programmatic vibrancy happens on a different timeline than the community’s peak season tourism traffic. This simple fact underscores that North House’s vitality helps generate a truly year-round sustainable economy, both for North House and other community businesses.”

Performers at the North House Unplugged event kept the audience engaged and entertained last Saturday night Kevin Kling insert who can be heard on NPRrsquos All Things Considered kept the audience laughing with his commentary Singers shown from left are Dane Stauffer Dan Chouinard Prudence Johnson Claudia Schmidt and Simone Perrin Staff photosLaurie Johnson

Performers at the North House Unplugged event kept the audience engaged and entertained last Saturday night. Kevin Kling, (insert) who can be heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, kept the audience laughing with his commentary. Singers shown, from left, are Dane Stauffer, Dan Chouinard, Prudence Johnson, Claudia Schmidt, and Simone Perrin. Staff photos/Laurie Johnson 

What is driving that stimulus? Wright said primary drivers are the numbers of visiting students, instructors, and their accompanying party members. The simplest way to illustrate this growth over the last 10 years is to take the number of visiting catalog course students in 2007 and compare that number to 2016. The number of non-local students grew by 81 percent, from 1,103 students to 2001. 

In 2007 1,308 students attended classes at North House, 205 of which came from Cook County. In 2016 some 2,354 visitors attended North House, with 353 coming from the county. The total number of students in 2016 totaled 2,719 when catalog and non-catalog students were counted.

As the study found, students don’t tend to come alone but bring friends and family with them. Including the student, 2.1 people come in each visit which lasts on average 2.48 days.

One hundred fifty-one independent instructors taught at NHFS in 2016, 50 who live in Cook County. The 101 non-local instructors averaged 12.8 days in the county, which totals 2,508 visitor days. Special events like Unplugged created an additional 6,718 visitor days. Finally, the report added 1,500 visitor days to account for workstudy students and interns temporarily living in Grand Marais.

All in all, 31,670 visitor days were attributed to North House students, staff, their families, friends and visitors attending the many events held throughout the year. 


Skills taught at the school include basketry, blacksmithing/tool making, boatbuilding, clothing/jewelry, fiber art/knitting, painting/photography, timber framing, woodcarving, traditional crafts, and woodworking/furniture and assorted other crafts.

Types of businesses patronized by NHFS students, the study concluded are, in order, restaurants, gas station/ convenience stores, grocery stores/ farmers market, coffee shops, lodging, art galleries, bars and taverns, gifts, clothing stores, sweets/bakery, frozen, candy, hardware/tool stores, banks or credit union.

Growth has occurred in staff. There were four full-time professional employees in 2008. Today there are nine.

Locally, last year the NHFS community youth program gave 150 elementary school children free programming, held a timber framing class for four high school students, conducted a culinary arts program for 27 students and held an after school program for 20 kids.

For those not familiar with the school, it was created to “promote and preserve knowledge, skills, and crafts of the past and present, and through them, to better understand the future and our role in it,” said Wright.

Although NHFS gets some grants and gifts, tuition paid by students primarily funds the entity, which is a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) charitable corporation.

The mission of the school is “to enrich lives and build community by teaching traditional northern crafts in a student-centered learning environment that inspires the hands, the heart and the mind.”

This past week former NHFS board president Mary Boyle Anderson, Duluth, said that during a previous casual conversation with Mark Hanson, the founder of North House, Mark commented that at one time the community pursued getting a junior college but ended up with North House instead.

While junior colleges come and go, North House continues to grow, she said, adding that under the capable, caring leadership of Greg Wright and a great staff, Hanson’s vision for the school should continue to grow and thrive.