“Our teaching will be by the living word and the work of the hand.” — Jens Jensen
This past year, The Clearing offered almost 90 art, fine craft, natural science and humanities-related week-long classes.
A sampling of the classes includes: Quilting: Birds of a Feather Gathering Together with Judy Hasheider; Wood Turning with Robert Nelson; Door County Photography Retreat with Karen Alesch; Watercolor for Beginners and Beyond with Chris Sommerfelt; Reading Poetry: The What, The Why, The How with John Angelos; Making Polymer Clay Jewelry with Lynne Bergschultz and Jenni Stultz; Beginning Forging with Dan Nauman; Making Pottery: Beginning and Beyond with John Hansen and John Deitrich; The Wonderful World of Stained Glass with Gary Chandoir; and Cultivating Mindfulness: Growing a Lifelong Practice with Beth Coleman.
Erik Rinkleff, assistant director of The Clearing, said that initially many students come to The Clearing to take a class, but leave with an appreciation of Jens Jensen, his work and his legacy.
“I’d also like to think they come away with a better sense of how valuable these ‘Green Islands of Sanity’ are, no matter where or what the size,” added Rinkleff.
A typical week at The Clearing starts on Sunday with an orientation and a meal and the rest of the week’s activities are devoted to classes, meals and hiking and relaxation. To conclude the week there is a student show and tell followed by an end-of-the-week reception. Due to The Clearing’s reputation as a premier folk school, it had a 93 percent registration rate. Last year, it was 96 percent.
Today, The Clearing is not like the place that Jensen created in 1935 for students who were studying landscape architecture. There is the main lodge that offers a dining room, living room and library and views of the bay; the schoolhouse; the workshop; the newest building is the forge, which was built in 2017; the Jens Jensen Visitor Center houses the staff offices, bookstore and gift shop; and the root cellar, which was the last building that Jensen built.
Jensen may not completely agree with what The Clearing looks like said Rinkleff. “However, after seeing how The Clearing has evolved after his death and the many passionate people who not only held this place together but worked to establish The Clearing as one of the premier folk schools in the country, I think he would be pleased.”
Rinkleff mentioned that someone attending classes 10, 20 or even 30 years ago will still find The Clearing very familiar.
“The program has grown and there are a lot more classes,” said Rinkleff. “Not just in numbers, but in subject matter and these classes have attracted new students so that we can continue to grow and offer more.”
Physically, not much has changed added Rinkleff.
“All of our decisions are made with great care and sensitivity,” said Rinkleff. We are the caretakers of a very special place and we have a responsibility to honor what Jensen and Mertha created.”
Centennial story written by Marian Viney