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Director's Update, May 2020

Director’s Update, May 2020

A message from our Executive Director, Greg Wright

Posted on May 21, 2020
by Greg Wright

Greetings Again to All from Near to Far,

In early April, North House released our first Director’s Update regarding the impact and our efforts during these challenging times created by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, snow was still abundant inland and lakes were covered by ice. Now, the waters small to large have reopened and the call of the loon has returned to hidden bays. Glistening flowers rise in the abundant light of spring, and leaves are literally bursting forth from buds of every size. It is a time of beauty and wonder in the North.

Multiple times during the past months we have needed to announce cancellations, including earlier this week when we extended course cancellations through July 5, 2020. Making these decisions can feel disappointing and discouraging. That said, we remain committed to keeping the health and safety of our students, instructors, staff, and community as our highest priority.  Much like waiting for spring in the North, we don't know exactly when the time for students to return to campus will be, but we know that day is out there, and it gives us hope.

The challenges created by the pandemic continue to be very present across the world and in every community. Such is the case here, and the strategies North House implemented in the earliest days of the pandemic continue to move forward, keeping us as stable as possible while also advancing the work of our mission in new ways:

  • Our digital outreach efforts including Crafting In Place and #StillCrafting are engaging thousands of individuals every week while also creating a treasure trove of stories. The spirited efforts of our instructor community has been key to these successes.
  • Flexibility from key funders, applications to federal programs, and difficult but essential choices (like asking all staff to work reduced hours) are keeping us fiscally stable, though other challenges await ahead. Donor support will be key. Our current modeling looks out beyond 2020. 
  • Generosity from donors have opened doors in the midst of challenging times, allowing us to serve local youth, collaborate with instructors, and move forward on key facility projects.

During Minnesota’s Stay At Home order, we worked deliberately to at once care for our staff and care for our campus. Now we are beginning a multi-staged process of finding a new sense of balance in a changing world:

  • Most of our staff have worked remotely for two months, and we anticipate this will continue to be the case. That said, in the coming weeks each of us will begin to return to campus in modest ways as part of a multi-stage process. While we anticipate visitors to campus, our school store and classrooms will stay closed to the public into mid June.
  • With classrooms empty we are making the most of this opportunity to pursue low cost but high impact facility projects, including floor refinishing to painting projects to window replacement. 
  • Efforts to prepare campus for visitors are underway. Plexiglass shields to timbered hand-sanitizer tables to new welcome signage will make campus safer for everyone when we begin to open in simple ways.

Looking forward, North House plans to stay nimble and creative as we celebrate craft and work with our community:

  • New opportunities like our first-ever Online Edition Wooden Boat Show can help us celebrate and widen our circle of connection. Virtual boat tours, live craft demonstrations, an auction featuring instructor craft, a family boat building project, Hjordis slow TV -- invite your friends!  And remember to join us for the featured speaker live.
  • Also in June we will begin to experiment with online course offerings, including six new mini-course offerings. Our goal is to expand these efforts in the coming months. 
  • Naturally, our hope and goal is to find ways to gradually return to hosting coursework here on campus. That said, there are still many unanswered questions and we need to have the right systems and practices in place to make this possible. This will take time. As these plans come into focus we will share updates.

North House is fortunate indeed to have a strong and investing community of friends, partners, students, instructors and supporters. If there are questions we can answer or ideas you would like to share, I encourage you to be in touch.

On behalf of everyone here at North House,

Greg Wright

Executive Director