The Atlanta School news. Learn more about life in Atlanta, Idaho, upcoming workshops and instructors.


**The full article can be found online here.
Idaho Statesman, 07/20/14, By Katherine Jones

Using the historic town as a backdrop and inspiration, The Atlanta School offers workshops, a retreat and renewal

The sound of hammering rolls around the stillness of the mountain morning. It's not an unfamiliar sound, here in the valley below Greylock Mountain - where miners and merchants have constructed homes and businesses since gold was discovered more than 150 years ago.

The laughter and banter that follow, though, pulses with new energy. These are students from The Atlanta School, who are spending five days immersed in history and the town's off-the-grid solitude while learning new skills.

"I'm complaining about sawing stuff to make this (little bench) as I'm walking through a building that someone's built with their own hands," said student Ashley Roshitsh, a bartender at The Modern in Boise. "I'm like, OK, maybe I should just shut my mouth. …

"It's nice to be in a place … where you know that everything was made with a lot of work.

"It's kind of humbling."

The school is the vision of Amy O'Brien and Rachel Reichert, principal and vice-principal, respectively. O'Brien has been preserving old cabins in Atlanta for 15 years.

"We thought it would be a great place to bring artists, and also people who are interested in doing a lot of the things that a lot of the people in the town are already doing," said O'Brien, referring to restoration. "Atlanta is such a beautiful backdrop for doing that, and it's something I wanted to share with other people."

This was the school's inaugural summer. It featured two construction workshops with Boise architect Byron Folwell and two writing workshops. O'Brien and Reichert plan to expand the course offerings next year to include other arts with a handmade bent - perhaps painting, bookmaking, cloth, music, instrument-making.

"History is the starting point for a lot of the work that could be done here," said Reichert. " … Great inspiration for making art."

Think less of an actual school building and more of an experience scattered through the historic district of Atlanta - about a half-dozen square blocks. The ongoing project during one week centered on a lot beside the The Hub (an 80-year-old local watering hole now closed), where students, some of whom have only minor building experience, built a carefully crafted outhouse from the hole up. The second workshop project was a bathhouse. The advantages of both: microcosms of teachable moments in a manageable size.

Students surveyed other historic buildings to learn how to make something that would fit in. Because early Atlantans didn't have many materials, the construction techniques were often just enough to keep the building standing - or not, depending on how they factored in the winter snow.

"Many times up here, there hasn't been anywhere to buy materials. Like now," said Allen Ireland, owner of The Hub and a handful of other historic buildings. The outhouse is on his lot, where a two-story hotel burned down years ago. "You make do with what you have - kind of like they did back then."

All the lumber for the outhouse had been originally used as something else, which presented its own challenges - boards crooked, full of nails, in nonstandardized sizes.

"This is a good environment for you to experiment with all those (challenges), do some kind of safe failing before you do your real work," said Folwell. "And have a good time doing it all together, which has been the best part of the class so far."

Students also made benches from recycled wood - starting with picking wood, pulling nails, designing, measuring, sawing and assembling with square nails.

"It's much more complicated than looking at a bench, saying you've got to have two legs and a top. It's not," said student Cathy Chapman Smith. "You have to have two legs and a top - and you have to figure out how to displace the weight if you sit or stand on it. … I thought I knew a lot, but that was more complicated than I thought it would be.

"Not everything is finished perfectly and smoothly. Some of the wood splits but it still, has a purpose. You can align that into life"

Although the excuse to come to Atlanta might be the workshops, students are finding that both being there, and the experience of getting there, are part of the school's appeal.

"I was doing a little journaling," said Chapman Smith. "So it took me 45 minutes to get out of Boise and then the sign said 40 miles to Atlanta - and it took me two hours. But that trip, the dirt road - honestly, what a perfect transition. It is literally going back in time. … I stopped a couple of times because it was so beautiful."

Atlanta has always been hard to get to, even in its heyday.

"(This) started out as an art retreat, having the opportunity to get outside of yourself, experience something dramatic like the hills here," said Reichert. "But people are communicating to us that it's this shedding experience, too; that being here you can exist without your phone and your technology.

"There's so many different layers to the experience."

Including the lodging. Students stay in cabins rebuilt by O'Brien, Ireland and others that are like little historic art installations. Most have no running water, electricity or indoor bathroom. But they do have charm: original wallpaper, linoleum and fixtures, instead of new drywall and paint - and they are furnished in the appropriate era.

"The setting here at The Atlanta School offers people a way to get away from the city for a while and do something that is kind of like immersing yourself in history," said Folwell. "It's kind of like staying in a museum."

The town itself has no cell service (there is none after leaving Boise), no public Internet, no gas station, no hotel, and only one restaurant - which keeps irregular hours. There is mail.

"(Atlanta) never really died off; there's always been a pulse. It may have been weak, but there's always been a pulse," said artist Kerry Moosman, longtime summer resident and keeper of Atlanta history.

It is possible, O'Brien hopes, that the school can become something to help invigorate Atlanta's heartbeat. A destination, perhaps, or synergy.

"I don't know if Atlanta needs it," said Reichert. "But I think people need Atlanta."

Katherine Jones: 377-6414



For many who reside in the tiny mining town of Atlanta, Idaho the attraction is not the chance to discover gold, but the prospect of saving and restoring historic buildings. Here, the town’s restoration efforts begin with historian and artist Kerry Moosman.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Kerry Moosman has always had a keen interest in the pioneers that built and lived in this rugged and isolated spot. He has been researching their history and preserving their buildings for most of his life. He is a well-known ceramic artist by trade, and his oversized hand built vessels can be viewed in the Boise and Portland Art Museums. 

Moosman has moved, rebuilt and restored at least ten buildings since he began pulling them out of the dirt and patiently restoring them. One of his more dramatic restoration feats was the shoring up and lifting of the vertically predisposed Company House onto skids and dragging it precariously up Pine Street to its current sunny location at the foot of Greylock Mountain. This two-room building with outrageously high ceilings will lodge students this summer and was formerly the home to a mining official at the turn of the century.

Besides the Company House, Moosman’s list includes extensive restoration on the pioneer cemetery, the town’s original barber shop, gas station, a small structure rumored to have been an early brothel, a bath house, chicken coop, a log cabin that had fallen into its own cellar, a large barn and the Cindy Bowl and Heidi Bowl winsome neighboring homes on Pine Street. The old five-room Briggs house was his first project and it is a beautifully restored time capsule of life in the 1800’s. He also pulled the 1910 jailhouse out of the creek (water was running through the building). It now is the centerpiece of the town park and houses historic photos of Atlanta.

Just as many early mining towns developed, Atlanta became home to pioneers, confederates, miners, criminals and homesteaders. But unlike most of these towns today, Atlanta has found its place and relevance both in its history and its contemporary condition.  Residents of this tiny mining town, taking their cue from the perseverance and foresight of Kerry Moosman, have saved over 40 buildings. Digging homes out the dirt, and patiently bringing them back to life board by board might be Atlanta’s new legacy.  



Adrian Kien

Adrian Kien believes writing allows us to follow words off the track of normalcy and into the wilds of the imagination. It is dangerous and exciting where the words take us.

That is what has drawn him to doodle and write poems starting in his high school French class until now sitting on his front porch. If living means being alive, then writing poetry is how he makes his living. 

As a multi dimensional artist, not only does Adrian carefully choose his words as a poet and writer, he and his typewriter have also been found buried in a pile of dirt and sage brush, set up at the Greyhound Bus station and on a balcony of a hotel poised to write poetry on demand for an unsuspecting public.

This summer at The Atlanta School, Adrian will teach a writing class that will reinvigorate your imagination as you explore the layers and detritus of Atlanta. Each day writers will meet to discuss poetry and prose about place, history and nature. Then writers will be invited to walk out on their own using the readings and discussions as a lens for seeing their surroundings. Writers will then be prompted to add their own voice to this conversation through poems, stories or essays. No skill or knowledge of poetry is necessary. Just bring an imagination, a pen and a journal.

Adrian’s newly published book of poetry called The Caress is a Letter of Instruction, a book of love poems between a taxidermist and his trophy wife, is available here:



Taking the road to Atlanta, Idaho is a singular experience.

You will voyage alongside a river and through secluded mountain passes. A sturdy vehicle is the preferable mode of travel and a watchful eye a necessity. For most of the journey, you will travel a one-lane dirt road. It is important to take it slow, at 25 mph. Once you arrive in Atlanta, you have come to the end of the road. You will find yourself at the base of majestic Greylock Mountain with no other towns nearby (you will have already passed through the closest one, Idaho City, an hour and a half earlier.)

Situated at the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness area, the town of Atlanta is considered “off the grid.” There is no cell phone service or wifi; students are encouraged to bring phone cards to make calls from the two pay phones in town. Atlanta also has no gas station, grocery store or hospital services. There is one café in town with irregular hours. The town site is small and most destinations are within walking distance.

While at The Atlanta School, students may room in small historic structures. Dating as far back as 1863, each structure is fully furnished. The beds in Atlanta come with fresh linens and pillows, topped off with antique quilts. Each dwelling has been restored with care and decorated to match the era of its inception. Because of their age the dwellings and furnishings are delicate and students are asked to take care while staying. The dwellings are not equipped with electricity or plumbing. There is access to water from outdoor standpipes, outhouses can be found near all dwellings and a shared bathhouse with several nearby hot springs are available for bathing. Candles and lanterns will light the rooms.

Cooking facilities and the shared bathhouse are located at The Hub. This old saloon and dance hall boasts an arresting view of Greylock Mountain from its front porch. Equipped with a piano, shuffleboard, foosball and a pool table, it will serve as the central meeting place for The Atlanta School. Students are invited to relax and recreate in this unique and colorful venue.



The Atlanta School, offering workshops for the first time this summer, will let fans of solitude and wooded landscapes learn new skills while time traveling.

**The full article can be found online here.
Idaho Statesman, 02/12/14, By Anna Webb 

The gold rush town of Atlanta sits in a valley east of Boise at the base of Greylock Mountain on the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Running water and electricity are scarce. Solitude, rough-hewn timbers and big pines are not.

Now, visitors will have the chance to experience its history for themselves while picking up skills. The Atlanta School, headquartered in a cabin so picturesque it recently popped up on a website devoted to the most enticing woodsy structures across the globe, will host its first workshops this summer.

Topics range from writing poetry, to learning to lay a floor with reclaimed wood, to preserving Atlanta’s historic cemetery, to building an entire small structure using salvaged windows, hardware and other materials.

The Atlanta School is the brainchild of Amy O’Brien, the school’s principal, and Rachel Reichert, vice principal. The two spent time in Atlanta together in 2013 and started brainstorming about creating a school that would use the historic town as inspiration.

“This year is our ‘testing the waters’ to see what people are interested in studying,” said Reichert, whose day job is working with the Boise Department of Arts and History.


Reichert and O’Brien are offering four workshops in June and July, two focused on writing, two on building.

“We are starting with classes we would want to take ourselves,” said O’Brien. She will co-teach “Small Structures” and “Small Projects” classes with architect and public artist Byron Folwell.

O’Brien spent many years as a professional dancer in New York City. She started coming to Atlanta in 1998 to work alongside artist Kerry Moosman, the guiding spirit of Atlanta. He’s worked for years to rehabilitate a number of historic structures in the town.

“Kerry is the master of perseverance. He moves slowly through the town, year after year. Things get done,” said O’Brien.

She learned building skills from Moosman through intensive on-the-job training. She’s rebuilt four structures, which involved digging them out of the dirt, taking them apart, figuring out how to put them together again and re-roofing, insulating and wallpapering.

The full Atlanta School experience will include letting students lodge in rehabbed cabins.

“Each building is like a little art installation,” said O’Brien.

She owns the 1863 cabin that once belonged to Boise pioneer Ira Pierce. O’Brien and crew took it apart, tagged the logs and hauled them to Atlanta from Boise. It took her four years to restore the cabin to its current state — “sturdier than it ever was, except maybe when Pierce first built it,” she said.


Reichert’s connection to Atlanta is through her friendship with O’Brien. She fell in love easily with Atlanta, she said, but acknowledges the town may be too quiet and rustic for some tastes. Atlanta has around 30 year-round residents, no gas pumps, no hospital. There’s one cafe with irregular hours and a driver who delivers the mail and who will shop for groceries for a small fee.

Atlantans are on their own, but not completely isolated, say Reichert and O’Brien. The Schwan’s food truck makes regular runs. Residents queue up.

For the past four or five years, Reichert has researched the goings-on at crafts schools across the country.

“It’s always been an interest of mine, small crafts schools in remote, beautiful areas, finding out what they’re doing, how they’re bringing communities together,” said Reichert.

Her research revealed that instructors of old-style crafts often travel a circuit from school to school.

“There isn’t always a lot of new programming, and not a lot of programs that are geographically unique,” she said.

She and O’Brien see the Atlanta School as an opportunity to be place-specific and authentic. The town’s character and past, its lack of modern features — the school has no running water, for example, but does have an outhouse — will directly shape classes. Future workshops are likely to remain utilitarian and low-tech: metal work, rug weaving, furniture making.

Even this year’s writing workshops are place specific. Poet and performance artist Adrian Kien’s poetry class will explore the layers, literal and figurative, of Atlanta. Greg Hahn, who oversees communications and marketing at Boise State, will teach a writing class. Its title, “Solitude, Setting and Story,” hints at the Atlanta sensibility.

Visitors to Atlanta take note: The town is hosting a parade and music festival on July 4. All are welcome.

Anna Webb: 377-6431


Follow us up a rural river road, to the end, and meet us at The Atlanta School this summer.

Discover the small historic town of Atlanta, Idaho perched on the edge of the Sawtooth Wilderness area and afford yourself the luxury of time and total-immersion. Stay in a 100 year old cabin and re-charge your imagination. Take inspiration from nature and disconnect.

The Atlanta School presents its inaugural session, beginning June 2014. Four workshops have been announced with registration beginning February 3. All workshops draw from Atlanta's unique, historic atmosphere, offering students the opportunity to work directly with instructors in a hands-on, low-tech environment.

See you this summer!