We are an artist collective and school based in Decorah, Iowa; we are shaped profoundly by the Bauhaus movement. Co-founder Dean Schwarz, mentored by Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain, pioneered South Bear School in 1970 in Highlandville, Iowa. Since reviving our organization in 2021, our directive persists: to pass on traditional knowledge and skills in the fine arts, carrying the spirit of the legacy forward.

In continuation of the Bauhaus tradition, finding functionality through art and beauty is conducive to a holistic, well rounded life. South Bear School’s mission is to teach students the life skills of fine arts, appreciation of nature’s beauty, and community connection through hands-on teaching while also giving students the freedom to branch out and develop their personal artistic vocabulary.


If you are interested in attending our summer pottery program, or would like to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on events, please visit our contact page! Pop-upand day-long workshops will be announced via the newsletter. Registration form for the Summer Pottery Program will open April 15, 2024.


Our central philosophy is to teach through demonstration and critique. Building basic foundations through repeated demonstration and practice solidifies technique, and critique challenges one's preconceived notions of art and work. "There is no such thing as inspiration unless it grows out of hard work, and some of us will be 'inspired.' Along with being serious, we also have fun." - Dean Schwarz

South Bear School calls back to traditional methods of art-making; with pottery, for example, we focus on throwing with the kickwheel. The structure of our wheels are based on kickwheels designed by Marguerite Wildenhain, which were then built by Orville Running and Dean Schwarz. The structure of our learning process is based on the techniques adopted by the Bauhaus from the artisanal Guild system in Germany. These are reminders of a long age of potters and artists who built their own artisanal apparatuses with the specifics of their craft in mind, and taught their apprentices with the interest of creating masterful work. These structures have been passed from the Guilds, to the Bauhaus, to Pond Farm, and now to South Bear School. 

We invite you to join us as we continue this tradition and reopen our doors for the 2024 summer session.

Applicants will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The final selection of students will be at the discretion of our staff.

Equal Opportunity:

It is the policy of South Bear School to provide equal opportunity for all qualified persons in the educational programs and activities which the school operates. In full and affirmative compliance with the laws of the United States and of the State of Iowa and all applicable regulations thereto, our school does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, or sex in the educational programs or activities which it operates.