Tofte Lake Center

TLC provides residencies for artists who crave dedicated time to work on their projects, for creatives who seek individual growth through guided workshops or retreats, for organizations that want to make time to re/focus on their goals or mission, for leaders to gather to exchange ideas with colleagues in their field.

We aim to provide artists with access to nature and a productive workspace, the ability to unplug from the pressures of daily life and an inclusive community of fellow artists.

TLC is situated on a pristine lake near Ely, MN, adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), on the traditional native land of the Ojibway people who have stewarded this land throughout generations.

(banner photo by v paul virtucio)



Artist Spaces

Tofte Lake Center utilizes the facilities at Norm’s Fish Camp, which are designed to fully support artists in the creating of their work and community. These include residential cabinsstudio and performance spaces, and community areas.


All four artist-in-residence cabins are hand-crafted wooden buildings with plenty of windows with views of Tofte Lake, and provide full kitchen and bathroom facilities, bedding and linens.

Cabins and Rates: June - September 2019

Our goal is to provide affordable residencies to the fullest range of artists and arts organizations across race, class, gender, geography, age, and discipline. To ensure this, TLC substantially subsidizes each residency week. Your artist's share of the total cost is reflected below.

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2 bedrooms (double bed/writing desk in each); loft/work-space (single bed, sleeper couch, desk); kitchen; bathroom; dining-living area with wood stove; deck with lake view plus screened in porch.

Your Cost is $1200 per week

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1 bedroom (double bed), loft (2 single beds); kitchen; bathroom; dining-living area with wood stove; porch with lake view.

Your Cost is $1100 per week

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1 bedroom (2 single beds); eat-in kitchen; bathroom; living area with writing desk; deck overlooking the lake.

Your Cost is $800 per week

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1 bedroom (double bed); newly remodeled kitchen and bathroom; spacious deck.

Your Cost is $800 per week


Studio and Performance Spaces

We offer these places for our artists in residence.

Osprey Deck

A screened gazebo atop the ledgerock with view of lake and woods, for writing and meetings.

The Owl Library

A space for meetings, reading, writing and games, with hundreds of art and theater books.


The Doodle

Our visual artist studio, with desks and countertops for art projects, with printer, office, and art supplies, nestled in the woods.

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The Aerie

Our recently completed rehearsal and performance space boasts a dancer-friendly Harlequin floor, with views of trees and lots of breeze. A new sound system and great acoustics allow for live concerts, dance, and all kinds of movement. Weekly yoga.


Community Areas

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Picnic Area

Picnic tables and a campfire pit overlook Tofte Lake and its remarkable dinnertime sunsets.


The RoadHouse

A casual dining and gathering space with kitchen facilities, fireplace for chilly spring and fall nights, basic technical equipment, and internet. Ideal for conversation, work sharing, and games, especially ping pong matches.



This traditional Scandinavian wood-fired sauna is located on the lakeshore for quick leaps into the lake before and after a cleansing sauna bath.

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Recreational Equipment

TLC provides our artists use of rowboats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and a sailboat to explore the secluded Tofte Lake.


TLC at Norm's Fish Camp 

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Residency Programs & Guided Workshop Retreats


Tofte Lake Center strives towards racial equity and inclusion and provides a range of programs for artists and arts organizations across disciplines to participate in week-long residencies. We hope you will apply to be considered for one or more of our season's fifteen weeks of programming.

Please note that our Emerging Artists Program is not available in 2020.


Applications are open for the 2020 season from October 1 - November 30, 2019*

The Gaia Fenna Memorial FELLOWSHIP

In its sixth year, this residency was created in honor of artist and nature lover Gaia Fenna, a close friend and supporter of Tofte Lake Center.  This week-long retreat is open to a Minnesota artist who exemplifies Gaia's spirit, passions, and values in their work and life.

Individual artist & Organizational residencies

These residencies are offered for both individual artists, small creative teams, and groups or organizations looking for space and time to connect, create, and reflect together in community and in nature.

Guided Workshop retreats

These retreats can be organized around any creative discipline and have included mosaic instruction, visual art and photography, artistic interaction with nature, installation art, and Forest Bathing. There are two retreats scheduled for 2020.

Guided Workshop Retreats


In 2020 we’re offering two retreat options: Writing Without Worry with Amy E. Witting and Shinrin Yoku/ Forest Bathing with Tom Bezek.

Applications for Guided Workshop Retreats close on December 30, 2019.

The 2020 Guided Workshop Retreats

writing without worry with Amy E. Witting

Shinrin Yoku/Forest Bathing with Tom Bezek


Grant opportunities to help fund your Residency


There are several grant opportunities to assist you in funding your residency. (Note that some listed here are Minnesota-specific)


Plan Your Stay

If you’ve never visited the Boundary Waters before, you will soon discover that you are in a very special place here at the “end of the road.”  If you’ve spent time up here before, hopefully your experience here at Tofte Lake Center will be just as unique as the place itself.  We hope that you will be able to take full advantage of the combination of relaxation, work, community, solitude, nature, and activity that TLC has to offer, and come away from your stay both rejuvenated and reenergized.

Getting Here


From Minneapolis/St. Paul to Ely

  • Take 35W or 35 E north, these freeways converge into 35 North

  • Take the exit to Cloquet, HWY 33

  • From HWY 33, merge onto HWY 53 North towards Virginia

  • 4 miles after Virginia, exit on to HWY 169 East towards Ely (not Hibbing!)

  • Stay on HWY 169 into Ely where it turns into Sheridan Street

From Ely to Tofte Lake Center

  • Continue East on Sheridan Street (HWY 169)

  • Tofte Lake Center is located 15 miles from Ely, at 2209 Fernberg Road (Check your odometer as you pass the Dairy Queen)

  • Continue past the International Wolf Center and the town of Winton

  • We are 11 miles further than the Veterans on the Lake (GPS will tell you otherwise)!

  • Just before the Garden Lake Bridge the road name changes to the Fernberg Road (Lake County 18)

  • The entrance to Tofte Lake Center is on the left, 100 yards after the public boat launch


Hibbing Airport

  • Hibbing Airport is an hour and forty-five minute drive from Tofte Lake Center

Duluth Airport

  • Duluth Airport is a 2+ hour drive from Tofte Lake Center

Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport

  • Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport is a 4-5 hour drive from Tofte Lake Center

Ground Transportation

Ely Safe Ride

  • The Ely Safe Ride service provides shuttles locally in the Ely area and between Ely/Duluth and Ely/Minneapolis

groome Shuttle

  • The Groome Shuttle offers 14+ shuttles per day/night between Duluth and the Minneapolis Airport


Arrival and Departure Information


Cabins will be ready by 2:00 p.m. on Monday.  


Please check in at the orange Roadhouse Building upon your arrival. 


We ask that you park your cars by the Roadhouse Building. Please only drive down to the cabins to load and unload your belongings.


Departure time from the cabins is noon on Sunday. As you vacate the cabin, please strip the beds and pillows that have been used and leave towels and linens on the bedroom floor.  Please leave the cabin as you found it. Also, please remove all unused food products and use the garbage/recycling bins provided.

What to Bring

The weather here can go through four seasons in a day. It doesn't hurt to have these things on hand to be prepared and make your stay most comforatble.

  • Indoor shoes or slippers (shoes off in cabins)

  • Layered clothing for temperature changes throughout the day

  • Rain jacket

  • Umbrella

  • Hat (for sun AND bugs!)

  • Water bottle

  • Bug repellant

  • Sunscreen

  • Flashlight

  • Walking or hiking boots

  • Sauna/lake shoes and towel

  • Journal

  • Camera

During Your Stay

Cooking Indoors And Out

Each cabin is equipped with a full kitchen and kitchenware for your cooking and dining pleasure. There are gas grills and a wood burning pizza oven here for your culinary enjoyment!


Wifi calls can be made from the Roadhouse Building.

There is no communal phones at TLC. Cellphone reception exists at various locations along the Fernberg Road as you drive back towards Ely.  The nearest location for some cellphone services is the lookout point at Rookie Pond, about ½ mile west on Fernberg Road towards town.


Bed linens and bath towels are provided for your use. There are no guest laundry services provided at TLC - there are two laundromats in town on Sheridan Street open until 9:00pm.


Pets are only permitted with prior permission, and an added non-refundable cleaning fee of $50 applies.

Internet Access

Wireless Internet access is provided on-site in the Roadhouse Building. In Ely, it is provided at the Public Library free of charge, and at The Front Porch and Northern Grounds Coffee Shops.


Boats, hiking trails, bicycles and 12 acres of forest and lakeshore are available for our artists to enjoy while in residence. Kayaks, rowboats, canoes, paddle boards, sailboat, and bicycles are all on-site, and arrangements can be made for one-day excursions on other lakes in the Boundary Waters as well. 

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)

Tofte Lake Center is nestled near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Northern Minnesota. The largest wilderness area east of the Rockies, the BWCAW consists of more than one million acres of protected forest and 1,500 waterways. Its clear lakes and green pine forests are unlike any other wilderness in the world. Read more about it on the BWCAW website.

Other Local Activities

Just 15 miles away, the town of Ely features shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops with internet access, a bowling alley, a golf course, and unique museums.

Learn about the native wildlife in the region at the acclaimed International Wolf Center and The North American Bear Center.

Visit the home of one of Ely’s most well-known and colorful characters, The Rootbeer Lady, at the Dorothy Molter Museum.

Ely boasts a vibrant arts scene, from the visual and literary to the performing arts. For more information about the Arts in Ely, check out the following sites: ARTS in Ely, What’s Up Ely, and ARTS in Ely Directory.

Resources We Love

We'd like to share with you some of what informs and inspires us here at TLC, so we've created a resource list for you of our favorite books, articles, videos, TED talks and more. It's a great list...and please don't spend too much time on your screen! We'd be thrilled if we knew you were outside in nature taking time to renew your creative spirit - just like we do here at TLC.



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creativity & mindfulness

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Schedules for 2019



2019 Residency Weeks

June 10-16 / McKnight Fellows Program Leaders

June 17-23 / Pangea world Theater Organizational retreat

June 24-30 / April Sellers Dance + performance

July 1-7 / NET-TLC ensemble exchange Lab

July 8-14 / TLC Board Retreat

July 15-28 / Emerging Artists individual residencies

July 29-August 4 / Mcknight Dancers & Choreographers

August 5-11 / deja stowers mcknight residency

August 12-18 / Emerging Artists group residency

August 19-25 / University of texas new theatre showcase retreat

August 26-sept 1 / pangea world theater and teatro del pueblo collaborative residency week

sept 2-8 / playwrights’ center fellows retreat

sept 9-15 / individual artists residencies

sept 16-22 / shinrin yoku guided workshop & gaia Fenna Memorial fellowship

sept 23-29 / individual artists residencies


2019 Public Performances

all performances are at 7:00 PM at Tofte Lake Center

September 13 / ottie the mink trio music

Ottie the Mink is a Minneapolis-based trio featuring Tim O'Keefe, percussion/oud/duduk & more; Jacqueline Ultan, cello; and Laura Harada, violin. The trio plays with the rhythms and sounds of Brazil and the Middle East; Featuring acoustic instruments, the trio explores sonic territory inspired by the north woods, organically developing improvisations into adventurous explorations of sound. 

earlier performances

june 28 / april sellers dance collective

Man Blossom Man a new performance work by the April Sellers Dance Collective explores a masculinity crisis in America.  It validates contradictions in the American male experience, depicts complexity in the male identity and softens barriers of the traditional gender binary. Gender-bending and political sloganeering will partner with stylistically distinct movement to reveal the negatives inherent in patriarchy and how nurturing can disrupt the patterns.

july 26 / courtney yasmineh music

International touring and recording artist and Tofte Lake Center’s 2019 recipient of the Gaia Fenna Memorial Fellowship, Courtney Yasmineh, presents an acoustic concert of her own folk-rock songs, plus songs of the 1960 - 70’s that inspired her.

BONUS! BOOK SIGNING! July 25 2:00 PM Piragis Book Store

In A Girl Called Sidney: The Coldest Place, Courtney Yasmineh takes us on the journey of a lifetime. A young girl struggles to survive and uses her first guitar as a friend and compass, setting out alone at the age of seventeen with guts and spirit and little else to save herself. (based on a true story, locally set on Lake Vermilion)


2019 Yoga Classes at TLC

TLC yoga classes are offered on thursdays 8:30 - 9:45 am

June 13 through September 12

classes are open to the public - drop in


Click below for all the details of our Yoga program. We hope to see you on the mat!

Your pre-paid Yoga Punch Card guarantees your place in class and offers a savings over the drop-in rate.