Arbutus Folk School offers classes and workshops in arts, culture, craft, and heritage.
The Arbutus Folk School mission is to enrich lives and build community through joyful, hands-on learning with master artisans.
We are a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Olympia, Washington. We are working to
Inspire lifelong learning in a supportive environment
Increase access to arts, culture, and heritage experiences for our community
Promote intergenerational and intercultural connections
Support a strong creative economy
Depending on the subject, our classes will vary in length, number of students and cost. Some classes may be taught in a single session or some may meet several times a week for several months.
Arbutus Folk School is a vital heart of Pacific Northwest craft and community.
Our core program areas at this time are:
In addition to our core program areas, we periodically offer other classes such as lettepress, papermaking, leatherworking and more.
The school was first conceived by Stacey Waterman-Hoey in the late summer of 2012 after attending the a fiddle festival. Stacey was impressed by the number of people who cared about a wide range of traditional music cultures and craft and fell in love with the broad cross-section of people who engage in sharing this knowledge. Stacey began to envision the potential for craft and cultural education to lead a shift toward local, sustainable, empowering economic development. Craft, cultural knowledge and celebrations have served community and individual social, economic, and environmental needs for millennia.
With the support and encouragement of her husband, Stacey left a career of 18 years in energy and climate policy to focus on developing the school. She spent the fall of 2012 researching folk schools, writing a vision document, estimating a cash flow analysis, researching business structures and building this website.
In January of 2013, Stacey began reaching out to others to form the founding board who would turn the concept into reality. Very quickly, she met many others who were interested and had a variety of skills to contribute to the effort. The school was founded in May of 2013.
In August of 2013, Arbutus found its first home at 600 4th Ave E., Olympia, WA 98501.
February 2014: Arbutus hosted its first collaboration with the Olympia Old Time Festival
April of 2014: Arbutus begin the monthly Acoustic Open Mic.
June of 2014: Arbutus received our certificate from the IRS that we have been classified as a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit.
Nov of 2014: Arbutus moved next door to 610 4th Ave E.
Sept of 2016: Arbutus hired our first employee, Program Administrator Pamela Davis. Pamela works 8 hours a week.
July 2017: Arbutus hired Stacey Waterman-Hoey as the first executive director.
Today, Arbutus has 3 part time administrative employees and a fantastic, dedicated core of regular weekly volunteers.
Public support is critical for us to fulfill our mission and to continue expanding access to arts and culture for all. Click here to donate!
To see recent accomplishments, news, and initiatives, view our 2020 Annual Report here.
The American folk school (or “People’s School”) tradition began in the early 1900’s in Southern Appalachia. The Olive Dame Campbell founded the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina in 1925. This was was the first to bring the concept over from Denmark. In Denmark, these “schools for life” were founded in the early 1800s by education philosopher Nikokaj Grundvig, and helped transform the countryside into a vibrant, creative force. Campbell hoped that in the Appalachian region, “the quality of life could be improved by education, and in turn, wanted to preserve and share with the rest of the world the wonderful crafts, techniques and tools that mountain people used in every day life.”
The Arbutus Folk School cares deeply about preserving folklife traditions, craft culture and heritage arts. Our activities strive to improve economic vitality, enhance community connection and raise appreciation and cultural understanding. Our classes support skills individuals seek to make useful and beautiful crafts for their own use, personal enrichment, artistic endeavors or cultural preservation.
The Arbutus tree (pronounced ar-BYOO-tus) is also known as the Pacific Madrona tree. It is indigenous to the coastal regions of the Pacific Northwest. The First People of this region used the tree for medicinal purposes, including making preparations from leaves and bark for colds, skin aliments, and as a digestion aid. They also used fruits for food and wood for implements and firewood. Many mammal and bird species feed off the berries, including American robins, cedar waxwings, band-tailed pigeons, thrushes, quail, mule deer, raccoons, ring-tailed cats and bears.
The bark of the tree has a unique characteristic: each year, the brown, papery bark peels away exposing a silky-smooth, green skin underneath. The dramatic visual contrast can be spectacular and beautiful – and to us, symbolic of a “green” economic renewal as well.