The Arbutus Folk School mission is to ‘Enrich lives and build community through joyful, hands-on learning with master artisans.”
Our philosophy and programming as a folks school focuses on serving that mission.
The Arbutus Folk School, is a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Olympia, Washington. The school provides enlivening learning experiences through a wide-range of activities focused on fostering appreciation, knowledge and access to craft, music, community, celebrations and lore.
Increase individual and community resilience to build regional economic, environmental and social sustainability and self-actualization.
Preserve and promote knowledge, stories, skills, and celebrations of the past and present
Increase access to learning activities in arts, culture, and heritage crafts to enrich individual lives
Promote regional craft traditions, including those for diverse cultural and ethnic communities
Increase understanding of indigenous cultures and cultural traditions of tribes of the Puget Sound region
Engage members of the community in intercultural and intergenerational learning
Inspire learners to recognize themselves as creative beings and develop their interests and skills
Inspire lifelong learning in a rich, supportive environment
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.
The Arbutus Folk School is a vital heart of Pacific Northwest craft and community just as folk schools around the world have been for generations. Our work elevates the craft economy by supporting the highest quality of craft instruction, growing access to hand-crafted items, identifying and preserving craft culture, especially (though not exclusively) craft culture and design with deep roots in the Pacific Northwest region. Our programming is intended to support skills individuals seek to make useful and beautiful crafts for their own use, personal enrichment, or artistic endeavors and community needs.
Our core program areas at this time are:
In addition to our core program areas, we periodically offer other classes such as lettepress and papermaking, stained glass, leatherworking and more.
The school was first conceived by Stacey Waterman-Hoey in the late summer of 2012 after attending the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. Stacey was impressed by the number of people who cared about hand crafts (including traditional music) and fell in love with the broad cross-section of people who engage in sharing these skills. Stacey began to see the potential for craft education in leading a shift toward local, sustainable, empowering economic development. These skills have served our social, economic and environmental needs for millennia until the last few generations which have pushed historically common skills into elitists realms. Stacey is deeply motivated to provide skills for making useful or beautiful items (as well as music, storytelling and community organizing) which people want for their own lives and that require minimal technology to achieve.
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 who might be willing to work on turning the concept into reality. Very quickly, she met many others who were interested and had a variety of skills to contribute to the effort.
While the school’s business model is to be self-supporting like any responsible business, public support is critical to ensure broad access to our classes by those who may not be able to fully cover the cost of classes. There is a long list of needs for tools, equipment, program support and technology that we can’t cover with class fees. Building our scholarship program is critical to improving accessibility to our programs.
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, which we will continue to do every February.
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 14 hours a week.
July 2017: Arbutus hired Stacey Waterman-Hoey as the first executive director.
Aug 2018: Arbutus hired Ivy Ayers as the Administrative Manager 12 hour per week.
The three of us and a fantastic, dedicated core of regular weekly volunteers are cranking away keeping the calendar full, the building maintained and are constantly strategizing for growth! Our very small staffing levels are the key limitation for adding more activities, partnerships and outreach to community. We can always benefit from financial support from the community! We need you to continue to do what we do.
We are currently creating a strategic plan. When it’s completed in the summer of 2019, more information will be available 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.