October 12, 2018


Arbutus Folk School Project Examines Economic Impact of Rural Arts, Culture and Heritage

Olympia, WA —Arbutus Folk School, in partnership with Fielding Graduate University and Highlander Research and Education Center, has received a $200,000 federal grant to engage local artisans, craftspeople, and tradition bearers in a study of economic vitality and resiliency through arts, culture, and heritage-based activities.  The “Leading from the Roots” project will investigate how local traditional artists can help reduce our region’s dependency on external or unsustainable economic drivers, develop economic vitality and improve resiliency in rural communities.  The project will also examine the potential for other folk schools across the United States to use a Community Based Participatory Research process to broaden their engagement and impact.

The two-year project is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and will focus on five southwest Washington counties known as the Pac-Mountain Region, which include Thurston, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific and Lewis counties.

“Folk schools have a long history of inspiring social change by awakening, enlivening, and sustaining the communities in which they are located,” said Dawn J. Murphy, Fielding University doctoral student and fellow with the Marie Fielder Center for Democracy, Leadership, & Education. “Through the Leading from the Roots research project, Arbutus Folk School will serve as a model in understanding their impact. This could mean a ripple effect with communities in more than half the U.S. states reaping benefits.”

The Arbutus Folk School, celebrating its 5th anniversary this month, is a non-profit art, culture and music education center offering classes in ceramics, fiber arts, stone carving, woodworking, music, metal smithing, letterpress and more.  “At our core, Arbutus works to empower people and communities.  It may be through the joy of sharing a cultural tradition, the pride of learning to make our own useful and beautiful goods, or the richness of connecting and celebrating with others,” said Stacey Waterman-Hoey, executive director of Arbutus.  “Craft and cultural traditions have been the foundation of local economies worldwide for millennia.  We look forward to investigating the potential of a renewal of these enriching and economically viable activities in our region’s rural communities.”

The Arbutus Folk School mission is “Enriching lives and building community through joyful, hands-on learning with master artisans.”

ARBUTUS FOLK SCHOOL CONTACT: Stacey Waterman-Hoey | | 360.701.0439 |