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ARBUTUS FOLK SCHOOL & USING CRAFT TO SUPPORT THE LOCAL ECONOMY

Get to know Stacey Waterman-Hoey, Executive Director of Artubus Folk School

“Creating something gives such a sense of pride and creates resiliency and a sense of accomplishment in a community,” says Stacey Waterman-Hoey, Executive Director of Arbutus Folk School. “It seems we’re only a few generations away from losing the ability to create and we’ve become so dependent on a global economy to support ourselves.”

A graduate of Evergreen, Waterman-Hoey formerly worked in energy and climate policy for 18 years, holding positions for both Washington State University and the State of Washington. “I began to get discouraged about the divisiveness in the field, and I thought about what I could do locally and began to focus on ‘craft’ as a form of sustainable economic development.”

Waterman-Hoey left her career six years ago and directed her time toward beginning Arbutus. “I always tell people I’m just really good at spreadsheets,” joked Waterman-Hoey when I asked if she takes advantage of the many creative classes and workshops offered by the school.

Located downtown Olympia, Arbutus Folk School, is a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides learning experiences through a wide-range of activities focused on fostering appreciation, knowledge and access to craft, music, community, celebrations and lore. Arbutus provides professional instruction from world-class artists and a wide range of community-based learning opportunities.

Over a five-year period, Arbutus has hired over 60 local arts instructors and has 20 regular instructors who lead a variety of classes and workshops in woodworking, ceramics, fiber arts, metal arts, music, stone carving and other media. “Many of our instructors have made the shift from hobbyists to professionals and are now able to pursue working in their creative field full time using the platform Arbutus provides,” says Waterman-Hoey. “We are so happy to provide that opportunity to many local artists.”

Recently, in partnership with Fielding Graduate University and Highlander Research and Education Center, Arbutus 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.

Arbutus’ mission of engaging the local community is carried out in a variety of ways, including partnerships with local schools including Evergreen and South Puget Sound Community College. “Many of the college instructors in the community act as our advisors, connect us with potential instructors and facilitate ongoing relationships,” says Waterman-Hoey. The school is also heavily involved in Olympia’s twice a year Arts Walks, holding a community open house during Arts Walk and allowing people to tour the space which includes a woodworking studio, ceramic studio, weaving looms and more.

In addition, Arbutus offers a “Artist in Residence Program,” a six-month long program where professionals early in their careers work in an exchange program and have access to studio space, artist networks, and opportunities for teaching and instruction. Currently, Andritta Bernstein is the Ceramics Artist in Residence and Francis Fong is the Woodworking Artist in Residence.

A 2018 graduate of Evergreen, Bernstein creates functional pottery from mugs to small vases and large serving bowls, while working towards starting her own home business in ceramics. Fong started woodworking in the winter of 2015 at The Evergreen State College. After an introductory class he transitioned to studying craft full-time and also started working at Evergreen’s wood shop as an instructional aide. Since then, he has made a range of things including chopsticks, side tables, chairs, lamps and a large media console. 

July 18-20, Arbutus, along with the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), is hosting a community mosaic workshop. This three-day event will bring together members of the tiny home community, surrounding businesses and neighbors, and the general Olympia population. Participants will collaboratively work on a welcome sign for the Plum St. Tiny Home Village. The welcome sign will be roughly 3′ x 5,’ and comprised of several small house shaped mosaic templates which will then be arranged by artist Jennifer Kuhns. The event is free and open to the public, but Arbutus is seeking local community sponsorships and donations. Learn more about the event and the Double-Donation, which registers you for the program, covers materials and sponsors the participation of a Plum St. Village community member.

When she’s not at Arbutus planning future classes and workshops and continuing to grow Arbutus’ mission, Waterman-Hoey can be found spending time with husband and two children. Her 19-year-old son is a student at California Polytechnic State University and her daughter is about to begin her freshman year at Olympia High School.

For more information about Arbutus’ classes, workshops, upcoming events,  sponsorship opportunities and donation information, visit: https://arbutusfolkschool.org/

 

 

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