What happens when an artist has a passion to help her peers? In the case of Mineral School founder Jane Hodges, such an interest in advancing artistic talent in the Pacific Northwest can transform into a thriving artist residency program.

When Hodges moved to Washington from the East Coast, she soon learned the state had one of the highest percentages of people identifying as “artists” on their taxes. As an avid artist residency participant, Hodges wanted to create a community for creatives. So she did. 

In 2015, Hodges launched the Mineral School residency program in a vintage school building in Mineral, a small Lewis County town situated roughly halfway between Portland and Seattle and mere miles from the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. A perfect spot, she thought. 

Mineral School’s mission is to nurture literary, performing, and visual artists to generate new work and present that work to the public.

“People come and stay with a purpose and use the time and space to generate new work,” Hodges said. “They’re not here to study with a guru, and it isn’t a conference or a workshop — it’s specifically time and space to think and create.

“Mineral School runs like a baby nonprofit,” Hodges said, and operates under a fiscal sponsorship with arts nonprofit Shunpike. Funding comes through fundraising and grants from Amazon, Literary Partners, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation.

Each year, residency applications from visual artists, poets, and writers get solicited online and reviewed in a juried selection process. “In 2019, we received 320 applications for 20 artist spots,” Hodges said, “We’re looking for someone who is ‘in their material’ with scenes they’ve been exploring or someone getting back up to speed with a medium and voice.”

Residents are notified each spring and invited to a two-week session, where they will occupy one of the building’s 800-square-foot classrooms. Hodges said residents often will spread out manuscripts, poems, and other works in the classroom dorms and walk around in the space for greater inspiration.

Guests interact during planned meals, and Hodges indicated they are usually socially conservative the first week, then want adventure once they get their work done. “We also host a visiting artist or author and a resident show-and-tell event,” she said.

Mineral School is governed by a board of directors, and run by active volunteers, joined also by alumni and power volunteers who help with in-kind labor. The team hopes to eventually become its own 501c3 and increase artist-related opportunities in the community.

“Artists deserve support and dedicated spaces to build new work, which in turn helps the communities they return to — especially if an artist has completed what becomes an exhibition or a publication for a gallery or other audience,” Hodges said. “The reinvention artists bring here also benefits Mineral’s economy and beautiful, iconic setting.”