Mineral, Washington has schoolhouse charm in spades.

The gleam of a hardwood floor; the literal blank slate of a chalkboard; the tidy row of windows. The classrooms of Mineral School are orderly enough to harbor schoolchildren, but these days they welcome adults long past their spitball and recess-bell days. Late at night, when these artists tuck into queen-size beds that have replaced the desks in four vintage classrooms, it’s a little bit spooky but mostly sweet.

When Seattle writer Jane Hodges obtained Mineral School in 2013, she imagined a new life for a building long obsolete in a minuscule settlement (local kids now attend Morton schools). She turned the 1947 structure into an artist residency, where creative types come for one or two weeks of pure focus on their books, poems, artwork, or screenplays. Classrooms became joint bedrooms and workspaces. The first year Hodges opened the experience she got 72 interested parties; in 2019 there were 320 applications for her 20 spots.

Not only do residents get time to work, they connect with the tight-knit Mineral community. Mineral School hosts regular readings, which Hodges rebranded as dessert potlucks when she saw how much locals liked to welcome the visiting artists. Every year the school opens its doors for Mineral’s Got Talent, an eccentric collection of photo presentations, poetry readings, and a kooky, ongoing musical performed on piano. Multiple state poet laureates have swung by for presentations.

Applicants to the exclusive Mineral School residency are drawn to the quaint building, the access to Mount Rainier, and the spotty or nonexistent cell service. In turn, Hodges has seen locals embrace a creative streak many didn’t know they had. “This community is actually full of artists,” she says. She points to a nearby pottery studio and ironworks sculpture garden. “Here they’re working for joy and fun.”

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