About Us

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Heartwood in the Hills at the Calhoun County Wood Festival - The Folk Dance

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In 1973, Jude Binder moved to Calhoun County, West Virginia with the dream of establishing a school for the arts in the heart of the country. The school she envisioned would provide an under-served rural population with an environment for learning, personal growth, and community building.  Heartwood in the Hills is the realization of Jude's dream.  It provides child and adult students, ages 5 through 75, from at least nine counties with the opportunities and resources to develop cognitive and creative skills, self-confidence, and self-expression through the arts.


In 1982, without any public financial assistance, Jude and Heartwood's co-founder Frank Venezia built Heartwood's first structure and opened Heartwood.  Jude and volunteers ran the school until 1992, when the facility was expanded and three Heartwood students joined her as faculty.  Heartwood also hired three part-time staff people with support from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts, the Benedum Foundation, the Ann M. Martin Foundation, and other private groups.  Additional guest artists have taught music, art, theatre, and dance since then.

haley-gallop-Heartwood embodies the ideal that the arts belong to everyone and the artistic gifts in each person deserve nurturing.  Heartwood's mission is to ensure that everyone has access to Heartwood's programs regardless of their ability to pay.  Heartwood's Board of Directors and faculty are dedicated to keeping class fees low, ranging from $4.00 to $7.00 per class.  Financial assistance is available based on need.

Heartwood offers a warm, welcoming environment to people of all abilities and backgrounds.  Theater projects build community, teamwork skills, self-esteem, and self-respect.  They give children an appreciation of their role in the course of historical events.  The atmosphere at the school is encouraging and noncompetitive.  Every student gets an equal opportunity to shine.

Students come to Heartwood from nine West Virginia counties.  Audiences and participants for special events come from West Virginia globeand beyond.  Heartwood has hosted visiting artists from around the country and Canada.  Through its deeply rooted involvement in the community, Heartwood maintains an active presence that regularly attracts new students.

The Heartwood facilities are wheelchair accessible.  Wheelchair ramps lead into the main facility and the art building.  Each student or guest is individually accommodated, and Heartwood staff and teachers work closely with students' families and schoolteachers.