Community roots

A Community Narratives project by Window Seat Media

Community Roots

Community Roots is an oral history project about visionaries and change-makers. It explores how people come together to make change and create new possibilities for themselves and their neighbors. It documents important organizing efforts and creative projects from the perspective of people who helped to shape them.


We launched Community Roots in 2023 as a way to document and elevate our community's rich history of community organizing that often intersects with local arts/cultural initiatives. The project highlights individual contributions toward a collective effort or vision for the future, amplifying the vital and diverse ways we each contribute to our local ecosystem of creativity, mutual aid, and social change.


We aim to train community members in cultural documentation skills and ethics while adding to our community's historical record, sharing wisdom from knowledge-holders within our community, and creating opportunities for intergenerational conversations to tackle the challenges and imagine the possibilities of today.

How it works

As a community-based effort, we invite involvement in all aspects of the project - from conducting recorded interviews to audio editing and podcast production to the curation of exhibits and public programming. Community members are invited to join a cohort of learners to gain relevant skills to complete aspects of the project, may earn college credit, and are offered a stipend for their time. Oral histories gathered as part of this project engage the community, including event series, artist talks, workshops, performances, exhibits, podcasts, and more.

The Project

A team of community researchers have been gathering oral histories since winter 2023 about three local organizing efforts that are important to our collective history in the South Sound. Research ideas came to us from our community cohort, who had personal interest and connections to these stories.

Map by Aïcha El Beloui

The Stories

Camp Quixote, 2007

A tent city that emerged in downtown Olympia in February 2007 in response to a city ordinance that restricted use of sidewalk space in downtown Olympia. It was the first visible tent city of its kind locally, although it's part of a much longer unfinished story about who has access to housing in the area and who doesn’t. We were interested in the moment the idea of a tent city first took root, and the alliances and community learning that are at the center of this story.

Driftwood Day Care, 1971

A childcare center at The Evergreen State College. In 1971, Driftwood Daycare was initially conceptualized as faculty support at the College. However, the center opened to student families in response to the shift of women entering the workforce at that time. A small abandoned farmhouse located on Driftwood Road became the grounds for the center up until the mid-’80s.

The Liberation Cafe, 1996

A collectivist space established in the mid-nineties as a hub for activists to work, collaborate, host events, and engage with the community. The cafe occupied the top floor of Bulldog News in downtown Olympia. Over three years and thanks to the efforts of a small core group of organizers, hundreds of people passed through and benefited from this affordable, creative space in myriad ways. The need for affordable space is a theme that comes up repeatedly in conversations with activists and creatives in our town, even as property costs continue to rise exponentially. The Liberation Cafe lost momentum and ended in 1999 when its hosting business Bulldog News closed.

What we are learning

These three very different stories from three different decades hold common wisdom and raised common questions, including: 

  • How can we identify and adapt to the needs for physical space? What is the potential to share, repurpose, and co-own space?
  • What does it mean to be “educated?” How does learning happen in informal spaces and communities through sharing stories and lived experiences?
  • How can we evolve and grow as a community without tokenizing, displacing, or erasing individuals and communities?

We learned about the value of experimenting, making mistakes, and trying again. We heard about how people often learn the most from those who are much older or much younger, and from people have lived through things we haven’t. We learned that collaboration is hard, and it often generates solutions that ripple throughout our community in beautiful and unexpected ways. These stories also remind us that the questions we continue to grapple with today about who has access to safe, affordable, and accommodating space – to live, play, work, and create – are not new.


Community Oral Historians

From Left: Mindy Chambers, Aidyn Dervaes, Kristina Cannon, Rowen Ling, Elaine Vradenburgh (project facilitator). Not pictured: Bryce Black and Meg Rosenberg (project co-facilitator)

Photographs / Images

Aidyn Dervaes and The Evergreen Children's Center (Driftwood Day Care)
Pat Tassoni (Liberation Cafe)
Courtney Bennett (Liberation Cafe)
Mindy Chambers (Camp Quixote)

Interviews / Narrators

Keith Eisner (Driftwood)
Donna Simon (Driftwood)
Igrid Gulden (Driftwood)
Bonnie Coate (Driftwood)
Courtney Bennett (Liberation Cafe)
Peter Bohmer (Liberation Cafe)
Pat Tassoni (Liberation Cafe)
J Mar Hapa (Camp Quixote)
Rob Richards (Camp Quixote)
Selena Kilmoyer (Camp Quixote)

Artist / Map-maker

Aïcha El Beloui

Music composition for audio stories

Nick Rawson, Camp Quixote
Aidyn Dervaes, Driftwood Day Care
Steven Suski, Liberation Cafe

We're excited to share these stories with you through an interactive exhibit and event series beginning in February 2023. Check out our news & events for details!

Intended Impact

Activating Local Public History

Our work seeks to highlight underrepresented voices and bring stories from the margins to the center. We aspire to gather and share layered narratives with artistic and ethical integrity. We work alongside artists, activists, and other problem-solvers to tell nuanced and inclusive stories—people’s histories—of who we are together in this homeplace. We hope that this exhibit generates conversation around these (and other) spaces in the history of arts and organizing in our community.

Access-For-All Arts & Humanities Programming

We’re excited about the success of equity-based pricing for our programs, services, and community-centric fundraising. When folks with an abundance pay a little more to support our efforts on the front end,  it allows others open access when they need it. The outcome? Everyone can participate without barriers in witnessing and making our collective history.

All-Ages Community-Building

We aim to engage an intergenerational and multicultural local audience! Our hope is to continue the conversation about shared space in the community and dream up collaborative and innovative solutions.

Communal Narratives of Success and Social Change

Community Roots attempts to widen the frame of our local history from personal to communal by adding stories of collectivism to the local historical record. Oral history is by nature an attempt to understand the complexity and nuance of the human experience through a collection of stories. Individualism is among the deepest, most pervasive, and most stubborn cultural models that we hold in the United States, shaping our thinking about a variety of social issues, from aging to housing and public safety. Individualist narratives credit upward mobility to independence, self-reliance, merit, institutional learning, and competition. Stories feature heroes, villains, and victims who succeed or fail because of their choices, decontextualized from their rich and complex family, community, institution, or cultural history. Yet, the vast majority of the world embraces a collectivist or communal culture and storytelling modes, focusing instead on interdependence and group success, collaboration, relationships, and learning through interaction and dialogue.

Community Roots is an ongoing project about people coming together to make change in their communities in both small and large ways. It's about people’s contributions and creativity within a collective effort, demonstrating our vital and differentiated individual contributions within a common social change ecosystem. The oral histories gathered document social problems and collective visions while exploring cooperation, coordination, and community resilience to understand how particular systems produce the conditions that need to be changed.

Community story stewards

At Window Seat Media, we value relationships, transparency, and trust. We consider ourselves stewards of other peoples’ stories and we never share a story without the person’s feedback and ongoing consent. We do not own the copyright to the stories gathered and consider them on loan to us by project participants.

Project Sponsors