January 2007 Letter from the Director

Dear Friends of Centrum,

First off, I want to thank you for helping make 2006 one of the most successful years in Centrum’s history. There are many ways of measuring success: Artistic quality and customer satisfaction are soft measures, but they are what drive financial success. Workshop enrollments, ticket sales, volunteer and donor engagement, are the easiest to quantify. Across the board, these clocked in with twenty-plus percent improvements over 2005.

My greatest pleasure comes in knowing that every quarter this letter goes out to more and more people. Centrum is all about your connection and support. We talk constantly about how the organization thrives when it gets out of the way of itself. That means it thrives when we—as a staff—welcome, engage, listen, learn from, change as a result of, and thank you as often and in as many ways as we can.

Getting out of the way of ourselves has helped us embrace and celebrate change as our fundamental organizational value. And a major change is in the offing. On January 11, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved a new and inspiring vision for Fort Worden State Park. Building on the long and beloved traditions of the communities that have gathered at this magical place for the last 35 years, we will create a learning center for the future, dedicated to creativity and discovery, integration and collaboration, hospitality, stewardship, and play.

The new park will be run as an integrated partnership, and the planning process foreshadowed this commitment to an amazing degree. Washington State Parks sought out Centrum’s participation in the preparation of this plan. Centrum was at the table from the beginning, and there is no sentence in the final document that does not speak to a richer set of possibilities for you and other participants, audience members, and fans.

This plan recognizes and embraces the fact that Centrum’s success (and the success of any partner institution at Fort Worden) is completely dependent upon the success of Fort Worden. In the new plan, there is no “we” and “they”.  It is all We. Understanding what that change really means in terms of what is possible ten years down the road (and what is necessary ten months down the road) is what we are figuring out right now. By the spring of 2008, we must have a complete business plan featuring a new management structure for the Fort (most likely some version or combination of a public development authority and nonprofit foundation) that will guide and be guided by all resident partners.

Meanwhile, Centrum begins its 35th year of programming.

Cordivae Press—a consortium of thirty northwest printmakers is our newest resident partner. They have launched operations in Centrum’s print studio. To celebrate this collaboration, we are mounting an exhibition of 70 prints selected from the Centrum archives this spring in Building 204. A Centrum Circle donors’ reception is scheduled for April.

The selection and framing of these prints is the first phase of the new Fort Worden Museum project in which art and historic artifacts that have been produced at or used at the Fort are placed on display in sites all over the campus. The prints from this exhibition will be placed in Officer’s Row houses with interpretative panels explaining this history of printmaking at Centrum.

More good news on the visual arts front: I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with Park Manager Kate Burke and members of the Fort Worden Advisory Committee to select what I am sure will turn out to be a beloved public art work in Port Townsend. Funded by the Washington State Arts Commission’s Art in Public Places Program and the Friends of Fort Worden, Gayle Bard—renowned for her exquisite landscape paintings—has been commissioned to create a large work depicting the park lands. The piece will hang prominently on the entry wall in the Fort Worden Commons.  What we didn’t know when we made the selection is that years ago Gayle had been an artist-in-residence at Centrum, and it was during that residency that she was inspired to focus on landscape painting.

The Goddard MFA in writing program gathers on February 8 for the first of two eight-day sessions in 2007. This program has grown far faster than planned, with enrollments doubling over the last year. Goddard is expecting to reach capacity enrollment within the next two years.

Our High School Arts Master Classes for gifted students from around Washington begins February 16. Workshops include Improvisational Theater with K. Brian Neel; Seeing Place with Ellen Sollod; Performance Poetry with Anis Mojgani; Slash, Burn, and Rip:  The Metaphorical Language of Materials with Susie J. Lee; and Telling Your Story with Kathleen Alcalá.

Our January Art of Teaching Workshop was cancelled because of icy roads. We are working to reschedule it in October to coincide/collaborate with the State Arts Commission’s gathering of artists and teachers involved in its statewide arts education consortium program.

You will soon be receiving the third issue of Experience, which will highlight summer learning opportunities. We have a great season lined up. It kicks off with a concert by the Seattle Men’s  Chorus on June 10. The Slide and Steel Festival returns, featuring Hannes Coetzee, from South Africa, who plays slide guitar with a spoon held in his mouth. VoiceWorks is back after a year’s hiatus, with the Birmingham Sunlights from Alabama, six men singing four-part a capella gospel music. The Port Townsend Country Blues Festival will highlight guitarist Cheick Hamala Diabate, from Mali.

In addition to Trio Solisti, Chamber Music’s director Helen Callus will bring composer Paul Moravec, a 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner. NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson will be on the jazz faculty and leading the All-Star big band.  Irish fiddler Liz Carroll and Swedish fiddle ace Paul Dahlin, both National Heritage Fellows, will be featured at Fiddle Tunes, playing with personal family members. And Eileen Myles, cult figure to a generation of post-punk writers, will be a special guest at the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.

A record number of artists-in-residence are creating new work in the recently renovated “Suds” houses and “Fourplex” apartments. The last three of the nine units are being transformed by an army of community volunteers. Rick and Debbie Zajicek gathered a team to complete their fourth renovation for Centrum. Anne Schneider, Leah Hammer and friends have nearly completed their redecoration and the team of Windermere Port Townsend Agents of Good Roots with their family and friends, are also hard at work transforming once depressing accommodations into a gracious retreat. Artists who stay in this housing are deeply appreciative and artists who visited in the old days are particularly moved. Centrum volunteers are amazing!

Thank you for all you do to make Centrum happen,
Thatcher Bailey