Deepening Our Commitment to Young Artists

In the last issue of Experience I wrote that artists teach us that “embracing change can be the most meaningful way to honor tradition.” This understanding plays out in myriad ways at Centrum. Most recently, we have re-invented our programs for elementary, middle school, and high school students by remembering what has always been most transformative for then: deep interactions with practicing artists who are taking risks with their own work and will push students to think very differently about art making.

Visual artist Martha Worthley, our new manager for youth programs, is working to deepen our commitment to youth by deepening our connections to provocative emerging and established artists across disciplines. She is selecting a core group of artists who will serve as faculty for all 2008 youth programs. These artists will also be given residency opportunities to further their own projects and to interact and collaborate in community with other artists at Fort Worden. By extending their connection to Centrum over an entire season, they will have more chance for creative engagement with the physical site and the local community.

For 35 years Centrum has worked with artists across a spectrum of creative endeavor to inspire and challenge young artists. We are deepening that tradition. Our November 2006 gathering of youth arts leaders from across Washington underscored the critical importance of identifying, working with, serving, and learning from artists whose work recasts and opens up new cultural conversations. Linking our artist-in-residence program with student residential programming will provide an array of new opportunities for learning and creation.

We do not provide arts education; we provide education, community, and creative time for artists—professional, emerging, aspiring, or experimenting. When we talk about Centrum experiences changing lives we are, more often than not, talking about individuals whose decision to be artists were made as the result of their time at Fort Worden.

We wish to give special thanks to the painter Mary Ann Peters, a former student, teacher, and artist-in-residence at Centrum, and the newest member of the Centrum advisory board, for working closely with Martha on this program. Several years ago, Mary Ann, along with writer Matthew Stadler and Anne Focke—one of the nation’s greatest advocates for individual artists—proposed an initiative for Centrum that looked a lot like what is emerging for 2008. Embracing change can be the most meaningful way to honor tradition.

Centrum’s programs for Washington State youth are supported through generous funding from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, with monies secured by the ongoing advocacy of our legislative delegation. Kudos to Terry Bergeson and Gayle Pauley at OSPI and to Lynn Kessler, Jim Hargrove, and Kevin Van der Wege in the Washington State Legislature.

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