July 2007 Letter from the Director

As I write, about 150 participants in the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference and the Goddard MFA Writing Program are deep in critique, creation, and conversation with an extraordinary array of poets and prose writers from across North America, who work beyond the bounds of well-behaved American literature. A rigorous and rich schedule of readings and lectures fills mornings, afternoons and evenings all week long. And everyone is basking in the beauty of Fort Worden in July.

Coming Up: It is the mid-point of our summer season; Jazz, Blues, and Chamber Music are still to come. And we are also looking ahead to a richer calendar of fall, winter, and spring workshops and events than ever before. In October we have scheduled an advanced revision workshop for fiction writers with Pam Houston. In November, Mike Marshall will be heading a master class on, “Choro: The Sweet Lament of Brazilian Music.”  Also in November, Dirk Powell will be back at Centrum for “Southern Mountain Traditions: String Band Tunes, Country Songs, and Shape Notes.” And, in January, Orville Johnson, Steve James, and Mike Dowling will be leading a Bottleneck Weekend. Intimate and extraordinary public performances will be part of each of these gatherings.

You can read stories about and interviews with several of the artists involved in these new ventures in the next issue of Experience magazine, which should be arriving in your mailbox at the end of the month.

Fort Planning: If you have been receiving these quarterly letters from me for a while, you know how deeply Centrum has been engaged in planning for the future of Fort Worden as a center for lifelong learning. The last phase of this process is officially underway, with the recent posting of a “Request for Qualifications,” seeking individuals or teams to lead detailed final planning efforts. (For details visit our Fort Worden web section.)  As part of this effort, Centrum, Fort Worden, and the Quimper Foundation have begun convening a series of meaty conversations with Fort partners about how we can work with one another to develop and sustain a “partnership economy” that will promote and support Fort Worden as an internationally significant learning center.

A New Campus: We are also beginning conversations with Fort Worden
about the transformation of centrally located but currently
under-utilized storage sheds into the Park’s new education campus.
Creating multi-use workshop/seminar/conference spaces would support
increased programming that would drive accommodations and food service
at the Fort and in the surrounding community. An effort like
this—utilizing existing space in a way that is utterly consistent with
the mission, vision, and values of Fort Worden—has the potential to
accelerate collaboration between partners, demonstrate to legislators
and Washington State Parks a real commitment to public-private
partnership, and encourage donors by promoting a low-cost-high value
capital project.

A New Partner: We have also begun conversations with Seattle Theater
Group (STG)
, owners of the historic Paramount and Moore Theaters in
Seattle, about an array of possible collaborations. One of the savviest
and most respected producers/presenters in the Northwest, STG has a
highly regarded education program and an enormous breadth of experience
with collaborative ventures. STG director, Josh LaBelle, was the first
arts leader in the Northwest to grasp the potential of what is
happening at Fort Worden. We are exploring a Seattle-based extension of
Fiddle Tunes this coming winter/spring, a concert series on Littlefield
Green next August, and an expansion of master-class offerings, curated
by STG.

These new partnerships may evolve in ways we cannot now envision but I
am enthusiastic about real buildings and real events because they add
steak to the sizzle of our abstract planning discussions. It is time
for us all to rise to the vision we have crafted so carefully and
promoted so consistently. We will both keep you informed and actively
seek your guidance as conversations around these opportunities develop.

There is no way to thank you enough for what you and the thousands of
other donors, volunteers, artists, and students give and gather to make
the Centrum experience so rich.  Instead, I will pilfer gratitude from
a participant in our recently completed week of Fiddle Tunes. She was
in awe of the donors and volunteers who make it all happen:

Thank you
to all of you who give this giant gift to me, to my community, and to
the friends who come here. You’re magic; you’re marvelous; you’re

In ongoing gratitude,