A Letter From Participant Karl Smith

Scenic_beach In 2003, the Centrum Junior High Arts Camp changed my life. Coming from a small island in the San Juans, I was amazed to find kids – other kids, kids I hadn’t known all my life – that were as enthusiastic and creatively-minded as I was. Centrum opened my eyes and broadened my horizons, narrow as they had been tucked up in the woods on Shaw Island.

When I arrived at Fort Worden with my class, I had no idea what it would be like. We didn’t see much of the fort, because our ferry had been late and when we got there it was dark and the cafeteria was closed. We checked into our rooms in the barracks that Centrum was using and not much happened that night. We met our dorm counselors and the kids in our hall, got our keys and schedules, and went to sleep.

The next day is fuzzy in my mind, but I must have found my way down to the cafeteria, ate breakfast, been gratified that the drinks machine dispensed coca-cola, and presented myself at 401A in time for my first class. If my memory of that morning is muddled, my recollection of the art room is crystal clear. The room occupied most of the third floor and was bordered with windows on three sides, and the floor was old and much-stained wood. On the tables arranged in the center of the room were the most art supplies I had ever seen outside of an art supply catalog. There were also rolls and rolls of paper, and stacks of colored paper. There were familiar materials like watercolors and oil pastels and some materials that I hadn’t even seen before. I wasn’t sure what we were going to do with all that stuff. As I was amazed to learn, the answer was “anything at all”. Our teacher, Mauricio Robalino, encouraged my creative ambitions while introducing me to new styles and mediums like charcoal, oil-paint sticks, and colored-paper sculpture. I loved every moment of it.

That week went by in a blur. I can’t remember much of any particular day, but I can remember doing lots of painting, learning the basics of story writing, running around the bunkers of Fort Warden and the beaches, and trying to move my two left feet in time with the Reggae music that our dance teacher played. I won’t try to describe each day, because I’m not here to give you a day-by-day description of my experiences at Centrum, I’m here to tell you why, in so many words, Centrum is a wonderful place to be.

Since that first week, I’ve returned to Centrum for various camps 5 times. I’ve taken classes in plaster and paper-casting, screenwriting, Hip Hop and rhythm, and metaphorical imagery, to name a few. I’ve also explored every bunker on the park, tried to make trumpets out of the kelp on the beach, and eaten fifty-year-old survival biscuits at the Coast Artillery Museum. Centrum has yet to become boring or repetitive for me, and I doubt that it ever will. Every year brings new classes and experiences, new artists to work with, new friends to make and new art to be created.

That’s why, whenever I have to leave a Centrum program, I’m looking forward to going back.

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