Centrum campus at Fort Worden

About Centrum

Where We Started

Fifty years ago, in 1973, a visionary music teacher named Joe Wheeler had an audacious dream: to create a home for arts and education at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend.

Before Joe Wheeler had his big idea, the land of course had its own history. Traditionally it had been the territory of black bear and timber wolves, and the S’Klallam and Chemakum people.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the US government moved in and began to build the batteries and buildings we see today. In 1953, after the fort’s use as a critical part of national defense became obsolete, the decision was made to take the US Army flag down, and the fort’s purpose wavered. For a time it served as juvenile detention. Then a state park. In 1982, Hollywood arrived and used Fort Worden as a setting for many of its scenes in the Richard Gere movie, An Officer and a Gentleman.

Finally, Fort Worden has become a mixture of nature, wildlife, and a host of organizations that bring vibrancy to a place that is already astounding with its beauty. In addition to Centrum, the fort is home to Copper Canyon Press, the Coast Artillery Museum, Corvidae Press, Peninsula College, Madrona MindBody Institute, Rainshadow Recording, the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, and others.

As it has turned out, Joe’s idea, his dream, was, with the help of many, achievable after all. Bigger than he ever expected! Today, Centrum produces more than 250 public programs in the performing, literary, and visual arts – year ‘round workshops, concerts, readings, exhibits, and artist residencies that attract participants and audiences from across the globe to our magnificent campus by the Salish Sea. Toward that end, Centrum also strives to honor the thriving culture of the S’Klallam and Chemakum tribes and sustain their homelands.

Many artists who’ve heard the siren’s call have stayed; some of us are homegrown locals, but we all have one thing in common – move forward into the 21st century and build up arts and educational programs at Centrum for our next 50 years. 

At Centrum, we believe in the audacity of having a dream, and dream is the reason why we’re here. Whatever your goals are, we want to help you achieve them.

Thank you so much for joining us!