I'm beginning to realize that my love affair with Port Townsend, WA began in my youth. While in high school, as a dancer, I attended a week long workshop at Centrum, held at Fort Worden's campus. I later went again, for theater. I distinctly remember the sense of relief and encouragement as I met other teenage artists. Oh, there are more of us! My relationship with Port Townsend is ever growing. I did not expect to begin to bond with another place so intimately. And I did not realize until recently that this process began 25 years ago.
During my school years my mother had tirelessly fought our public school system and our stuffy principal to bend the rules a little. They finally allowed me to leave school early to go study dance, which eventually led me down a magical, difficult, wonderful path through one of the greatest adventures of my life that lasted another 25 years. I didn't have a cohort of artist-thinkers at my high school or within my peer community. Those of us who lived, breathed and thought art-making, hadn't found each other. When the opportunity to apply for Centrum presented itself I was encouraged to apply by my family, the school counselor and a few teachers who knew I'd really rather be choreographing and flinging myself around a dance studio than studying algebraic formulas and struggling to read my social studies books.
I found my cohort at Centrum. Dancers, actors, and visual artists. We were the odd balls out in our small-town public high schools, it just hadn't occurred to us yet. I don't think any of us knew what it would be like to be extracted from our normal environment and put together all in the same place! And there is something particularly evocative about a group of artists working in various disciplines coming together. Oh, the magic that ensued! After the week ended, my mom picked me up and on the winding road back south I was speechless.
This past September, about twenty five years after my escapades there as a teenager, I stepped onto the same campus. I was there to attend Artist Trust's VisualEDGE program. We were put up in old, funky apartments and after settling in I wandered out my front door, took a right and what stared back at me, was the same building I had stayed in as a teenager. It had retained its monumentality, not so much as a physical presence, but as a psychological one. It struck me then that I had come full circle. I was back with my cohort, but I had a camera instead of dance shoes.
That week last September was not unlike my experience at Fort Worden as a teenager. Once again, we had been extracted from our normal, daily lives, put all together into one room, given fodder for thought, exploration, dialogue and support. Fort Worden is a reminder to me of my path in life. Despite deviations and experiments along my life's road (all very much worth the time, energy and sacrifice), the core has remained the same. Three years ago I wrote down a goal: to become a resident artist at Centrum. I know that I'll get there.