Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Review: Centrum Explorations Class
March 4-9, 2012
For 39 years Centrum's Explorations program has been offering Washington state middle schoolers the opportunity to spend a week in a frenzy of creative activity. Each day students take four of eight possible classes; the 2012 offerings were marimba, hip-hop dancing, taiko drumming, songwriting, creative writing, drawing, theatre, and wood jewelry. Students live, eat, and study on the campus of Fort Worden, an historic army base on the Olympic Peninsula (seen "Officer And a Gentleman"?), burning off whatever energy they have left after class by combing the beach or clambering around the hillside fortifications.
I had planned for the setting to play a big role in my class, as a source of both inspiration and raw materials, but we didn't get off to an auspicious start. On the first morning I hustled my 2-hour "core" group out the door for a hike that I fulled expected to turn them into raving naturalists and avid found-object jewelers. We'd been outside about ten minutes when the temperature fell and the skies opened. I called a retreat and we returned to the classroom totally soaked, clutching a few waterlogged twigs in our frozen fingers.
Inspired by Fort Worden in a different way, we soldiered on. Each student picked a piece of wood that he or she found especially appealing and drew its portrait, paying particular attention to attractive lines, knots, bits of lichen, etc.
On day two, it snowed. But luckily our wet twigs from the day before had dried out somewhat, so we got to work learning the about jewelers' saws, filing and sanding, drilling, gluing, and joining pieces with wire elements or string.
The students also learned to work with commercially available wood such as sheets and dowels, using it alone or in conjunction with their found-wood elements. It was very exciting for me to watch the students take the same information and run in different directions; for example, some patient types went in for making lengths of chain out of tiny jump rings, while others tackled ambitious sculptural designs.
And as usual, the woodburning tool proved popular--so popular, alas, that it pooped out before the end of the class.
Towards the end of the week, the activity ratcheted up as we all rushed to finish work for a final showcase attended by all the other students, as well as many parents had teachers who came up especially for the evening. We arranged the table to give visitors some insight into the whole process, with everything from raw wood and first-day drawings to works-in-progress and finished pieces on custom made stands.
Budget willing, Centrum takes place in the spring of each year. Although wood jewelry won't necessarily always been part of the roster, the lineup of classes is guaranteed to be enticing. If you know of any middle schoolers who would jump at the chance to attend art camp, check out the Explorations information on Centrum's website.