SFAC Has A Blog!!

Sitka Fine Arts Campus

The historic Sheldon Jackson College Campus is now home to Sika Fine Arts Camp

This space has been used every summer for quite some time as a way for counselors and faculty to keep our students informed and involved. That plan will continue, but we decided that there is so much going on with us all year, this would be a good way to get the word out in the winter, too. We will be using this space to publish personal stories from all sorts fo people who have a special place in their heart for SFAC and our new campus. We will also use it to update you on activities, current renovation progress, and maybe a few peeks at what might be coming up in the future. Please fell free to send me your own stories or ideas for things you want to know more about.

This first story is from a board member and former camper. It is reprinted, in part, from her blog

In my home town of Sitka, Alaska there is a camp. It is an award-winning, interdisciplinary fine arts camp. When I was a young teen I attended this camp, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. In the years since then I have seen it do the same for hundreds of young people, taking kids who feel different, odd, maybe shunned, and giving them validation, acceptance and encouragement.  My own children attended camp and are better people for having been. Now I am  fortunate to be on the board of directors. Our camp has been in operation for over 35 years, and each summer we host over 500 students from Alaska and all over the world. We have always rented space to hold camp, either from the local college or from the state-run boarding school. Our dream has  been to have a place of our own, and last winter that is exactly what we got. The Sheldon Jackson  campus is a National Historic Landmark and was first opened  in 1878. Since the founding it has been used to provide a type of education to which its students might not otherwise have access . The Sitka Fine Arts Camp intends to continue this story by providing, as it always has, a quality arts education to children from all parts of Alaska and throughout the country.   The college was closed in 2007 due to declining enrollment.  At that time it was boarded up and has sat vacant ever since. The Sheldon Jackson trustees voted to give the 19 buildings and 22 acres that make up the core campus to Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and on February 2, 2011 they did just that. Our camp now has a permanent home, right back on the grounds where we originally started. It is a dream come true.

These fine old buildings have sat unused for  the past four years in a climate that could never be called conducive to long-term storage. Most buildings had burst pipes, electrical issues, broken windows, leaky roofs and a whole lot of grime.. Further, when the college closed it happened rather suddenly, so a lot of stuff was just left there. Imagine a 12X12 room piled floor to ceiling with computer monitors, another with towers, most beyond salvage. Throw in swiftly vacated dorms, apartments, offices…you get the idea.  We had a mess to deal with. Our goal was to get this place ready for camp in the summer, with first campers arriving June 6th.

SFAC has had to reinvent itself  a little to handle this incredible gift. The job of bringing this campus back to life was far too big for our tiny organization. So we went to our community. We asked for donations, we asked for volunteers, and, man have we been rewarded!  As of last week we have had over 20,000 volunteer hours donated. That is particularly impressive when you consider that we are a town of only 8,000 people. The first 10,000 hours came in the first 4 months. Some people are giving more than 40 hours each week on top of their day jobs. People are scurrying about every day, but the biggest days are Saturday. Every Saturday from February  through may we had a work party. Most weeks we got around 50 people. One week we had 3 times that many. All of them work hard, and they all get hungry. That’s where I come in. At the very beginning I expressed to  the board that  one of the biggest challenges of such a big task was morale. And of course, I spell that FOOD. So I took on the job of organizing and providing lunch for our Saturday work parties. Others supplied food as well. Together, over 16 weeks, we  provided almost 800 lunches to the hardworking volunteers that have been revitalizing our campus.

We also served and cleaned up.

In addition to this, one Saturday our local grocery store owners made, donated and served  chili dogs for 150 workers in one day. That Saturday the rest of us just did salads and desserts.

Below is a summary of the food I personally made for those 16 Saturdays.

1020 cookies

48 loaves of bread

45 crock pots  of soup or stew

22 salads and vegetable dishes

12 crocks of rice, pasta or potatoes

6 cakes

4 chickens

2 meatloaves

1 14 lb King salmon

1 13 lb ham

I meant to write down everything I made, but of course didn’t follow through. Now it is all a blur. . .but here are a few examples… Potato Soup, Southwest Corn Chowder, Clam Chowder, Curried Pumpkin Soup, Thai Ginger Soup, Sloppy Joes, Lasagna, Baked Ham, Teriyaki Chicken,  Italian Meatloaf, Macaroni and Cheese, Poached Salmon, Quinoa and Brown Rice Pilaf, Mashed Potatoes, Scalloped Potatoes, Potato Salad,  Sweet Potato Salad, German Potato Salad, Potato Beet Salad, Macaroni Salad, Tortellini Salad, Green Been Casserole, Seven Layer Salad, Broccoli Salad, Chocolate Chip Cake, Brownies, Friendship Cake, Coconut Lime Cake, Lemon Cake, Blueberry Cobbler, Banana Bread, Pumpkin Bread, Cranberry Bread, Sugar Cookies, Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Orange Cookies, Cinnamon Chip Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Turducken Cookies, Whopper Cookies, Rosemary Pecan Cookies, Lemon Lavender Cookies, Ranger Cookies…  

Most weeks my friend Shelby would come over  during the week and we would make cookie dough, rolling it into cylinders and putting it in the freezer.  That way I could slice them up on Saturday morning and serve them fresh for lunch. Thursdays and Fridays were spent cooking. Saturdays were final prep, haul it all to camp, set up, serve and clean up. Sundays were spent in total collapse.  

This is just an example of the kind of love that is being poured into camp. A year after the transfer of ownership, work continues on campus. Volunteers are there just about every day, and it is paying off. Life is coming back to the old buildings, the grounds are once again being cared for. This place is waking up. We are weathering our first winter, even introduced some limited off-season programing in ceramics, after school art classes, artist residencies and artists forums. Now we are gearing up for our second camp season in our new home. I keep thinking about what a great privilege it is to be a part of transformation. It is so incredible to see the life of a young person transformed by camp, to see camp transformed by volunteers working together, to see our town being transformed into a center for arts, science and creativity. I am honored to be a part of this wonderful project.

By Tracy Turner



2 responses to “SFAC Has A Blog!!

  1. We are all honored to have you in Sitka–and on the Sitka Fine Arts Camp Board! Bravo~

  2. I also helped in the lunch department…EATING! No matter how many volunteers showed up, nobody ever left hungry. Those great lunches were just an added incentive to be on campus pitching in. Thanks Tracy, and everybody else who has been part of the process.

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