Anchor for the arts: Eight organizations form Creative Alliance

Leader News Staff
Posted 10/13/22

Eight organizations — Centrum, Copper Canyon Press, Madrona MindBody Institute, Northwind Art, Port Townsend School of Woodworking, KPTZ Radio, Corvidae Press, and Rainshadow Recording — …

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Anchor for the arts: Eight organizations form Creative Alliance


Eight organizations — Centrum, Copper Canyon Press, Madrona MindBody Institute, Northwind Art, Port Townsend School of Woodworking, KPTZ Radio, Corvidae Press, and Rainshadow Recording — have teamed up to form the Creative Alliance of Fort Worden.

With the goal to secure a stable future for the arts at the fort, officials said the alliance is not a new organization but rather a commitment made by organizational leaders to advocate for their shared needs and values collectively.

As a team, the Creative Alliance settled lease negotiations with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority to provide long-term lease agreements for the cultural programming partners at the campus.

“This is historic, working in harmony with the new PDA, the state, and the city,” said Centrum executive director Robert Birman.

“We’re unified, committed to the future of Fort Worden, and stepping up to make significant capital investments in the state’s assets, and — by doing so — guarantee the possibility that the cultural programs and facilities that define this place, and our community of artists, will be here 50 to 100 years from now,” Birman added.  

Seventeen buildings are covered by the new lease terms. Based on an independent appraisal commissioned by Washington State Parks, 14 of these are Class D facilities, meaning that they suffer from severe deferred maintenance concerns.

The other three — Buildings 305, 308, and 324 — are newly refurbished, and unlike the others, do carry rent for the next 25 years from the lessees.

Centrum and KPTZ will share occupancy of Building 305, a 17,000-square-foot facility, the station’s new home as well as an additional program and office space for Centrum.

Northwind Art will lease Buildings 308 and 324 with roughly 4,100 square feet combined, and will use them as expansion spaces for art classes, administration, and anticipated future fiber arts and ceramics programming. The Woodworking School will be leasing around 11,500 square feet in other buildings to accommodate its rapidly growing programs.

The rest of the Creative Alliance members will remain in their current spaces under the new maintenance- and restoration-based lease terms with the Public Development Authority. Notably excluded in the deal are the Wheeler Theater and McCurdy Pavilion, which remain rental facilities for community use under the management of Fort Worden Hospitality.  

“The new leases represent a fundamental shift from the past and are an emblem of the strength and value of the partnership model at Fort Worden,” Birman said.

“The new 25-year lease terms effectively abolish the concept of rent in exchange for each organization’s agreement to maintain and renovate the historic World War I and World War II-era leased facilities — a proposition far exceeding the value of rent over the next 25 years. This is in our own self-interest, but also that of the state and the city,” Birman said, adding: “Together we can rally regional and national support to make up for years of disinvestment in these precious spaces.”  

“We’re excited to bring significant and collective resources to bear, to not only solidify the Creative Alliance’s continual presence at the fort for many years to come, but to expand our programs, revitalize and restore the historic programming facilities at the park, and significantly reduce the deferred maintenance burden on the PDA,” said Teresa Verraes, executive director of Northwind Art. “We all depend on one another for our mutual success, and we intend for this visionary public-private partnership to flourish.”  

In 2021, Centrum commissioned an independent analysis from Seattle-based MENG Analysis of the true costs to maintain and restore the arts and culture program buildings at Fort Worden. The analysis substantiated between $8.9 million and $13 million in immediate maintenance deficiencies as well as $4.8 million to $10.4 million in predicted renewals (renewals that take into account the life expectancy of internal systems like HVAC, fire alarms, and other systems) throughout the facilities.

Birman noted that the report is presented in 2021 dollars and does not yet account for prevailing wage adjustments.

“These are conservative estimates, meaning they are likely to be lower than what will be realized. The alliance’s investments over 25 years will nearly certainly be much greater,” Birman said. 

“The vibrant organizations that provide amazing programs at Fort Worden are growing and are in need of more exhibition and classroom space,” said Heron Scott, executive director of the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. “We’re all ready to work for the common good.”

Scott also serves as the Creative Alliance’s liaison to the Fort Worden PDA’s board.

“We believe the opportunity to leverage the collective scale and impact of our reach, influence, and public and private support will open new avenues for long-term capital investment in the campus and newfound philanthropy … Our commitment will allow the PDA to focus on all the other needs outside of the cultural facilities, which are many. By working in true partnership, everyone wins,” Scott added.