Detail from "Endless Summer," by Doug Geranium, dedicated to Donald Morgan
The sky is still dark when I arrive at Sitka. A pair of grazing deer turn their ears as I crunch up the gravel path and root around for my office keys.
I leave my bag in the library, transfer coffee from a thermos into a Sitka mug and step outside to make a quiet loop of the campus at dawn. The spruce branches are beaded with heavy droplets. They make a soft patter as each one swells, releases and plops down to the duff. Behind their percussion is the roar of the ocean in the distance, still churning from last week’s King Tides.
From this small and peaceful campus, I am in awe of everything the Sitka team and community accomplish together.
Facilities and Ecology Manager Jake Simondet joined us in February, but he has tended to so much with such care and in such a short time that it seems like he has been here all along. Discovering this ecosystem anew through his fresh eyes and articulate words is a 2023 highlight.
Last week, Sitka announced the 2024 Workshop Season, imaginatively curated by Program Manager Maria Elting. The day the catalog is first released for online preview is an annual thrill. While many beloved instructors will return, we will also host new faces and lots of one-day experiences. From dyeing botanical silk rainbows to firing raku ceramics to practicing somatic writing, my first impression of the season Maria has planned for us is that it is playful, inviting all of us to make a New Year’s resolution to try something new.
Also last week, Sitka's volunteer board of directors convened to adopt our 2024 operating budget. Under the guidance of Assistant Director Nicola Harrison, each team member conscientiously oversaw their respective areas of responsibility and collaborated to plan the upcoming year. This effort exemplifies the team's care in stewarding Sitka's resources and their shared commitment to translate our mission into impactful programs and tangible progress.
Reflected in next year’s budget are two of the most exciting behind-the-scenes moments from fall 2023: the day we won a two-year, $220,000 award from the Oregon Department of Education to expand rural art education access through Sitka’s Youth Program and the day we won a $168,500 grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust to replace Sitka’s database and website. As Leeauna Perry dreams the Youth Program forward and Maria steps up to lead Sitka’s Workshop and Residency Programs, Tamara Jennings will expertly serve as Project Manager for this mission-critical technology upgrade in 2024.
Including these two grants and eighteen more, Sitka was awarded $850,000 in 2023 and 2024 funding to continue our all-ages programs, improve our campus and technology and steward the protected land and lifeforms in our care. This result is a community-wide achievement. A key measure that foundations consider when deciding whether to award funds is the number of Sitka community members who also support the organization financially. To all of you who contribute to Sitka as members and through operational gifts of all sizes, thank you. Your groundswell of support by December 31 will make an essential impact on Sitka’s continued vibrancy in the New Year.
This week, Administrative Coordinator and CoastWatch liaison Nancy Newman will complete Sitka’s first full year of monitoring Mile 247 of the Oregon coast through the Oregon Shores CoastWatch program. A new cohort of winter residents will arrive in January, and, out in the community, our Youth Program will resume. In October, Katie McClintock will bring us together for the 30th Annual Sitka Art Invitational. Sitka’s annual cycle begins anew.
I set down my mug and stand on tiptoe. Peering through an aperture in the stone sculpture on the hillside above Sitka, the Pacific Ocean and horizon are visible. My own commitment to serve Sitka, our team and our mission is renewed.
With gratitude for this community and excitement for those who will join us in the bright year ahead,