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Mineral School ~ A School. But Cool!

This past weekend I went back to my old school - Mineral School, that is - for a class reunion. Or was it a reunion with class? No matter. As with most things Mineral, it was a total hoot!

In August 2017, I completed a two-week visual artist residency here with three hugely talented women – Seattle artist and writer Clare Johnson, Bainbridge Island poet Michele Bombardier, and Seattle journalist and memoirist Putsata Reang.

Our artistic endeavors were aided and abetted by hosts Jane Hodges, intrepid founder of MS, 2016 alum Laura Lampton Scott, and board member Jess Martin. Volunteer chef Dana Wolff sustained us body and soul. I was ably advised by and guided to various field locations by local raconteur and ace photographer Anthony Koopman. (Photo above is our "graduation.")

For the reunion, alums camped behind the former elementary school in this small town near Mount Rainier. Besides myself, Michele, and Putsata (pictured left) from 2017, our group included Janine Kovac (2015), Wendy Call (2015), and Pat Dobie (2016), plus families and friends. Our big Minerals' Got Talent show on Saturday night featured poetry readings, "literary forensics," visual arts, songs by local singer/guitarist John Sparrow, and a rousing singalong of selections from Diane Mapes's way-way-way-off-Broadway extravaganza, Mineral: The Musical! (Move over, Hamilton!)

Why a Mineral School residency? For artists, uninterrupted time to work is pure luxury. For me, a landscape photographer, two weeks around Mount Rainier was a godsend. Most days I was gone before dawn in my VW camper van to reach locations, either on remote logging Forest Service roads - most of them bad, some axle-busting death traps - or in the national park itself, from which to photograph "The Mountain" and its environs. Whether writing, shooting in the field, or editing images, the Mineral School residency program gave us that precious gift of time to work on our work. And a community in which to share the experience, compare creative notes and challenges, and always feel supported.

What about fun and relaxation? There's plenty of that too. We swam in Mineral Like, rode the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, quaffed beers at the Headquarters Tavern, and even camped out in the national forest to observe the August 21 solar eclipse. (Here's my time-lapse poster of it.) It was summer camp for creatives without cabins, counselors, or lanyard-making.

I highly recommend a residency experience at Mineral School to photographers and other visual artists. Here’s why:

· You'll be fully supported. They provide you with an entire school classroom to live and work in, and all your meals, so you can simply focus on your work.

· You will talk about your work with the other residents. These conversations will enrich and broaden your perspective as a visual artist and story teller, and may even lead you to new creative ideas or collaborations.

· You will have a chance to share your work at a free public program held during your residency. Local arts supporters will show up to vigorously welcome you and appreciate your work.

· You will be inspired, motivated, renewed, and invigorated by the mountain setting.

· You’ll expand your artist-friend network (never a bad thing) - and become eligible for cool school reunions!

Applications for 2019 residencies open December 15, 2018. Mark your calendar!

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