By Tommy O’Malley
State of Alaska economist, Neal Fried, in his recent profile on our community revealed some interesting statistics. Speaking at a public meeting in Girdwood sponsored by Glacier City Realty, Mr. Fried told the audience that the community is unique and distinct in many ways. We are more well to do than most Alaskans. We are better educated by far. Norwegian bachelor carpenters and other men outnumber women here 124 to 100. We have fewer children here per capita but they are well cared for and all are above average.
Of course we know that people who make Girdwood home are a different sort of Alaskan. Stumpy Faulkner used to call us Girdweedians. We do have a certain reputation, deserved or not.
The thing that does make Girdwood different is that people in Girdwood actively work at building our community. Sometimes it is an actual building built by volunteers like the pavilions in the Forest Fair Park, the hand tram or our marvelous children’s park. The Four Valleys Community School, the only community school in Alaska, acts as an organization that brings people together. Other organizations, the Forest Fair, Little Bears, GCVA, Girdwood 20/20, our Volunteer Fire Department, the Rotary and Lions clubs, Challenge Alaska and the Girdwood Fine Arts Camp all serve to build and enhance our sense of community.
The Arts Camp, as an example, is now in its 26th season, sponsored and supported by a broad base of granting organizations but mostly by the parents of local children, the Arts Camp has brought arts and cultural education to a generation of Girdwood’s children. Indeed several former arts campers have returned to camp as instructors and even as directors.
Arts Camp has remained vital by bringing in new artists/ instructors every year to teach the mediums that the students themselves had suggested from the year before to build on their skills. Every year a brand new group of local 5-year-olds (who will tell anyone that they are already artists) sign up to develop their potential to express themselves in new and creative ways.
For the last 26 years, Arts Camp has contributed to the artsy reputation of Girdwood. Sculptures made by arts campers in the Forest Fair Park and the mosaics along the bike path are testimony to the artistic nature of the children and adult volunteers in our community. This year’s dates are July 29 to Aug. 9.
We are currently gearing up for this summer’s program, which will include two artists from Homer, and an Inupiaq scrimshaw artist from Barrow.
There will be sessions for children 5-8, 9-18, and adult evening classes too. Arts Camp is looking for volunteers. We need someone to help with setup on Saturday, July 27, others to help during camp sessions, and more for the mosaic art project in the new town square park. No experience is necessary, just a willingness to build community. Call: Thalia Wilkinson 783-1965 or email: email@example.com.
Tommy O’Malley is a member of the Girdwood Board of Supervisors.