Fishtrap adds staff, programs

October 09, 2013 02:16 pm

Fishtrap Coffin House is the site for the new Fishtrap Fireside that starts Friday. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Fishtrap Coffin House is the site for the new Fishtrap Fireside that starts Friday. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)

Fishtrap is gearing up for a busy year ahead with four new staff members and an in-box full of programs for the community.

As part of a new collaborative relationship with Oregon State University, two third-year masters of fine arts students, Sally Parrish and Jon Ross, have joined the staff for the coming year.

Parrish is this year’s Fishtrap College instructor, teaching high school students a college level composition class in the fall and introduction to poetry in the spring. During the winter months, she is Fishtrap’s writer-in-residence and will be going into the classrooms and evoking writing from the county’s students.

Parrish started teaching Writing 121 in September to four students who meet for three hours each Friday morning. Since all of the county schools are on four-day weeks, these kids are taking time out of their “free” day to take an extra English class. Parrish said she has taught five sections of that course while attending Oregon State and is familiar with the material. She said the students have four textbooks that will prepare them for academic writing.

Powers said the course is at a great reduction, $300, and has been subsidized by a grant from the Ford Family Foundation and a scholarship from the local Soroptimist Club. Bedford St. Martin Books also donated three of the four books for the class.

Ross is serving as Fishtrap’s arts administration assistant and will help plan out Summer Fishtrap with Mike Midlo, the new program manager. He is also running the arts and lecture series, and on the administrative side, will be writing grants and helping Director Ann Powers with donor development.

Midlo was a producer with Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Art Beat” and became familiar with Wallowa County through the show.

“I always wanted to get outside of Portland, and I’d pick counties I wanted to go visit,” Midlo said.

He said the first county he picked was Wallowa when he produced a story about Winter Fishtrap. 

“When I saw a job come up at Fishtrap, I thought I should give it a shot.” 

At the beginning of August, he left the city behind for rural living in Northeast Oregon.

Midlo said this fall he is starting up Fishtrap Fireside, a local reading series for Wallowa Valley writers that will be held at Fishtrap’s Coffin House. 

“We are not bringing anyone in — this is for the people who live here,” Midlo said.

Writers read monthly

Once a month, writers will have the opportunity to read their own work. Midlo said Pam Royes will narrate the readings. Some will be thematic, perhaps around holidays. 

“We will get a crackling fire going, and folks in the community can come share their work. It’s a great way to build community and encourage them to participate in the other programs,” Midlo said.

The first Fishtrap Fireside is Friday.

Midlo is also responsible for this year’s Community Read featuring “True Grit” by Charles Portis. It kicks off Jan. 9 with seven weeks of companion activities.

Midlo said novelist Molly Gloss will speak on the role of women in “True Grit” and other western novels, and author Paul VanDevelder will speak on the role of Native Americans. Both versions of the film will be screened, the 1969 movie with John Wayne and the Cohen Brothers rendition starring Jeff Bridges. Local writer Janie Tippett will host a workshop on camp and trail food and drink, and the Battle of the Book returns — pitting trivia savvy teams against each other for prizes, like books.

“The main thing I’m excited about the book is that it has potential to bring more of the community together,” Midlo said.

“It’s a great topic for today,” Powers said. “It’s about justice, when you have to take things into your own hands, is revenge good or bad and how do you go about getting it. It deals with morality and when people tell you to go home and be good, what do you do? I think it will resonate for some people.”

Kristen Blanton is also new to the Coffin House staff, serving as both office manager and administrative assistant. Her duties are varied and will include everything from increasing the donor base to getting bids for the house to be painted. 

Blanton just finished her masters in fine arts in fiction writing at the University of Idaho. She has completed a collection of short stories.

“I am trying to focus on getting those in shape for publication,” Blanton said.

And of course, the yearly event that requires all hands on deck, is Summer Fishtrap. This year’s theme is “What the River Says” and celebrates the centennial
of poet William Stafford’s life.

“The theme is driven by Stafford and his passion for two things — his feeling that it’s important for people to get out in nature and have time alone to connect with themselves and be more centered, more in touch with yourself and more honest. It’s also about having conversations and maintaining conservations with people who are different from you. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and worked out of a
camp fighting fires,” Powers said.

Stay tuned for registration information and more on the speakers and workshops coming to Wallowa Lake in July for Summer Fishtrap.