Submitted by Pacific Lutheran University
Parkland, Wash. – Community leaders behind the Pierce Center for Arts & Technology (PCAT) have big plans to create a wide variety of new opportunities for both youth and adults in the South Sound region. The recently established nonprofit organization is working toward raising the funds needed to renovate the 15,500-plus-square-foot space near the corner of Garfield Street South and Pacific Avenue recently vacated by the Pacific Lutheran University bookstore*. Once complete, the center would provide free arts and career training programs to local youth and professional instruction to area adults.
“PCAT would be a welcome addition to the educational and training resources offered to low-income and underrepresented members of Pierce County,” said Geoffrey Foy, an associate provost at PLU. “The Parkland community, where the center would be located, includes many residents who have not been able to access these kinds of services due to many reasons that include financial constraints and a lack of resources in this area.”
PCAT hopes to offer classes on digital media and ceramics to local high school students, pointing to research and case studies from across the country that suggest participation in the arts can be a catalyst for at-risk students to continue moving forward academically.
“We’ve simply still got too many young adults who aren’t finishing high school,” said PCAT board secretary Linda Nguyen, who also serves as the CEO of WorkForce Central. “We know the arts engage and inspire many young people, but these programs are being cut in a lot of our schools. This is a great way to help our young adults see more for themselves.”
The center also plans to offer a range of adult education and professional certification courses in demand in Pierce County’s smaller cities and suburban communities that are in need of an additional influx of professionally trained workers.
“The population growth outside of Tacoma opens up business opportunities that will require skilled workers,” said Mark Martinez, a PCAT board member and executive secretary of the Pierce County Building Trades Council. “The Center would be well positioned to help fill that pipeline of skilled workers.”
PCAT is led by a 12-person board of directors comprised of executive-level leaders from a wide range of local businesses and organizations including Franklin Pierce Schools, Bank of America, Tacoma Public Utilities and General Plastics.
Ongoing consultation and support of PCAT would be provided by the National Center for Arts and Technology (NCAT), a division of Manchester Bidwell Corporation that assists communities throughout the country in providing career training and arts education to high school students, as well as unemployed and underemployed adults. Based in Pittsburgh, NCAT currently supports eight affiliate centers throughout the country in cities such as Cincinnati, San Francisco and Boston.
Representatives from Manchester Bidwell say that Parkland is an ideal fit for the culture and philosophy at the heart of the NCAT mission.
“This location presents an exciting opportunity to interact with multiple Pierce County communities that currently have far fewer resources available compared to their neighbors further north,” said Katie Schouten, a youth arts liaison for NCAT. “The space’s location is ideal in that it is accessible by both public transit and major roads, while its adjacency to PLU offers abundant partnership opportunities that align with the missions of both organizations.”
Schouten says the services provided and the relationships fostered by NCAT-supported centers are designed to be life changing. “(Our goals) go beyond equipping students with specific skills, to empowering each participant to effect the change they want to see in their own lives,” Schouten said.
Nguyen, who has 20 years of experience in Pierce County workforce development, agrees. “We can make our community better by providing access to arts and education,” she said. “It’s the key to rising out of poverty and having a better life — and that’s why this project is so exciting.”
PCAT hopes to begin construction in spring 2017 for an opening July 1, 2018.
A community fundraiser for Pierce Center for Arts & Technology is planned for March 6, 6-8 p.m., at 208 Garfield St. South, Suite 101. The event will be an opportunity to learn more about PCAT and discuss the center with PCAT board members. Donations to PCAT can be made here.