I spent almost all of June working as a PR Assistant/Counselor at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain. I studied poetry there two years in high school and thought it would be a perfect job for my return from France. It turned out to be a great way to earn some money in a beautiful part of Oklahoma while working with some interesting people, even if being around teenagers for two weeks was a little stressful.
I got there about a week early with the other counselors to learn CPR, set everything up, and be subjected to hour upon hour of improv. Everyone working there was involved with the arts somehow, whether it was theatre, painting, photography, film, acting, choral, dance, writing, or orchestra. It was kind of strange, actually, to be around so many people that were pursuing their art as their profession. I usually feel odd saying I am a writer, but working with professional-aspiring opera singers or musicians made me feel almost corporate.
After that first week, the students and faculty showed up and the camp went from 30 to 300 residents. I was very impressed with this year’s faculty, and they even got Billy Collins to come for a few days as a guest artist. The students were just as talented as I remembered, even if that was easy forget when they were using their cellphones during performances or climbing the mountains in a lightning storm. I spent most of my days in the public relations office, which was very laid bad and low stress. Quite a contrast to being a poetry student where I spent all my time writing and critiquing.
While each day at OSAI felt like a week, it still seemed to go by very quickly and already feels as dreamlike as France. It definitely got me over my culture shock, though, and I think I’m fully readjusted to the States. Being a student at Quartz Mountain definitely impacted my decision to follow writing as my career, and it was nice to come back to a place that was so inspirational. Unfortunately, of all the arts taught at OSAI, I think that poetry is in the most danger of extinction. Who reads poetry besides the poets? However, the students are still talented so hopefully the literary arts will be maintained as a part of the program. I would hate for young Oklahoman writers to miss out on the same encouragement I received there.
If you want to get an idea of the OSAI experience, the yearbook video from 2008 is online. (I recommend pressing mute for the music.) Although it went by quickly, I feel like I met some great people and love that I got paid to spend a month in one of my favorite places in Oklahoma.