Arts Sailing Forth

Ever since William Penn’s ship, The Welcome, landed on the shores of what would eventually be known as Bucks County, boats have been a key component of Philadelphia’s economy. What has been lost since then is the region’s connection to the craft of traditional boat building. That is, until The Wooden Boat Factory was founded in 1996.

With the mission of using boat building and on-water programming to teach resiliency and problem solving to urban youth, The Wooden Boat Factory has served as a summer Work Ready site for four Edison High School students connected to the organization through the Student Success Center and ArtsRising of The Philadelphia Education Fund.

This summer Jose, Pedro, Eric, and Alex have been working on the completion of three sailboats, a task that is no simple undertaking. “It’s unique; something different,” thought Pedro when he learned he’d be building sailboats. Indeed, having never constructed or sailed a boat, the summer has been filled with entirely new experiences for each student.

“There’s more to it than building,” explained Jose who has had experience on construction sites in the past.  “Carving wood- that’s an art,” said Eric.  “It deals with shapes, size, moving through water,” elaborated Pedro.

ArtsRising has been eager to connect students to experiences in the region’s vibrant creative economy industries.  Traditional crafts play an important role in this economy.  As pointed out by Executive Director of The Wooden Boat Factory, Brett Hart, “You get out what you put in.” 

It was apparent in our visit that each student is putting in a lot of hard work.  They emphasized that the physical aspect of the work has been one of the hardest parts of the summer.  Jose noted that language, both English in general and specific boat terms, has been an additional challenge for him. “I’m still trying to get there,” he explained, “but it’s getting easier.”

What’s the pay off? The three students we spoke with emphasized that the experience with tools and the different materials is something they value the most and will be able to use in the future. Their work serves as an important reminder that the arts can provide viable career opportunities for youth.

We can’t wait to see which uncharted enterprises in the creative economy our youth are sailing to next!

Want to learn more about The Wooden Boat Factory? Check out their web site here.