At Denney Juvenile Justice Center, Snohomish County Juvenile Court’s Calvin Nichols (left) and Tulalip artist James Madison bring out the paddleboard that more than 60 at-risk kids worked on for more than a year. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

At Denney Juvenile Justice Center, Snohomish County Juvenile Court’s Calvin Nichols (left) and Tulalip artist James Madison bring out the paddleboard that more than 60 at-risk kids worked on for more than a year. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Paddleboard is a work of beauty and healing for at-risk kids

Juvenile court effort brought together teens, Center for Wooden Boats, Tulalip artist James Madison.

Like some fish out of water, there it was — a stunningly crafted and painted cedar-strip paddleboard on display at Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

“It’s incredible, more beautiful than I thought,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge said Friday.

“It’s spectacular,” said Brandt Faatz, executive director of the Seattle-based Center for Wooden Boats.

“This is special,” said acclaimed Tulalip Tribes artist James Madison, who painted the board with Coast Salish images of orcas and waves of seafoam green.

What wasn’t visible to admirers of the 11-foot board last week were all the hands that created it. Over 14 months, more than 60 court-involved kids in Youth Enrichment Services (YES) programming worked on the paddleboard at the Center for Wooden Boats site at Cama Beach State Park on Camano Island.

“It’s so amazing, I didn’t expect it to look like it does,” said one 17-year-old from the Everett area. He put his heart and elbow grease into the board while involved in JETS, Juvenile Educational Transitional Services, one of a number of YES programs.

The paddleboard’s artwork was painted by renowned Tulalip artist James Madison. Two orca images on the board represent Madison’s sons. “It’s all Coast Salish design,” Madison said. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The paddleboard’s artwork was painted by renowned Tulalip artist James Madison. Two orca images on the board represent Madison’s sons. “It’s all Coast Salish design,” Madison said. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The teen, who worked about a year ago on the board, recalled that it involved “a lot of shaving” of the wood. “It made me want to get out more, instead of just staying inside,” he said.

The YES programs may be court-ordered, or kids are referred to participate by probation counselors.

Calvin Nichols, a county juvenile community corrections officer, was the project’s instigator. As the juvenile community program specialist, Nichols was with the teens — some involved in juvenile drug court — every step of the way. On weekends or Monday mornings, he accompanied small groups to Cama Beach, where they’d work for hours.

“The whole thing was a learning process,” said Nichols, who shared that he hadn’t done anything like it since seventh-grade shop class. “I loved it,” he added.

Teens worked in a boat shop with Chuck Gittings, who until late November was operations manager of the Center for Wooden Boats at Cama Beach. Learning to work with tools, wood and each other, kids helped cut side rails and make the board’s frame, a hollow skeleton.

In the end, it became the yellow and red beauty that’s about to be auctioned in Seattle.

The paddleboard will be up for sale during the Center for Wooden Boats Gala & Auction Feb. 23. A fundraising event that supports the center’s preservation and community programs, it will start in the center’s new Wagner Education Center and conclude at the nearby Museum of History and Industry with dinner and the live auction.

After talking with Madison, Faatz said the paddleboard could sell for $10,000 to $15,000.

In the doorway of juvenile community corrections officer Calvin Nichols’ office, a 17-year-old boy watches activity in a classroom. Tulalip artist James Madison, who worked on the paddleboard project with the teens, checks his cellphone. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

In the doorway of juvenile community corrections officer Calvin Nichols’ office, a 17-year-old boy watches activity in a classroom. Tulalip artist James Madison, who worked on the paddleboard project with the teens, checks his cellphone. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The Center for Wooden Boats has a history of serving young people, both in Seattle and at Cama Beach. Two summers ago, kids helped make two paddleboards at the center on South Lake Union. “They’re now in our rental fleet,” Faatz said. “A few years back on Camano Island, we built the Shane B, a safety boat at Cama Beach. We have a boatwright who works with at-risk kids.”

Mike Irons, program manager for Snohomish County Juvenile Court, said the paddleboard kit was purchased with grant money, about $2,000, from the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. It’s federal money awarded through a state grant.

Judge said youth in the program may be in drug court, or on probation with chemical dependency issues. If they violate terms of drug court or probation, rather than sending them to detention they’re required to attend weekend programs.

“Sometimes they’re out building trails, sometimes they’re at the Wooden Boat Center,” she said. “All the time they’re with Calvin, who himself is really amazing.”

Adults the kids meet through the work serve as mentors and role models.

Taking instruction from Calvin Nichols, court-involved kids with Snohomish County Juvenile Court’s Youth Enrichment Services glue intricate parts of the custom paddleboard’s frame together. (Contributed Photo)

Taking instruction from Calvin Nichols, court-involved kids with Snohomish County Juvenile Court’s Youth Enrichment Services glue intricate parts of the custom paddleboard’s frame together. (Contributed Photo)

“They form relationships and learn to trust,” said Judge, who has seen in court how proud kids are of their work on the projects. “These interventions really help.”

Madison, the 45-year-old artist and master carver, has created story poles on the Tulalip reservation, sculptures on view in downtown Everett, and works that can be seen from Stanwood to the University of Washington and beyond.

He accomplished the paddleboard’s paint job in a cramped hallway at the building next to Denney that houses classrooms and programs for court-involved kids.

There are three orcas painted on the board. “They’re me and my sons,” said Madison, who is represented by the largest of the three. The other two signify his boys, 13-year-old Jayden and Jevin, 11.

“Art is a healing power,” Madison said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Gala & Auction

The Center for Wooden Boats Gala & Auction is scheduled for Feb. 23 at the center’s new Wagner Education Center (5:30-7 p.m., reception and silent auction) and the Museum of History and Industry (7-9:30 p.m., dinner and live auction) on South Lake Union in Seattle. Tickets $150 per guest. Information, or to reserve tickets by Feb. 15: http://cwb.org/events/gala-auction/

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