Camp History

Our story began over 30 years ago in a backyard...

Sweek House

A pioneer in creative arts and alternative education, Willowbrook Founder Althea Pratt-Broome helped build many successful programs in Oregon, as well as teaching graduate classes at Portland State University and directing University of Southern California’s summer children's art program. She began leading workshops in 1979 at Willowbrook, her historic Tualatin home. From this small seed, a summer camp sprouted in 1982 with a group of 20 children ages 4-12 served by a staff of 10. Willowbrook has blossomed to annual enrollment of over 1,900 children and more than 225 staff. The camp has enjoyed more than 20 years at Brown’s Ferry Park, generously provided by the City of Tualatin. This beautiful setting fosters exploration, creativity, and a respect for nature. Camp runs from the last week in June through the first week in August.

The secret to Willowbrook’s continued success is a strong base of devoted staff, creative children, and supportive families. Willowbrook’s unique arts program draws students from the Portland Metro area, as well as visitors from other states and countries. Its partnerships with the community continue to strengthen, and outreach to children through scholarships and gifts is expanding. As Willowbrook enters its 36th year, we look forward to a bright future!

Mission Statement

Willowbrook provides opportunities for children to develop their creative potential through experiences in the arts and environmental studies in an atmosphere that mentors and nurtures the whole child, promotes a spirit of peaceful collaboration, and encourages individual exploration and expression.

Vision Statement

Willowbrook is a small seed we plant today for our belief in tomorrow.

Timeline of Willowbrook History Highlights 1982 - 2016

1970s

1978
Althea incorporates nonprofit Center for Development of Human Potential at her historic Sweek home.
1979
Althea offers workshops and seminars at Sweek House as extension of her graduate classes in "Giftedness, Creativity and Human Potential" at Portland State University; children participate in "Saturday School" art classes with guest teachers.

1980s

Overall
Growth averages 40% annually.
Many new centers are added.
1982
Althea retires from directorship at University of Southern California's outdoor summer arts campus, begins "Adventures in the Arts" camp at Sweek House with a staff of 10 serving 20 children ages 4-12.
Notable guest artists include Carol Ann Wheeler, Rick Meyers, and Primus St.John.
1983
Adventures in the Arts teaches first group of 3 year olds.
1984
Enrollment doubles. Children enjoy OMSI Energy puppet workshops, Misty the Unicorn and The Ghost of Energy Past, Present and Future.
1985
First Folk Fair and Shakespeare play production, A Comedy of Errors. First annual open pit clay firing and salmon bake in the new Native American center. 13 year olds included.
1986
Emphasis on Indian Lore and American Folk Arts. Peter and the Wolf performed.
1987
"Adventures in the Arts" is dropped, and the camp becomes "Willowbrook."
Older children can become Apprentice Assistants.
Willowbrook holds Harvest Festival and Concert at Van Raden Center, with Segovia-trained guest guitarist Jon Harris.
Students now range in age from 3 to 16.
1988
The new Nature Center opens.
Drama productions include Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
1989
Children tackle Shakespearean opera and dramatic symphony with Macbeth (Verdi) and Romeo and Juliet (Berlioz).
17 and 18 year old students accepted.
Willowbrook participates in Children's Fair at Tualatin Community Park and sponsor Bar-b-cue and Sing-along at Tualatin Senior Center.

1990s

Overall
Former campers grow into adult staff members.
Enrollment exceeds 1,000 each summer.
1990
Drama performances include Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado and Alice in Wonderland.
1991
A Photography center and the Frontier Village (7 & 8 year olds) are added.
1992
The Sweek House campus is too small for more than 200 campers—time to find a new "home."
The City offers 5 acres at the undeveloped site of future Browns Ferry Park.
Willowbrook buys surplus green military tents to house art centers and uses plastic pickle barrels for water.
1993
Mother Goose and Peter Pan Theatres are added for youngest students.
Special Music Workshop for broadening understanding, theory, technique arrangement and composition.
1994
The new Multicultural Arts center includes offerings from Russia, Romania, France, Holland, England, Ireland, Africa, Guatemala, and Asia.
The Stained Glass center is added.
1995
Willowbrook begins junior high and high school Advanced Artisans program; offers classes for adults and college students (one year only).
First financial aid scholarships given.
1996
Willowbrook loses many supplies, books and pianos to the spring flood - volunteers wash costumes and clean up. McMennamin's pub in Sherwood sponsors fundraiser to help buy replacement things.
Drinking water is piped in--no more barrels!
Althea is Tualatin Crawfish Festival Grand Marshall, students ride in car.
1997
Brown's Ferry Park is developed for public use in the fall.
1998
Willowbrook downsizes to 4 acres surrounded by a security fence and new public bike paths.
1st annual art auction held to raise funds for scholarships.
1999
Willowbrook's own Shakespearean "Globe Theater" built for the Shakespeare Festival week.

2000s

Overall
The main stage expands to 60 feet, new tents and trailers are purchased.
Transition for Althea's retirement begins.
Grants and fundraising become a priority as tuition remains lower than similar camps.
2000
Students celebrate the new millenium.
The Millenium Peace Center is added, with integrated arts, culture and peace issues.
The first white vinyl tents replace worn military ones.
2001
The main stage becomes a pirate's cove for Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. Black eye patches abound.
Hispanic community scholarships and financial need aid expanded.
2002
The Music Man wraps up the summer performance schedule on a high note.
2003
Students dance The Firebird ballet and play in Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
2004
Students mingle with cousins-by-the-dozens in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, and a ship built on stage becomes the most impressive set ever!
2005
First fundraising drive and first grant!
2006
25th anniversary summer celebration draws 700 alumni, families, and friends.
Children of former campers begin to enroll.
Filmmaking becomes the newest center.
2007
Willowbrook serves more than 1900 campers with over 175 staff.
Magazine names Willowbrook one of three best summer arts camps in Oregon.
Willowbrook partners with Tualatin Heritage Center for school-year programs, and students participate with environmental nonprofit, Globio in a video about the Chinese panda conservation project.
Bald Eagle circles over camp—a good omen!
Althea Pratt-Broome, Willowbrook's founder, retires and Rebecca Pratt takes over as Director at the end of the summer.
2008
Operating budget exceeds $400,000.
Althea retires as director and playwright, but continues as chief cheerleader and costumer extraordinaire.
Family and management team assure continuity of program philosophy.
Willowbrook receives the gift of a brand new kiln from the Skutt family and a grant from the Jackson Family Foundation to purchase kiln furniture.
Willowbrook has a craft tent at the Tualatin Spring Fling.
2009
Third Willowbrook Winter Craft Fair for families and the community, held at the Tualatin Winona Grange.
Willowbrook has a craft tent at the Tualatin Spring Fling again.
Willowbrook receives Herbert A. Templeton Foundation and Washington County Community Cultural Participation grants for Latino outreach and scholarships in Tualatin.
Changed our camper drop-off and pickup approach route to circle around Fox Hills via Borland Rd. to prevent backup onto Nyberg Lane and Nyberg Rd

2010s

2010
October Willowbrook Fall into the Arts Reunion Event at the Alpenrose Dairy for families and the community.
First full version of the Willowbrook brochure in Spanish
Willowbrook hosts a different guest presenter each week, including artist Mark Terry who brings his raku kiln to camp for a demonstration.
October Willowbrook Fall into the Arts Reunion Event at the Alpenrose Dairy for families and the community.
2011
Willowbrook celebrates its 30th year!
The Squirrel’s Nest moves next door to The Village to make room for the Willowbrook Garden
The Tualatin Arts Advisory Committee (TAAC) presents Althea and Willowbrook with its second-ever Community Enhancement Award.
Willowbrook storage moves to a new space off the original home site and trailers are purchased for more efficient moves to and from the park .
Irishtown Public House in Vancouver hosts a benefit performance for Willowbrook by the Rite of Spring acoustic band
2012
Launch of the beautiful new Willowbrook website designed by Max Goodman.
Willowbrook has a craft tent at the fall Tualatin Pumpkin regatta
The Bug Chicks bring their six and eight legged friends to visit camp.
Grow Tualatin partners and sponsors organize the Tualatin Riverfront Music Festival as a benefit for local non-profits, including Willowbrook.
2013
The Willowbrook Garden gets a tent and teacher and becomes a new art area.
Willowbrook has a craft tent at the fall Pumpkin Regatta and the spring TRYathlon
NWKids Best Camp contest gives Willowbrook bests in Arts and Crafts and Farm and Garden categories.
2014
Blue Olive restaurant in Portland hosts a benefit performance for Willowbrook by The Thin Red Line band.
The Puppetry tent is split and one half becomes the new Invention Center
NWKids Best Camp contest gives Willowbrook wins in best Arts and Crafts and Overall Camp categories!
2015
The Storytelling tent is reopened in the Village and Invention becomes a fully independent area.
NWKids Best Camp contest awards Willowbrook bests in Arts and Crafts, General Camp, and Overall Camp categories!
Shrek, the musical is a highlight of the summer Drama season.
2016
Willowbrook enters the 21st century with an online regisration system!
In conjunction with Creative Writing, Willowbrook adds a summer long Spanish Writing workshop
NWKids Best Camp contest awards Willowbrook bests in Arts and Crafts, General Camp, and Overall Camp categories
2017
Rebecca Pratt's final year as Director after 10 years and 36 years of continuous involvement with Willowbrook! Richard Hall retires a second time as head of Facilities.