Frontier Fellowship Report: Zach Bulick

Hi folks, I’m Zach Bulick. A designer and illustrator from Vancouver, British Columbia, with Texas running through my veins. When I’m not drawing things, or trying to find decent Mexican food in Canada, I’m the Creative Director for a non-profit based in the Vancouver’s historic Downtown Eastside. My organization serves an amazing community and works with people to help them overcome homelessness, poverty, and addiction.

I first heard about the Epicenter from my design mentor, Kara. She encouraged me to apply and I thought it would be a fun experience. It was, but it was more. Trying to sum it up is complicated. You live a lifetime in the span of a few weeks, but here’s a small glimpse into my Green River story.

The first week Maria and I lead a screen printing workshop in the high school. Students designed and printed their own shirts, and asked me questions about Canada (yeah, it’s cold. For real). The students and teachers were great, but what stood out to me was the trust that the Epicenter had built within the community. During my fellowship this was affirmed again and again throughout the community. It was clear that this city wasn’t a project for some ambitious graduates, but a place to call home, a place with roots, with neighbours and friends rather than clients or strangers.

Week two brought Summer Summit! The weekend was magic, and I felt a huge privilege to be able to meet so many of the people that had touched, built, and helped shape where Epicenter is today. Artists, designers, makers, doers, all instigators in one way or another, now out in the world impacting their respective communities, and i’m proud to now count myself an alumni. I can’t wait for next year’s reunion and group skydiving! (wink).

A month isn’t a long time, and once I was past the second week, the days became a countdown to leaving what I had spent the first two weeks getting so attached to. Amidst the dread, I lead a community Typography workshop. We talked about the history of type, experimented with different kinds of drawing methods, and created a spatial type installation.

The workshop was on the same day as a local high schooler’s Quinceañera‎. She invited the Epicenter crew, and graciously extended that invitation to me. I felt honored to be invited to such a special event for someone I barely knew, so for the spatial type installation, we decided to create a giant “J” out of traditional mexican paper flowers. We surprised the birthday girl with it installed on the door of the venue. She loved it and the evening was a huge party. Delicious food, dancing in lazers, and coveting botas. The thing dreams are made of, really.

I initially came to the Epicenter to observe how they integrate design process into their programs and community engagement. What I’ve taken away is much more. I leave this place with friends and experiences that are irreplaceable. The Epicenter crew and the Green River community have a way of embracing you in unexpected ways, leaving you more full of life, encouragement, and affirmation, than when you arrived.

Thank you Green River. Thank you Epicenter. See you soon.