Profile: Eddie Sumlin

2007 Arts educator and program director

In the Tacoma area, Eddie Sumlin ’07 is recognized as a community catalyst. He supplies the spark to ignite creativity in underserved urban youth, helps give them outlets to express themselves, and inspires them to use their newfound skills and talents for the betterment of their homes, their schools and their neighborhoods.

Sumlin is the program director for Fab-5, a Tacoma-based nonprofit dedicated to empowering and supporting area youth through art and hip-hop culture. In his junior year at Evergreen, Sumlin interned with the organization, which offers students educational programming they can relate to—with professional artists serving as instructors, mentors and positive role models. It provides them with art supplies and equipment and organizes a wide range of special events for them to participate in—from public art presentations to live dance performances.

Through Fab-5, Sumlin recently facilitated a two-month series of urban arts workshops called L.I.F.E., which is designed to give Tacoma-area youth opportunities to develop, explore and showcase their unique voices and channel their energy. The program covered music production and recording, break dancing, DJ-ing and legal graffiti art. For their final project, students planned and created a live production. In the past, these have included mural paintings, movement exhibitions and live music shows. The projects foster both individual and team achievement and teach participants how to mobilize their communities.

Sumlin chose Evergreen for his social psychology studies because he wanted an "intimate educational experience." Shortly before his graduation, he organized and staged the regional finals of a national break-dancing competition. Held on campus, the B-boy event was a first not only for Olympia, but also the state. It brought in competitors from all over the Pacific Northwest and judges from Seattle and New York City. And according to Sumlin, it spotlighted an activity that genuinely reflects Evergreen’s approach to education.

"The art of break dancing exemplifies all the values that the college instills in its student body," he says. "By nature, it’s a collaborative art form because it’s always been about community. And because it not only combines elements of African and Latin dance, but forms of ballet and gymnastics, among other dance disciplines, break dancing parallels Evergreen’s commitment to interdisciplinary learning."