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Western students spearhead stage repair in Outback

Making decorative repairs while planning for future structural repairs

The Outback Farm stage after the aesthetic work Katherine Palmer did with help from Charlie Havener on Jan. 18, 2021. The main change was adding framing around the front of the stage using plywood. // Courtesy of Katherine Palmer

Second-year Western Washington University students Katherine Palmer and Charlie Havener began ornamental repairs Jan. 18 on the damaged wooden amphitheater stage in The Outback, Western’s student-driven, on-campus farm.

Palmer, a recent transfer to Western’s Fairhaven College of Interdisciplinary Studies, which is next to The Outback, said she noticed the damage sometime last year. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Palmer picked up woodworking as a hobby and with her studies in regenerative farming, she was inspired to work on the stage. 

“I wanted to go fix it up because a few friends of mine and I wanted to go there and play some music, but it had been taped off,” Palmer said. “I just wanted to fix it up and make it look nice.”

Palmer is working with Terri Kempton, farm manager of The Outback, and Kamea Black, the coordinator of Western’s Sustainability, Equity, & Justice Fund Program, to do project planning and analyzing for the stage, she said. 

“[Katherine] has made — and will make — (beautiful) aesthetic improvements to the amphitheater,” Kempton said via email.

Palmer said she wanted to work on long-term projects that would allow the stage to meet the requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as repair holes, make benches and involve art and design students to create new artwork for it.

Doing all of this will make the stage more “beautifully representative of the farm,” Palmer said.

So far, Palmer and Havener have used plywood to fix the bottom front framing of the stage. They are planning to either clean off or cover up the graffitied panels of art that are currently on the stage and replace them with new pieces of art.

However, Palmer and Havener will have to yield some safety improvements to Western faculty.

“When it comes to a safety and liability issue, like stairs and ramp to access the stage, it's essential that campus experts complete that work,” Kempton said.

For facilities management to complete all of the structural work they need for the stage, such as repairing the holes in the flooring and on the ramp, it would cost an estimated $8,000, Palmer said. 

“The step right now is to kind of dream and analyze it and become crystal clear on what my vision is and what I want the space to look like,” Palmer said. “The next step would be working on the community of support.”

Palmer spent $100 on tools and materials to complete the work she has done so far. She and Havener have discussed setting up a GoFundMe page where people could donate to help raise money so they can continue the work they are doing.

“I'm really hoping that Western just can come together as a community and offer whatever support they can,” Palmer said.

Havener said he used to regularly meet up with friends in The Outback, specifically at the stage. He said before the pandemic there was frequent foot traffic through The Outback, and it was a very communal place to make friends. 

“It was just really special because it’s a place that we hung out a lot, and we want it to look nice,” Havener said. 

They have currently paused their work on the stage to formulate a complete plan and communicate with facilities management and the SEJF program. 

“I think the amphitheater is something that we're really passionate about, and I think the more publicity it gets, the more help we can get,” Havener said.

Gaia Crans

Gaia Crans (he/him) is the student administrative assistant for The Front. He is a senior news/editorial journalism student minoring in sociology. When he’s not writing or stressing over the existence of the Oxford comma, Gaia enjoys climbing at Vital or spending time outside with his dog, Nova.

You can find him and pictures of his adorable pup on Instagram @captaingooya or contact him at


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