Guitar project strikes chord

Casey Sims, a counselor at Clackamas Community College poses with guitars destined for locations around campus Photo
by Gabriel Lucich

Clackamas Community College counselor Casey Sims is a man of many talents, from playing drums in a ska band to backflow testing. Sims is also the founder of the Campus Guitar Project.

Sims began placing guitars across the campus secretly, in hopes to foster positivity in our community. Now, five years later, the Campus Guitar Project has evolved into part of campus life.

The Clackamas Print: What inspired you to start the guitar project here on campus?

Casey Sims: There was two origins. Have you ever walked down the street in Portland and there’s a piano on the sidewalk in the summertime? That’s really cool, I think. And then, there was a dean who retired quite a while ago, named Bill Briare, he was a Dean of Arts and Sciences. He had all these instruments hung up on the walls. And I was like, wow, that’s super cool, I’ll bring an instrument, hang a guitar on my wall in my office. Then, I thought you know what, I’m gonna put one in my classroom. Then, you know, I’m just gonna put one in the hallway, upstairs in Barlow by the vending machines, just kind of just set it there and see what happens.

TCP: Has the guitar project changed at all since it first started or has anything that you didn’t expect to happen evolve from it?

Sims: Well, most people didn’t know where they came from. So that was kind of fun. And after a few months, Kevin (Anspach) in the marketing department said, you know, everyone thinks it’s cool, but you can’t really just put stuff up on the walls at the college. I’m gonna make a sticker and it’s gonna be branded. So that’s why I got the stickers made, which kind of made it more like, alright, this is a guitar to pick up and play. That kind of was a change and then that helped me go kind of more legit like it wasn’t under the radar.

TCP: Did that take any of the fun out of the guitar project, having it branded by the college?

Sims: No, not at all. They made me a sticker, but this is also fun and no taxpayer dollars are harmed in the guitar campus guitar project. That’s really important. Because some people say, “Well, if the college can afford to do this, shouldn’t we be lowering tuition as opposed to buying guitars?” Of course we shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t be buying guitars with taxpayer dollars. So this is a self funded grassroots unofficial initiative.

TCP: You’ve got 25 guitars out there right now, when will you hit the saturation point, when is it like, “Okay, that’s enough guitars?”

Sims: We’re pretty close on this campus. I mean, in the community center building, there’s a lot already, I just put a ukulele and a guitar in the Disability Resource Center, and the Veterans Center, and the admission center. Those are three offices right next to each other. In the counseling department, the cafeteria, and the big room outside of the big gathering room in the community center, By the welcome desk. There’s seven or eight in one building, that’s pretty close to saturation. Another thing I’ve done is, we have a lot of high school partnerships, so I’ve put some guitars in high schools. So the next phase is kind of to bring it to the community a little bit.

TCP: What do you get out of doing this?

Sims: A lot of joy. For years now, I’ve walked across campus, seeing people playing guitars, and they don’t know that I put it there. I don’t need the glory, but I do feel deeply. That’s fostering positivity in our community, and that’s what I get out of it. Selfishly, I can go pick up a guitar in any building I want, I like to strum too, right. I mean, that’s what it’s like to work here. This is my life’s work is participating in other people’s success, helping other people get a job. Like that’s what makes me tick.

Eva King

Eva King is an editor and writer for The Clackamas Print. In her free time, she plays video games and enjoys theater.