Faculty Spotlight: Cecelia DeLeon

Headshot of Cecelia DeLeon, a Chicana woman with curly black hair wearing heart-shaped sunglasses

Earlier this month, we hosted our paid Art 4 Life Digital internship. It was a great week, and one of the people responsible for this was the program’s co-Teaching Artist Cecelia DeLeon! We thought you should get to know a little more about her. 

What made you decide to become a teaching artist? 
I dropped out of an art college, stopped doing art for years after that, and bounced job to job. Doing art always brought me back to a therapeutic place and reminded me that when I did it, I was doing something I loved. Many random jobs and unhappiness later, I was googling “art teacher seattle”, or something along the lines of that, and after looking at the results, arts corps came up. I reached out, was hired as a Classroom Assistant and the rest is history! Being a Teaching Artist is cool because I can show up authentically as myself and I can teach my youth how to bring out their inner artist.

What do you like about Art 4 Life digital in particular?
There is a huge gap in this type of digital programming for our youth and Art 4 Life is creating the bridge of access for our most marginalized population. The way digital art is taking over the art scene right now is crazy! I think it’s cool that Art 4 Life can bring young artists together so that they can learn Procreate and how to create art digitally. This internship is teaching them a skill so that they can keep up with the art trends and which is a really useful tool to have.

What was one of your favorite moments of the internship?
Besides getting to know the students and seeing their artwork, I think one of my favorite moments would be when one of our students gave me instructions on how to use the Symmetry tool. You could tell she was really enjoying the class and was paying attention because she gave me clear instructions and guided me on what I needed to select within the menu to use the tool.

What is a message that you like to impart onto your students?
Don’t be afraid to do things on your own and learn new things! Always ask questions! Get connected with other artists in your community!

What are some of your own creative practices?
Sometimes I’ll switch it up from analog to digital because I like to do it all, I enjoy painting murals and creating illustrations on Procreate. I like cutting up paper and making collages or bringing out the gouache and just going to town! 

Do you have any projects coming up that you’d like to share?
I am currently finishing up a mural for Washington Health Plan Finder that will be installed in Granger, WA and I am doing a couple of illustration commissions for clients that I am pretty excited about because I am using Procreate to do them. 

Seattle-born, White Center raised, Cecelia DeLeon is a multidisciplinary public artist working under the alias Mousy DeVilla. Often switching back from digital works using Procreate, Adobe Software to acrylic paintings, mixed media arts, and collage artworks. She draws inspiration from the neighborhoods and cities she’s lived in and continues to serve her community as a Teaching Artist. The social justice themes explored in her bold and colorful work weave in the conversation around welcoming immigrants, uplifting BIPOC communities, and paying homage to Washington where she was born, while celebrating her identity as “Chicana”, the hyphen in Mexican-American. She’s created artwork for traffic boxes around King County, a mural for Food Lifeline, and has had work shown at the Tacoma Art Museum.


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Student Spotlight: Mica Viacrucis

Student Mica Viacrucis, a teenager with dark shoulder-length hair, wearing a flannel in front of potted succulents

We are so excited to spotlight one of our talented student, Mica Viacrucis! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your art with us, Mica.

What Arts Corps programs have you been involved in? What impact have these experiences had on you?

I was an intern at Arts Corps’ Art 4 Life Program @Octave 9, which took place Spring 2023. Alongside other creative youth, I practiced film, photography, and performance, focusing on themes of environmental justice. This program helped me realize how wonderful surrounding myself with other youth artists is, and how thrilling putting myself out there can be!

The program lasted less than a week, but I could feel my cohort open up to each other as the days passed by. At first, we were hesitant to participate in activities like singing and dancing in front of each other. I watched as others stepped out of their comfort zone, trying new things and accepting vulnerability, and it inspired me to join too. The initial embarrassment washed away as we shared these experiences and got to know each other. I’d met such amazing visual artists and skilled musicians, and generally such welcoming people. I made friends that I still talk to today, almost a year later! The love and encouragement I received from them has helped me find the courage to put myself out there more often.

I remember the final showcase, when I was backstage with one of my dear friends I joined the program with, Lorein. It would soon be our turn to perform our duet. We were going to sing “City of Stars” from the musical La La Land. I’d never sang for a crowd that wasn’t family or close friends before, so I was feeling very anxious. Lorein and I had practiced for hours, but I still worried I would forget a lyric or my voice would crack. Though when I started singing, my nervousness melted away and was replaced by excitement. We sang together under the purple lights, our hard work paying off as we listened to the applause and cheer. Later, one of the friends I made told me this shouldn’t be the last time I perform in front of an audience.

Those words touched my heart. Since Art 4 Life, I’ve pushed myself to try new things and have more confidence in myself. I sang at my school’s Open Mic, and danced in front of hundreds with my cousin in the Philippines. I’ve also attended many art events and joined art programs since then, after realizing my love for community.

What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity is everything to me. A means of self expression, entertainment, and a way to connect with others. I’m often lost in deep thought and imagination. Ever since I was a young child, my parents would catch me staring off into space at the dinner table and have to remind me to eat.

I’m someone who is easily inspired by the things around me and the people I meet. The view after everything has been rained on, and the beauty of light breaking through clouds. The warm sound of people laughing together in bustling restaurants, each person molded by their own unique experiences and thoughts. With my art, I want to capture impactful moments and immortalize those I’ve cherished with stories, words, and drawings. For me, expressing my love through art is a form of self expression.

I’ve also created a lot of art without an established meaning, as the process of creation is simply fun to me. Sometimes my hands move first and my thoughts follow after. Sometimes it feels like I am not thinking of anything! It feels right for me to do art, and it’s hard to imagine myself without it.

Creativity is powerful. Sharing art with others, whether that be making art with someone or for someone, brings people closer together. There have been many times where art could convey emotion impossible for me to explain. Many times where I could bond with people I knew nothing about beforehand through art.

What mediums do you like working in and why?

I have tried a ton of different mediums: acrylic paint, pastels, markers, collage, papercraft, and so much more. I like exploring different outlets for creativity and feel my skills in one medium transfers to others. I also enjoy other disciplines of art, such as photography, music, and dance!

I am most familiar with digital art, and like the convenience and endless opportunity it provides. I’ve practiced digital art since 2021, starting out with my phone and finger on free art apps. I now have a drawing tablet, stylus, and an art software, although I strongly believe materials don’t matter. Many of my favorite pieces were created on my phone!

I also like oil pastels and watercolor. Compared to digital art, these mediums are much less forgiving, but having these limitations pushes me to be more intentional with each stroke.

What is one medium you haven’t tried, but are interested in exploring?

I would love to try oil painting! I’ve seen a handful of people around me use it and I have the materials, but I haven’t gotten around to trying it just yet. I’m curious on how different it will feel from other types of paint. I know that its consistency can vary based on the mediums you add, and the drying time is significantly longer.

What artworks are you most proud of?

Kingdom of Debris – Digital art, Clip Studio Paint (Drawing tablet)

I am proud of this art piece considering both its emotional significance and the technical aspects of the art. It is inspired by one of my dearest friends’ fictional stories that they would tell me about, of a king whose kingdom would fall under his reign. I wanted to make their story come to life by drawing the protagonist. I am most proud of my attention to detail in the armor. I did studies on how metal looks, and took the time to draw cracks in the armor. This is also the first piece I created when I got a drawing tablet!

Digital art by Mica Viacrucis: a king wearing battered armor in a throne room, light streaming in and roses losing petals

Oblivion – Digital Art, ibisPaint X (phone and finger)

I went to my friends’ highschool orchestra concert, and was mesmerized by the string bassist, who seemed to hold the song together. I could feel the low hum of the instrument in my chest. The spotlights above the stage reflected beautifully on the musician and his instrument, and I wanted to capture this moment. In the background of the drawing is the sheet music of the piece he played.

Digital art by Mica Viacrucis: a string bassist playing, with a blue background of sheet music titled Oblivion

Sophie – Oil Pastel on Black paper

I made this for my older sibling, who has supported all of my art endeavors, and me as a person. Sophie is their lynx point siamese cat! As one of my favorite mediums, I like the consistency of oil pastels and blending the colors. I always make a mess when I use them though!

Oil Pastel on Black paper by Mica Viacrucis of a lynx point siamese cat wearing a silver tag "Sophie"

Untitled – Watercolor and Colored Pencil

I’ve only recently got into watercolor, and I am proud of my progress in this medium. I like the texture of the paint and enjoy layering colors. I worked on this for 6 hours straight and am proud of the depth of this painting and how the flowers turned out!

Watercolor and colored pencil piece by Mica Viacrucis of half a face with abrun around the eye, surrounded by flowers


What is one lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to share with fellow student artists?

I’ve learned how important it is to surround yourself with other artists and creatives! Going to art events and joining communities has been a huge factor of my own improvement. Gaining new perspectives, advice, and support from others is important. I often find myself stuck, or stare at a piece of art or writing for hours because it just doesn’t look right. Sometimes a pair of fresh eyes can see what I can’t, offering new ideas and pointing out what could be improved. I am someone who values mentorship! Learning from someone more experienced than you, that challenges and supports your growth, is extremely helpful and inspiring. I encourage youth artists to join programs, take classes, and talk to professionals in the fields they are passionate about!

In a video you made for Art 4 Life @ Octave 9, you and your classmate Lorein spoke of littering in Seattle and a possible solution being the deposit-refund waste management system. How do you see art intersecting big topics, such as environmentalism and public health?

I see art intersecting topics like environmentalism and public health in very significant ways. I’ve seen many people share art on social media relating to the environment, social justice, mental health, and more. Social media is a fast way to reach a lot of people. Being able to share stories and spread awareness is powerful in an age where media censorship is prevalent in many parts of the world and telling your own story in the face of that is important. 

There has been a well documented rise of young people experiencing mental health challenges. The youth mental health crisis is something I care a lot about, as I know many people who suffer from anxiety and depression. In the future, I hope to become an illustrator and create stories that can reach people. In my own art, I want to provide visibility for marginalized and underrepresented communities. Representation for communities I too am part of, that I didn’t have when I was growing up and discovering who I am. I hope my art can make someone entertained, have a more open mind, or feel seen.


You can learn more about Mica and their art through their website: mivi

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Arts Corps a Yield Giving Awardee

"Yield Giving Open Call Awardee" in blue and green over light background with green lines

Today we have big news to share with our community.

Arts Corps has been selected to receive a $2 million gift as an awardee of the Yield Giving Open Call!

Last spring, Yield Giving launched an open call for community-led, community-focused organizations whose explicit purpose is to enable individuals and families to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being through foundational resources. We applied, along with 6,353 other applicants from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. After a process of multiple levels of review, feedback, and diligence involving peer applicants and an external Evaluation Panel recruited for relevant experience, we are so proud to say we are one of the awardees. 

As you can imagine, we are beyond excited and incredibly grateful for this transformative gift! At Arts Corps, we work towards a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond. We do so by creating opportunities through the arts which address racial and socioeconomic inequities, igniting the creative power of our young people. 

This gift will enable us to deepen and expand our programming, to create new partnerships in new sites, and to support us as we grow in our own space. It brings critical stability after years of challenges, and we will leverage it in order to contribute to the cultural economy in King County. First and foremost, this gift will allow us to invest even more in our youth, furthering the ways we can support them not only as students in our classes but as growing artists in their own personal journey. 

We thank Yield Giving and their managing partner, Lever for Change, for their belief in our work and in our vision. We thank our incredible staff, faculty, and board for their unrelenting heart and drive. We thank you, *|FNAME|*, for supporting us through our journey.

Let’s get to work.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Naho Shioya & Shawn Roberts
Co-Executive Directors

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Community Spotlights: Arte Noir, Asé Theatre, Wa Na Wari

At Arts Corps, one of our beliefs is that everybody deserves to experience the joy of artistic expression and that we must work to nurture, uplift, and celebrate every person’s creativity, especially those who’ve faced systematic barriers. In honor of February as Black History Month, we are spotlighting three local organizations who do just this: nurture, uplift, and celebrate Black artistry and Black creativity. Make sure to follow and support their amazing work year-round!

Logo, Arte Noir in black, blocky graphic letters with yellow dot in center of "o"

Arte Noir exists to uplift Black artists. It spotlights and celebrates the Black community through the articles in its online publication, covering local, national, and international figures and events. Its physical space in the Central District serves as an anchor, providing a gathering space for community where they can find and support Black art through its retail shop and fine arts gallery. The space helps create consistent revenue stream for the artists, only selling items made by Black creatives who receive 100% of net proceeds.  

Currently, the gallery is showcasing “Once Upon a Spacetime”, a collection of ethereal artworks by Aramis Hamer which transcend the boundaries of time and space to explore the interconnected narratives of strength, grace, and spiritual elevation. Check out more about the gallery here.

Looking forward, Arte Noir is working to expand to include a small recording studio for training young people in audio and music production, as well as an art and maker space for classes and artist use. Help them make this possible by supporting them through their website. Follow their Facebook and Instagramto hear about their latest publications, events, and more. 

Asé theatre logo, "Asé" in big black cursive, and "Theatre" in sans serif caps, pink over black background

Asé Theatre is a community-based theater company dedicated to engaging the power of storytelling to inspire and bring about change. They use cultural practice and performance to preserve and promote ancient practices and principles of African and Indigenous theatre, including Ritual Poetic Drama within the African Continuum. Previously known as Griot Girlz, Asé Theatre is familiar to our Arts Corps community as it is led by former Co-Director of Arts Education, the talented Olisa Enrico.

Asé Theatre designs culturally responsive arts based curriculum for people of all ages. Every summer they host Gxrls Act, an immersive paid performance internship in which self-identified teenage gxrls are taught skills in movement, acting, dance, and songwriting, and are empowered to share their voice. The internship culminates in a collaborative performance. Asé Theatre also hosts classes and workshops for community throughout the year. Currently, they are offering a Movement and African Dance class with Teaching Artist Aishe, every other Monday, 7-8pm, in Washington Hall. Make sure to follow them on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with all their awesome work, and to visit their page to donate.

"Wa Na Wari" logo, with black caps, "Wa" and "Nari" bolded. On top, two black triangle outlines over trapezoid, like a roof

Meaning “Our Home” in the Kalabari language, Wa Na Wari is more than just an organization or a reclaimed space, it is an immersive community art project and a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities. Sited in the historically Black Central District, Wa Na Wari rents a fifth-generation, Black-owned home and gives it back to the Black community, providing a space for organizing, movement building, and Black creativity. It offers free art exhibits, film screenings, performances, and workshops.

Wa Na Wari hosts The Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute, a two-year community story training program which works with a faculty of Black oral historians from around the country, as well as with local historians, archivists, geographers, librarians, and artists, to teach the ethics, techniques, best practices, tensions, and dilemmas of community-based oral history and Black memory work. Every year, it also hosts Walk the Block, the annual outdoor visual and performing arts festival. Follow their Facebook and Instagram for updates on all the happenings and support their work directly on their page.



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Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Xun

A Chinese woman in her 20s, Angela, looks off to one side with the skyline of Seattle behind her

Arts Corps is happy to welcome our newest volunteer, Angela Xun! Angela joined us at the start of this new calendar year and was quick to jump in, helping us with events and communications. She wrote a little about herself so we can all get to know her better:

Hi! I’m Angela (she/her), a senior majoring in Gender, Women and Sexuality studies at the University of Washington. I have been a big fan of arts and media from my early years in the orchestra and later college time in dance teams. The loving and supportive environment that the dance community has provided during my college years encouraged me to foster a culture as open and nurturing as the ones I had experienced. In return, I decided to learn and support arts education and to be part of the arts community while incorporating my major in Gender, Women and Sexuality studies. The diversity, equality and inclusion perspectives that Arts Corps holds resonate with my studies by providing practical events, behaviors and systems in advocating youth arts education and eliminating barriers on art accessibility. 

Arts education was crucial to me throughout my whole life. In my K-12 period, playing the flute and piano in an orchestra fostered my interest in classical music and concerts. During my college years, minoring in Dance and living in an art-rich community has encouraged me to embrace transnational art cultures. In this loving community, I choreographed an experimental dance piece, blending street style and contemporary as a reflection on my dance journey.

As globalized as the world is becoming, we have the chance of exchanging art cultures and values between countries, artists, musicians, filmmakers and many others. With the growth of NGOs like Arts Corps, young people can gain more access to arts education and gain more opportunities to be inspired, like Joe Hisaishi’s youth interview.

One of my favorite dancers who has continuously inspired me is Bada Lee(ins@badalee__). Not only her style but also her technique, texture and the way she listens to music are inspirational and pleasing to watch.

I’m very excited to be part of Arts Corps and willing to be involved and incorporate my studies into praxis!

We’re excited to have you in our team, Angela!

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Community Spotlights: Daybreak Star Radio Network, Red Eagle Soaring,  yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective

As we come to the end of November, which is Native American Heritage Month, we wanted to spotlight local Indigenous organization who do incredible work. These group share our belief in the transformative power of creativity, and use it in order to create impact in our community. We hope that you support them not only now, but throughout the whole year.

Daybreak Star Radio Network logo, a circle that's half white, half black, mirrored images of thunderbird flying towards a sun

Daybreak Star Radio works to indigenize the airwave. An active program of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, this online international radio station is dedicated to giving voice to new and established Native American musical artists across all genres of music and across all of the Americas. 90% of their music is played, composed, and/or produced by Native Americans. The other 10% is music from those who specifically support Indigenous causes or have spent significant time learning Native instruments and styles.

Their musical, educational, cultural, and language arts programming helps reconnect Indigenous people to their heritage by strengthening their sense of belonging and significance as a people. The radio’s varied content helps reflect the different life experiences of indigenous communities and celebrates their resilience, talent, and creativity.  

In a recent interview with King 5, DJ Big Rez spoke to the significance of this work, “It’s just music, but it’s an art form. I’ve learned it’s an energy. It’s important to just highlight these people, you know, it’s their art, it’s their story.”

Listen to Daybreak Star Radio and donate here.

Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre logo, with red words and a red eagle flying left in Coast Salish style

Red Eagle Soaring mentors Native youth as they learn about the technical aspects and process of theatre. They have staged over 180 productions, and supported youth access to the healing power of Native cultural traditions which promote social, physical, and intellectual engagement.

Their programming cycle begins early in the year, rehearsing for a play which performs late spring/early summer. In August, they offer an intensive 2-week summer theatre workshop, called Seattle Indigenous Youth Art & Performance (SIYAP), in which youth explore traditional and contemporary performing arts and create a final public performance at the end of the camp.  Then during fall and winter, they offer various workshops including creative writing, Basic and Advanced acting skills, music-focused workshops, Short Film projects, and more. 

Their work often ties in directly to the Pacific Northwest and to issues which indigenous communities face. Their programming provides not only a space for self-expression, but creates a community in which Native arts and life ways are celebrated. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, Red Eagle Soaring opened the doors to their first-ever dedicated theater space at Station Space, located in King Street Station. Read more about Red Eagle Soaring and their new space here. Donate to support their work.

yəhaw̓ in white broad-stroke letter, and "together we lift the sky" in typewrite letters over a starry sky

yəhaw̓ Indigenous Creatives Collective is a community of intertribal Indigenous artists who help improve Indigenous well-being through art-making, community building, and equitable creative opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Their work centers womxn, Two Spirit, and young people and offers opportunities for artists at every stage of their career. These opportunities include exhibitions, installations, performances, residencies, markets, publications, grants, as well as relationship-building and mentorship opportunities with the intent that all participants will gain experience, exposure, and grow sustaining connections. 

The Lushootsheed word “yəhaw̓” means to proceed, to go forward, to do it. It comes from a Tulalip story when, a long time ago, the sky was too low. Tall people kept bumping their heads. Many different communities gathered to do something about it. They spoke different languages, but realized they only needed to know one word in common to understand each other. That word was yəhaw̓. The people made long poles out of saplings and lifted them against the sky. They heaved upwards as they called out yəhaw̓ in unison to synchronize their efforts. After a few tries, they succeeded – changing the world as we know it. The collective is guided by the values, the idea that together we can lift the sky.

One year ago, the collective was able to purchase 1.5 acres of land in Rainier Valley. Since then, they have been working on restoring the land, creating space for art making and ecological education. Learn more about yəhaw̓ and how their purchase is part of a broader land rematration movement here.  Support their work here.

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