A Note from Windsor Heights


Realizar un programa para después de la escuela es muy gratificante cuando uno tiene la oportunidad de trabajar con  los chicos en persona, tengo haciendo este trabajo durante casi 20 años y nunca nos habíamos enfrentado a una situación como la que estamos viviendo ahora debido esta pandemia. Una parte importante de nuestro programa son nuestro colegas de otras agencias que nos ayudan a proporcionar diferentes actividades durante nuestro programa. Uno de nuestros grandes colegas es
Arts Corps, normalmente ellos vendrían a nuestro sitio a realizar sus diferentes actividades, pero como lo mencione anteriormente ahora tenemos que adaptarnos a esta nueva realidad. Cuando la directora de programas me hablo de una actividad que se llevaría a cabo en nuestro sitio donde viven las familias, mi primera reacción fue escéptica, los maestros del arte vendrían a hacer dos presentaciones para los estudiantes y sus familias. Honestamente no pensé que esto funcionaria debido a que teníamos que tener en consideración toda la logística para llevar a cabo dicha actividad.  Además, que no estaba segura de que tanto las familias participarían.


Fue  muy grato darme cuenta de que estaba equivocada,  las dos actividades que los maestros presentaron, no solo fueron hermosas, sino que además trajeron a las familias mucha alegría. Fue maravilloso ver a los chicos asomándose a la ventana, cantando, bailando, tomando fotos y videos y disfrutando de las canciones que una de la maestra presento. La actividad de la segunda semana fue increíble ya que estaba relacionada con la cultura de las familias con las cuales trabajamos, yo pude inmediatamente darme cuenta de que ofrecerles algo culturalmente relevante para ellos es muy importante.  Mi corazón se alegro mucho al ver a los padres bailando en su balcón y a los chicos salir de su apartamento a bailar. En estos momentos de angustia y soledad poder proporcionar un poco de alegría a las familias es maravilloso. 

Gracias Arts Corps por su gran trabajo, es un placer trabajar con ustedes.  

— LUCIA MARTINEZ, Site Manager at Windsor Heights

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Why You Should Join the 2020 Arts Liberation & Leadership Institute

“A big takeaway form ALLI for me was an ability to envision happy, healthy, shame-free learning environments, and that has led me to pursue systemic changes within my school, public education in general, and other education programs.” – ALLI participant 2018

CALLING YOUTH ARTISTS 14-19!!!!

Join Arts Corps after-school this fall for a paid teen arts internship focused on creating social change through art.

The Arts Liberation & Leadership Institute (ALLI) is a paid 10-week teen leadership intensive where 25 youth are trained in artistry, social justice and organizing. Youth leaders develop as cultural workers in chosen arts pathways–Visual Arts, Digital Storytelling, and Music. This cohort of youth hones their arts and organizing skills, while deepening their understandings of race and social justice issues. They collaborate, build community and create art that challenges oppression and envisions a more just world.

Sound like you or a youth you know? Apply today! Applications open now until Monday September 14, 2020. 

ALLI 2020 takes place online via zoom. Tuesdays and Wednesday afternoons October 6th – December 9th, exact time TBD but around 3:00pm-5:30pm. Final ALLI showcase Saturday, December 12th. Youth are paid a $350 stipend for participation.

What’s awesome about ALLI? Here’s what one participant had to say last year:

 “The guidance from leaders, the connections with people in my community who are just as passionate about art and authenticity as I am. The welcoming space created that allowed me to be open and vulnerable, to share and explore without fear.” –ALLI participant 2019

This year’s master teaching artist mentors include Adam Jabari Jefferson for Digital Storytelling, Maria Guillen-Valdovinos in Visual Arts, and Erica Merritt for Music. Learn more and apply here: www.artscoprs.org/alli 

Questions? Email programs@artscorps.org 

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Why We Do What We Do

I’d be lying if I said the last few weeks have been easy. I’d be lying even more if I said the last 40+ years of my life have been easy. I’d be lying if I said I had the answers. Or any answers. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel emotions. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wake up with sweaty hands every morning, and I have since I moved to Seattle. I’d be lying if I wasn’t worried about my children, or my brother’s child, or any child, especially Black and Brown children stuck in an educational system that doesn’t value their humanity or existence. I’d be lying if I ever felt calm. 

But I’d be telling the truth when I say I am scared.

At age 10, an officer held a gun to my head because I was racing my cousin as we left a mall. He pulled out the gun and asked if I’d stolen anything. And when he couldn’t find anything on me, he said I was “lucky” because he could have told my parents. It would be several years before I realized he had no reason to stop me, let alone conduct a search.

At age 17, I went to jail for looking at graffiti while waiting on the train:

Cop: “What are you doing?”

Me: “Nothing.”

Cop: (Referring to graffiti) “Did you do that?”

Me: No.

Cop: “I don’t believe you… prove it.”

Me: (Taking off my bag) “OK.”

Cop: “Why are you removing your bag? You trying to run away?”

Me: “No.”

Cop: “OK, smart guy. You’re going downtown for destruction of property and resisting arrest.”

I ended up in jail for the night. For no reason. 

In my mid twenties I was enrolled at Brandeis University’s MFA program. I worked at the local movie theatre in Waltham, MA, 10 miles west of Boston. Our uniform at the movie theatre consisted of a white shirt, black tie, slacks, and dress shoes. Although it was a laid-back work environment, we were all avid film fans and therefore took our work very seriously. We often argued over whether The Godfather or The Godfather II was the best movie ever made; we resoundingly hated The Blair Witch Project, which, unfortunately, was showing on two screens. Our distaste stemmed from the fact that before patrons could acclimate to its handheld camera work they would vomit in the aisles, leaving us to take turns sweeping up human bile in the darkened theaters. One night on my walk home from work, two police officers pulled up and blocked my path with their cruiser.

“Where you going?”

“Home.”

“Oh, really? And where, pray tell, might you live?” (I pointed at my house, which was across the street.)

“And where were you before… if you’re going home now?” (I turned around and pointed at the movie theatre, 20 feet from where I stood.)

“You sure you didn’t rape anybody? We got a call that there’s a rapist matching your profile.”

“My profile? In Waltham? I’m the only person in Waltham that looks like me. I work twenty feet in that direction and live twenty yards in that direction. I know that can’t be true… sirs.”

“Watch yourself. Don’t want you getting into trouble. We suggest you go inside and don’t come out.”

I walked away from the cruiser and toward my house. My roommates were hanging out in the kitchen and I told them what happened. They were outraged but not surprised — they were also Black and two of them were from Boston proper. During the school-sponsored “House Hunting Weekend,” we were the only Black grad students in attendance. Understanding that it was Boston, and that we were definitely “other,” we figured there was strength in numbers. And somehow we were able to find a place not too far from campus, though if I remember correctly, only the other light-skinned roommate and I ever met the realtors in person — she was accompanied by her parents and I wore a shirt and tie… the same shirt and tie I had on when confronted by police and accused of rape.

Those are just a couple stories from my experiences with the police, and are tame compared to the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Jamel Floyd, Charleena Lyles, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and… many, many, many more.

In fact, I almost didn’t share these stories because I didn’t want to add the trauma of other folks that have been lost loved ones due to police actions. I am only sharing to write about how I dealt with these traumatic experiences. It was through art. All of the above stories have been taken from other pieces of writing I have done. By writing about these interactions, I have been able to find a way to process my grief. Using my art form of theater, I have been able to translate those experiences into characters I have portrayed, and stories I have told to audiences. It has helped me navigate the life I live through creative expression. It has helped capture an archival moment of my life that I have passed onto my children, so they know that though this may happen to us, it doesn’t define us. We are more than our interactions with police. We are more than a hashtag. We are more than what they see(and don’t see) on TV. 

We are the wildest dreams of our ancestors. Art has the power to uplift, incite, and change the world. That’s why we do what we do at, Arts Corps. To provide a platform for youth to talk about and through things that they are unable to do, in a typical classroom, or school setting. It is why during school closures, we didn’t miss a beat, and immediately started to make online content for students. We made culturally responsive coloring books. We made activity books, and passed out art kits where free lunches are distributed. It is why we have kept paying our teaching artists, our wonderful amazing teaching artists, because we know that the work they do provides a beacon of light for youth and families in our region. It is our raison d’etre. It is why we Make Art Anyway.

But the future is uncertain. We don’t know when our economy will recover. We don’t know when we will be able to be back in schools. We don’t know when we will be able to shake each other’s hands again, hug each other again, hold each other again. We will need to make some serious shifts in programming to better meet the needs of youth and their families. We will need to reimagine what Arts Corps will do, and potentially what Arts Corps can no longer do. 

We do know that we will continue to center the voices and experiences of the youth we serve. We know that we will still prioritize the TAs that lead the work in the communities, in and around Seattle. We know that gig workers have been hit the hardest, during this pandemic, so we are dedicated to hiring more part time salaried TAs, providing them with a steady income and health insurance. As we are in the midst of financial recession, coupled with loss of expected revenue for the coming year, we have had to make some cuts and shifts in programming.

Below is a list of we will plan on doing in the upcoming year: 

    • Thanks to secure funding, we will continue our Creative Schools LAB program at Hazel Valley, Mt View, and hopefully MLK Elementary Schools.
    • Although we will continue to work with Interagency sites, it will be in much smaller doses, and we will be providing curriculum, career exploratory learning, and the arts credit these students need to graduate high school. 
    • Provide professional development for HPS, SPS, other school districts(TBD). 
    • LIT will move from a six month long program to a Spring Break Intensive and Summer Intensive, pending funding.
    • ALLI will be postponed from Summer 2020, to Fall 2020, so that we can best plan for virtual workshops that would be engaging to the youth, as we probably won’t be able to meet, in person.
    • We will deliver Art Kits to all New Future sites and Art Space sites, as we won’t be able to meet with those youth in person.
    • We will start Strategic Planning, ASAP, to further align our mission and work.
    • We continue to facilitate workshops, write blog posts and journal entries, speak at international conferences, and advocate for educational policy shift in Olympia through emails, calls, letters. 
  •  
    • As some of our partner programs have successfully become their own non-profit organizations, we are left critically thinking about how we work with teens in our community. We will take time to reimagine our Teen Leadership programs to be efficient and stronger. 

Things are changing so quickly, and so drastically, this list might evolve and change again, as we work to best serve our community and partners. What will stay the same is that we will stay to true to our mission of revolutionizing arts education, and our creativity and innovation will guide us forward. 

Stay safe and healthy.

— JAMES MILES, Executive Director

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Arts Corps COVID-19 Art Kit Project

Does a freshly sharpened pencil make you want to write? Did your childhood imagination ignite when dipping a brush into an untouched oval of watercolor paint? Do you still get excited about a colorful stick of chalk that hasn’t yet been worn down or broken?

Brand-new art supplies inspire a unique sense of joy and possibility, among children and adults alike. And it’s these feelings that Arts Corps had in mind when we launched our COVID-19 Art Kit Project this spring, which ultimately resulted in the distribution of 1,321 free art kits to families in South King County.

The spring quarter is always busy for Arts Corps programming- it’s short and condensed- so when schools were forced to shift to distance learning, our Director of Arts Education and  program managers had to quickly work to narrow the arts education opportunity gap in our region. With the need for children to have opportunities for creative expression greater than ever, we needed to find an immediate solution. Distributing art kits for students to enjoy at home with their families became a key strategy for Arts Integration Program Manager, Sabrina Chacon-Barajas. 

Given our limited resources, we chose to focus most intensively on our relationship with Highline Public Schools (HPS). This was not only because we have long and deep relationships with the communities in Highline, but also because Arts Corps is a major funnel for arts education in the district. In certain communities within the district, we are the only funnel of access to arts education.

For several years now, Arts Corps has partnered with the City of Burien to help remedy this inequity by providing integrative work in Burien elementary schools. When it was clear that we needed to find a way to engage students in arts learning remotely, Heleya de Barros, Director of Arts Education, immediately reached out to Gina Kalman, Cultural Arts Supervisor for the City of Burien, to inquire about reallocating funds toward an art kit project. Her office agreed, and plans were made to use funds to support the design, assembly, and distribution of art kits centered on the themes of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), community, gratitude, and healing.

Given the immense amounts of creativity and resourcefulness among Arts Corps’ teaching artists, the design aspect of the art kits was the easy part. The hard part was how to distribute the kits in a way that respected social distance guidelines and kept HPS families safe. Thankfully, the district connected us with Anne Baunach, Executive Director of Highline School Foundation, and with their help, we were able to distribute hundreds of art kits via their free meal sites in White Center, Burien, SeaTac, and Des Moines. Additionally, OST manager Olisa Enrico worked with our partners at Southwest Youth & Family Services and Mt. View Elementary to reach approximately 100 additional families.

The greatest number of kits were distributed to students at Hazel Valley Elementary (HVE), a school with which Arts Corps has worked very closely for several years, including on our Department of Education-funded Highline Creative Schools Initiative. With support from foundations who share our commitment to deepening family engagement in school communities (thereby increasing student sense of belonging), we were able to build an art kit for EVERY SINGLE STUDENT AT HVE. As a graduation present, 5th graders received extra special art supplies in their kits. Arts Corps Veteran Teaching Artist Carina del Rosario designed the kits and worked with HVE to have them passed out this week, the final week of HPS’ 2019-20 school year.

In the midst of a global pandemic and pronounced racial tension and injustice, we hope that these art kits provide a glimmer of hope and inspiration to the 1,321 families who received them. We’re so grateful to our teaching artists, funders, volunteers, school and community partners for helping make this innovative project happen so quickly. A special thanks to Laird Norton, Horton Foundation Fund, Discuren Foundation, 4Culture, Arts Fund, and the Ketcham Family for their support of this project.

Given the success of Arts Corps’ COVID-19 Art Kit Project this past spring, we hope to continue the project into the summer. Under the leadership of Meredith Arena, Arts Corps Veteran Teaching Artist, and Olisa Enrico, Arts Corps OST Manager, we plan to distribute approximately 300 additional art kits for summer learning at 4 sites  in partnership with Southwest Youth and Family Services. 

Arts Corps COVID-19 Art Kit Projects at a Glance:

  • Total art kits distributed = 1,321. 
  • Art kits distributed to 10 sites across South King County
  • Partnered with Highline School Foundation to distribute kits at meal sites in White Center, Burien, Des Moines
  • Each of the 475 students at Hazel Valley Elementary received art kits. 5th graders received special art kits to celebrate their graduation from elementary. Kits included a mixed media paper pad, micron pens, and either skin tone crayon set, maker set, or chalk set.
  • Teaching artists, classroom assistants, Arts Corps staff, and volunteers dedicated approximately 90 hours to construction of art kits 
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Confessions of An At-Home Teaching Artist


I recently traveled home to New York City amidst this whole COVID-19 pandemic. Although my friends and family were fortunate enough not to contract the virus, some of their friends, family, and friends of friends were not so lucky. I decided to bring my 15-year-old nephew and 8-year-old niece back to Tacoma with me. They are both doing remote learning for the remainder of the school year and I thought it be an appropriate and fun trip to take while practicing better social distancing here in the Pacific Northwest than is available in the greater Tri-state area. 

I began to learn the different online learning platforms and requirements for each of my siblings’ children and I quickly understood that this adjustment posed new challenges. Aside from needing to wake up at 5:30AM because of the time change, I never knew how many apps and platforms existed for online learning, let alone how confusing each would be to navigate.

Now, I feel that we have transitioned into a great flow that produces substantial results. Here’s how: around the home, I have introduced many incentives and systems, such as points and rewards, that I use to help me. Putting these in place has allowed me to maintain focus, keeping the children motivated and their minds occupied away from the current global crisis. 

The point system rewards the completion of various tasks, accomplishments through online learning, trying hard, being helpful, household chores, etc. This allows for a healthy and reliable expectation and structure that your new in-home students are secretly craving during this time.

We encourage parents to share stories and methods for helping their remote learners maintain focus and participation during quarantine. Please write in to info@artscorps.org and let us know what works for you!

— SAMUEL CORALES, Teaching Artist

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The Gift of Song


Being Fat
by Erica Merritt, age 8

Being fat is an uncomfortable way

To live your life, day by day

You’re always insecure, about the way you look

You always feel like someone, took……. one too many glances at your body

Your clothes feel tighter, week after week

The scale number gets higher, below your feet

The diet’s get stricter, month after month

The food gets more tempting, mostly the junk

Until finally you’re at, right where you’ve started

Only this time you’ve gained more pounds to be charted

And, so I guess, that is that,

You see it’s all a part of being fat!!

By age 8, I realized that I was very different from those around me. I knew that my body was not what I wished it to be. Self-doubt and insecurity were a part of my reality. Then, I found healing and confidence through music. When I sang, one size truly fit all. I felt triumphant in my ability to transform words into lyrics, lyrics into songs. Music was my ticket to wonderland.

I could write and sing about my heart’s desire. When I sang, I didn’t mind when people stared at me. I was proud of what my body could do! I was “music to my own ears” as well as theirs. I took pride in knowing that I possessed a gift that was special and unique. It was a welcomed distraction to life’s hardships. Singing empowered me to define, and validate, my sense of self-worth. This is why I teach! I want to give a gift that keeps on giving, empowering youth to practice self-validation. In a world where image can often supersede one’s authentic self, the Gift Of Song can fill in the blanks.

Share your #MakeArtAnyway story to info@artscorps.org so we can spread love with the rest of the Arts Corps community.

— ERICA MERRITT, Teaching Artist

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