Art as a Voice for Social Change.

The Path with No Name.

A Cleveland High School Art Show.


June 13th

At the Center of Contemporary Art in Georgetown.

5-9pm. All Ages. Free. 

Come witness local youth addressing current social issues with a visual language. 


After a year of identifying social commentary in literature, and infusing it into narratives, 90 Cleveland sophomores have culminated the year with a professionally curated art show filled with socially conscious art work. 

ArtsCorps resident teaching artists Jaala Smith and Jave Yoshimoto worked closely with the students. They investigated famous political artists such as Banksy and Barbara Kruger. They discussed ways to communicate through visual language and how to manipulate symbols and pop culture metaphors to create a powerful and personal message.  Each art piece will be accompanied by a personally crafted artist statement.





Their work will be exhibited at the Center on Contemporary Art in Georgetown at the Seattle Design Center, Thursday the 13th, reception beginning at 5.

CoCA Georgetown: Located in Suite 258 of Seattle Design Center at 5701 6th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98108 The gallery is on second level of the main Plaza Building. Free entry and parking. Metro riders can take route 23.

Find the event on Facebook and you can invite your friends and family 

Come for a night of political art and youth voice! We all look forward to seeing you there!

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Why is it important to bring Arts as a Service to our Communities?

Service Learning:  A philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.”



As the Resident Service Learning Teaching Artist at Cleveland HS, it is my duty to bring Arts as a lens for Community Involvement, Service and Learning. Essentially “Why is it important to bring Arts as a Service to our communities?”

Students of the Seattle Public School System are required to achieve a certain amount of Service Learning Hours in order to graduate. As we are nearing the end of the school year seniors are needing to accomplish those last couple credits. As the service learning teaching artist, I was able to serve our seniors by creating an artful service opportunity. But how could I create this opportunity and not interfere with in-class learning and somehow compete with out of school obligations like sports, work, and family? How can I create a service opportunity that has arts elements and benefits Cleveland HS community simultaneously?

Thus was born a Half-Day Arts and Service Learning Field Trip to Seattle Tilth’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland.

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Betcha didn’t even know this place existed! Which is reasonable considering that they are relatively new to the neighborhood and well hidden in the back woods of Rainier Beach. The Rainier Beach Urban Farm AND Wetland resides off Seward Park Avenue S, nestled between Pritchard Island Beach and Beer Sheva Park, close neighbors to Rainier Beach High School.



I highly encourage you to visit the Farm, (Go east on Cloverdale St past the round-about and take the first left!) If the gate is open, drive on in, they will welcome you with open and gracious arms! Weekly Drop-in Work Parties, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. You are invited to stop by and get your hands dirty and be part of an exciting process of growing a community farm!

Albiet with enthusiasm, I digress.




25 students accompanied with Linda Sinni a CHS teacher, Aaron Johnson the graffiti teaching artist and I, piled into a big yellow school bus after the dismissal bell rang early at 1pm at Cleveland HS, wednesday May 15th. We journeyed from South Beacon Hill down to Rainier Beach and poured out of the school bus onto the farm! Jess Armantrout, the program coodinator at the farm and several volunteers from the community and ArtsCorps greeted us! We circled up, introduced ourselves and reviewed the tasks set out for us. We divided up all the students and volunteers into four groups in which we rotated through tasks so each students was able to participate in a variety of activities.


We harvested salad greens that were ready to be donated to local food banks and cooking programs. We  hauled fresh compost in wheelbarrows across the farm to one of the big grand green houses to help create new sturdy rows for new vegetables to flourish. We learned that fresh compost is donated to the farm from Cedar Grove  and that Cedar Grove is a local facility that plays an important role in diverting organic waste from landfills. If you compost in this city you’re helping create the compost that helps grow vegetables for people who need them.


























With the help of a community volunteer, Mary, we were able to install a giant mural on plywood that had been made the previous year by a farm volunteer! We were to attach it to and overgrown chain link fence at the end of the driveway. With heavy duty tools, thick gloves and determination our group pulled blackberries, horsetails, english ivy and much more. Our group did a great job clearing out the invasive plants that engulfed the fence! With teamwork and communication we installed the mural with zip ties! Now as you stroll down to the west side of the property, near the chicken coop you can enjoy a dynamic painting of chickens and vegetables!

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Each student also had the opportunity to relax in the sun and create row markers for the green house rows! Now you’ll see the many rows in the green houses numbered with elaborate and creative signs!

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Most importantly we designed, painted and installed a brand new mural for the farm! We worked together to create something long lasting and valuable for the farm as well as leaving a little Cleveland HS spirit. Each volunteer and student left their hand print on the mural. Aaron’s contribution to our field trip was a gift! Check out what we made, in record time!

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Now as you drive down the quiet and unsuspecting Cloverdale St. to the farm and can’t seem to find the entrance… A grand mural will greet you. Ushering you in with bright welcoming colors, assuring you “Yes, you found the farm! Welcome! Please join us!”


When all our work was finished, Jess invited us to embark on a scavenger hunt. Which was essentially a free roaming exploration of the farm. All day the weather held up for us, of course until this activity. But this did not stop the students from exploring the expansiveness of the farm! They put on ponchos and some even sported the giant galoshes!DSC_3316 DSC_3315












They adventured out into the wetlands and into the forest while the rain sprinkled on them. We watched tromp out to the bee hives and to the chicken coops, from inside the dry green house. After their adventure came to an end we circled up to discuss the things we learned, the things that sparked our interest and our appreciations. We talked about the services that the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland provide as well as more opportunities for youth! The students from Cleveland HS were engaged, articulate and eager! It was an honor to be associated with such a wonderful group of youth.


Why is it important to bring ARTS as a SERVICE to the our communities?

“Because in creating art together we learn how to work together.”

“Because it makes out communities beautiful and unique.”

“Because of my interest in the art I learned about farms and chickens and food.”

“Because art and food are sacred and everyone has a right to it.”



DSC_3384 Special thanks!

Linda Sinni. A Cleveland HS teacher, who at the last minute seized the opportunity to bring her wonderful students. She tumbled into the bus with all the rest, excited and eager to learn!

Aaron Johnson. Cleveland HS graffiti teaching artist, who so effortlessly jumped on the band wagon with supplies, support and talent! The youth adore you and your engaging art form.

Jess Armantrout. Seattle Tilth’s SE Seattle Program Coordinator who welcomed us with open arms. Eager to make our visit useful and fun for everyone!

Thank you to our volunteers; Kyla from Seattle Tilth, Lara from ArtsCorps, Derek, Mary and others from the seattle community that arrived. Thank you to Rita Altcantara from ArtsCorps for the wonderful photography of the trip! Thank you to Katie Pencke from Seattle Tilth, Lois Brewer from Learn and Serve Seattle and Kai Domingo and Chev Gary from the YMCA office at Cleveland HS for making it possible.



learn and serve seattle tilth ymca

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Art Renewal Day

It’s Art Renewal Day and You Are Invited!

If you haven’t had the pleasure of stepping foot into the historic building that houses Aki Kurose Middle School you might not know that the hallways are covered in inspirational murals. As you travel through the hallways you’ll notice that each mural speaks to a community value. On your way to the lunch room you’ll find Malcolm X speaking truth about the power of knowledge. When walking past the library you’ll see a piece inspired by Einstein that reiterates the role of the teacher.


But just like all things in this world these murals have aged and succumbed to the wear and tear of a well populated school. Some murals are chipping, where others are simply spelled wrong. It is a belief at Aki Kurose Middle School that if we respect our environment we are in turn respecting ourselves. It is our intention to create a culture of respect and care in our community by renewing our hallways. When we connect with our school we can connect with each other.


We invite you to be a part of our community by joining us in this special event at Aki Kurose Middle School!

The Art Renewal Day
for Global Youth Service Day
The Aki Kurose Community believes that
When we renew our hallways, we renew our community!
Join us for a day of renewing, refreshing and repainting!
Aki students and community volunteers will be working together to clean and repaint our hallways murals.
April 27th 9-4pm
At Aki Kurose Middle School
3928 S Graham St, Seattle, WA 98118

For community volunteers we are offering half-day shift or a whole day shift. All shifts include lunch and ArtsCorps entertainment from 12pm – 1pm.

The Morning shift: 9am -1pm
The Afternoon shift: 12pm – 4pm
Full Day: 9am – 4pm
Please register by emailing your shift preference to Jaala Smith, the resident ArtsCorps Teaching Artist at 
Childcare is not provided at this event. Due to the nature of the event we ask all volunteers to be 18yrs or older.
Bring: refillable water bottle, clothing appropriate for painting and cleaning and your enthusiasm for ART!
Provided: Tools, supplies and lunch.
We look forward to seeing you!
– Aki’s Art Renewal Team
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Art as a Voice for Social Change.

Approaching Amazing Art is the title to a brand new curriculum being tested at Cleveland HS. Its a humanities curriculum that explores the power of art in Social Movements.  As teaching artists at Cleveland we’ve been invited to help deepen the curriculum.

Culminating the unit each student will complete the following project:
1. Create a work of art that has a message or makes a difference.
2. Make a video documenting the experience of envisioning, designing, creating, and performing or displaying the piece,
3. Write an artist statement to accompany the piece.”

A group of students have stepped up to help create an gallery event for their fellow students to show their work at school and in the community. They are passionate about sharing their ideas and opinions and we are excited to help them make it possible!

In preparation of their curriculum that is beginning in May we’re bringing them workshops of various mediums. Starting with Collage this week, we invited students to piece together images and words to create a message they are passionate about.






























It was exhilarating to watch students approach the art table with apprehension and self doubt and leave the table with a fully assembled piece confronting real social issues. Each student posted their work in the hallway with a statement explaining what they wished to communicate through this medium.











A hallway passerby will notice powerful social issues being challenged with powerful images, such as ageism, racism paired with sexism, environmentalism, our dependency on technology and much more. The images are chilling and moving.


It was a honor to be in a room with such bold thinkers and daring risk takers!

More Pictures will be posted soon. Stay in Touch!


Thank you,

Jaala Smith


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Aki Believes in Peace.

Aki Kurose Middle School students have been preparing to represent their values loud and proud at this years Martin Luther King, Jr march.

During lunch Aki student’s have been writing powerful belief statements inspired by the murals that cover their hallways. These belief statements generated the statements written on the signs they’ll use to march with. During lunch they’ve also managed to fold almost 300 peace cranes. These cranes will fly in the air, attached to their signs and will be handed out to other participants and spectators along the route of the march.

The morning of Martin Luther King Day 14 Aki students will gather at school while others are at home sleeping in. They’ll have an opportunity to watch the infamous MLK speech and discuss the connections between his values and the values of their peers. We’ll then join the MLK Day Ralley at Garfield High School and March with our Aki Kurose signs held high! Students who participate on this Monday off will create the curriculum for their next all school curriculum day, in which they’ll focus on hopes and dreams for the future.

Aki Kurose students believe in Freedom.
Aki Kurose students believe in Respect.
Aki Kurose students believe in Peace.

Stay tuned for pictures of the March and words from the students.

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Beautiful just like me.

She didn’t think she’d enjoy this after school class but it was the only option available, besides homework hour.  She couldn’t stand the idea of more school work at the end of her already long exhausting day. Besides, all she wanted to do was read books.

Mari’s face is youthful but not lacking strength. Her smile is broad and giving, bearing bright straight teeth. Her brow can furrow and scowl and her stride is wide and confident. Mari’s spirit is almost as vibrant as her headscarves and flowing bejeweled dresses. She has an unwavering love and respect for her family and most of all her father. She is not one to hide her feelings or withhold her opinions. Her values are strong and inherent in the way she relates to others. She’s a playful soul and eager to connect.  I was excited to have her energy in my class.

Mari is an 8th grader at a south end middle school known for its “struggling youth”, drop out rates and low test scores.  This is the third middle school she’s attended in the past three years not due to her behavior but because her parents could no longer afford a private education. When speaking about her move, Mari expresses her respect for her parent’s decision and is happy to live so close to her new school. She walks home at the end of the day with her nose in a book.

In this after school art class we were exploring the world of altered books. Using collage materials, glue and paint I was inviting my class to tell their story on the pages of an old book. To help recall the many chapters in our lives, we wrote and reflected. Mari spoke passionately but briefly about her family and her life as one out of many siblings.  She was thoughtful about other people’s stories and was known for drawing dynamic conclusions for us. She’d speak boldly about lessons her father would tell her, regurgitating powerful phrases about equality, spirituality, kindness and peace. She’d often say things like “Beauty is within” or  “Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.”  This particular class was small and intimate. We had come to know each other well, very quickly.  I was eager to see what kinds of deep rooted nuggets of knowledge we were going to unearth in this classroom.

Over the course of developing our compositions and preparing our books Mari had expressed that she wanted her book to be about her father. As her teacher, I was proud she had declared so boldly what story she wanted to tell. As we applied medium to our books, paintings flourished, collages became complex and deep metaphors broke through. The students thought critically when using new materials and tried daring techniques in order to tell their stories. Mari on the other hand became overwhelmingly fascinated with mixing paints. She spent hours experimenting with color theory and developing dynamic color schemes. I saw that this play was valuable to Mari and I encouraged her to go deeper. When she noticed that other students had nearly completed stories, she panicked. Her exploration had wasted time and those colors had noting to do with her father. Her peers shouted about how her bursting color pallet and how it shouldn’t be wasted.  That those deep greens and yellows were perfect representations of her playful and colorful spirit. That maybe she should let go of her previous composition and make way for something unexpected and new. Mari grumbled but eventually took their advice. She applied her paints in stripes and waves, using her brush in new ways. It was obvious that painting abstractly was soothing to her because as she applied her colors, bold thoughts and reflections came spewing out of her.

Mari spoke about how it was difficult to be the only girl in her family. That being her father’s only daughter made her special but also set her aside from her siblings. She lacked the independence she longer for and often found that her father’s expectations of her were vastly different than her brothers. She felt that just because she was a girl didn’t mean that she should be treated differently than anyone else. Mari started drawing conclusions about how she was proud to be a girl being raised in such a household. She thought it helped her to learn be bold, outspoken and passionate. The group worked silently and listened to Mari and her epiphanies. Her reflections were powerful and inspired us all to look deeper at ourselves.

Mari’s finished book spilled out dark greys and blues, deep purples and maroons. The stripes stretched across the pages and swooped over the spine of the book. Although Mari lacked a lineal/literal story, her book spoke loudly and clearly about her depth and passion. We envied the content Mari had managed to apply to her book but she had trouble seeing it in that light. No matter how much we swooned and raved about how unique it was, she remained disappointed. To the artist this piece was not what it was meant to be. She declared that this piece would not be shown in the showcase.

The other students starting writing their Artist Statements and Mari stubbornly didn’t participate.  Arms folded, chin up and back to her book, I asked her to forget about the statement and talk to me about the book and how it came to be. I asked her to suspend judgment and to really think about the process, the artistic process. This is what she said and what eventually turned into her statement.

“I made this book because I don’t have a favorite color. I enjoy mixing colors. I used the colors Red, Blue, Yellow, Black and White to create all the colors in this book. I mixed the colors until I liked them.  I mixed them till they looked nice. I think these colors are beautiful just like me.”

She named her piece “Passionate Colors”. The showcase opened and her book was presented along side everyone else’s. When she noticed her book a bashful grin shot across her face. I asked her how she felt and she responded proudly that she loved her book. That is was powerful and different, just like she was.

It is always encouraging to watch others walk the tumultuous path of art making. I’m honored to have been a part of Mari’s exploration and declaration. Her open creative spirit and courage to claim was an inspiration for me  and everyone around her. I know I will walk with her story on my path. Thank you Mari.


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