Spokes Application Now Open for 2019/2020

Calling all Youth POETS!

We’re looking for fierce young artists (aged 14-19) who want to create change through community organizing, performance events and artistry!

SPOKES is the youth leadership body of Youth Speaks Seattle. This crew of young leaders commits to a 7-month internship where they lead arts showcases, open mics, writing circles, poetry slams and produce a poetry chapbook. They meet weekly for leadership development in event planning, public speaking, facilitation as well as building their social justice analysis through artistry and cultural work.

Questions? Please email spokes@artscorps.org


Applications due by October 22nd!
#artsed #edquity

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What does revolution mean to you?



What does revolution mean to you?

Some students have already started, but most public schools across the country start school this week. It is another year of the doldrums, where students are equally excited and horrified about returning to their schoolhouse. Another year of 21st century students learning in a 19th century model. Another year of students reading books about people or subjects that have no relevance to them. Another year of students staring outside, yearning to play, but stuck inside memorizing facts so that they may take a test that has nothing to do with knowledge or comprehension. Another year of mostly white teachers teaching mostly black and brown youth. Another year where the achievement gap remains unchanged.

So, what are we gonna do about it? How do we change these modes of educating our youth? How do prepare teachers to be effective and engaging? How do we trust our teachers to do their job, and have their achievement based on student comprehension and not on standardized tests? How do we trust our students to be more than empty vessels that need to be “filled,” and that we, adults, know all of the answers? How do we uplift the black and brown children that have been forgotten and discarded for 400 years and 15 days?

How do we revolutionize education?

That’s a question Arts Corps has been seeking to answer for the past two years, if not longer. We were founded on the principles of providing access to arts education to students that previously did not have it. We were founded to provide a place for teaching artists to work in their field, with youth who did not know that you could be an artist. We were founded to “Make Art Anyway.” 

But what does that mean? 

Author and Nobel Prize winner, Andre Gide said “Art begins with resistance – at the point where resistance is overcome.” Artists are the resistance and by making art anyway, we are combating oppression and creating a better world. By making art anyway, we are telling our education system that our voice matters. That through our expression, we are demonstrating comprehension of the world in which we live, and how we can operate within it. Using art as our tool, we are showcasing cultures of people around the globe, the people that look like our students, the people that are our students. This year, we are going to be working closely with teaching artists and classroom teachers to shift the culture of school to be more inclusive. We are going to work with students and ignite the creative power of youth, and we are going to work with our community to build a better education system for all of our youth.

What does revolution mean to you?

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Accessing Creative Technology with LIT

“The really exciting thing about emerging tech is that it’s constantly changing, and that means that anybody could shape it. And it means that students of color could shape it.” – Netsanet Tjirongo, filmmaker, LIT teaching artist

This year I’ve had the privilege of documenting a revolutionary new program at Arts Corps, in partnership with Reel Grrls, called LIT!

Student holds his arms straight out to his sides while he is scanned by another person with a virtual 360 scanner.
Fabian is scanned so he can be turned into a virtual 360 model.

LIT, which stands for Learning Immersive Technology, engaged students from Big Picture High School in Virtual Reality game development, audio production, and 360 filmmaking in order to develop as artists, technology innovators, and to prepare them for 21st Century Careers in the emerging arts and tech industries. The students were able to explore all three types of technology with expert teaching artists and then dove into one area for their final projects, collaborating between departments as they would in a real-world production environment.

From behind: student and teaching artist look at a music project in Logic on a computer screen and talk about the composition.
Noel works with Matt to create original music in Logic.

When talking with Noel, one of the students focusing on music production, he showed me the four tracks he had created for another student, Fabian’s VR experience. He also mentioned that he really liked music production and that he wanted to continue coming to the studio to make music at Totem Star – one of our partner organizations that runs the recording studio that the students used during LIT – even after the program was over.

Chatting with Vanessa – whom you’ll meet in this short video – I learned that she not only produced music for her friend Faith’s 360 film, but also enjoyed the process so much that she produced music to pair with various paintings that she was creating for a school project on Chicano art murals and the Chicano movement to fight for the rights of farmworkers.

Yet another student, Azariah, recalled how she had been interested in writing screenplays since she was five years old, and through the LIT program, she learned how to professionally format a script. She now sees herself turning her vision into something that people would enjoy watching on screen.

Student helps an Arts Corps staff member put on the VR headset to view the experience.
Eli helps an Arts Corps staff member adjust the headset to view his VR experience.

It’s clear that the students in the program gained much more than the ability to model a virtual world, capture a 360 scene, or put sounds together to make a song. At the culmination, all of the students were finding applications for these new skills in their everyday lives. They were able to talk confidently about the technology, talk about their work, and represent themselves proudly at public presentations in front of friends, family, and industry experts.

This video is a window into these students’ experiences, and it is only a preview. The extended feature will be released later this year.

The extended version of this film will give more context to the landscape of immersive technology outside of just the LIT program. It will explore the possibilities of what the industry could look like if young people who have historically been denied access to emerging technology, are at the forefront of shaping its’ future.

-AMY L. PIÑON, Creative Media Producer



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It isn’t always easy

It’s not always easy.

As many of you know, Arts Corps is experiencing some unrest and change, and the pain has been palpable. 

In the past several months, we’ve had to navigate the dismissals and resignations of key staff. Some of these changes surprised and disappointed members of our team, who shared that disappointment with the community. Heartbreak was felt all around.

While ensuring first and foremost that our student instruction wasn’t impacted in the short-term, we immediately doubled down on the hard long work of mending hearts and mapping steps to help us come out the other side stronger and more whole.

We held a gathering for our staff and teachers designed as an opportunity for healing and mediation within our organization. We then worked with our board to hire a respected, independent, and professional facilitator. Dr. Taylor was brought in to lead our mediations because she is a highly-regarded expert mediator specializing in equity and inclusion. She is here to guide us and to help ensure staff and faculty are respected and heard around the issues Arts Corps is grappling with. Dr. Taylor has not previously worked with James, or Arts Corps, which was one of many considerations by our board to ensure this facilitator would be unbiased. While some staff declined to participate in our first mediation, we are holding our second mediation tomorrow and remain hopeful staff and teaching artists will work together with us to continue evolving this organization to better serve everyone. At the request of staff, I’ll also, as Board President, be present at the mediation. 

We are looking at everything from organizational hierarchies to how we can increase pay and support for teachers and staff-members at a faster pace than previously thought possible. Our decisions will be made with great care, incorporating the guidance of a representative group of experts, our community, our supporters, and our board.

Since our inception nearly 20 years ago, Arts Corps has strived to be a light for young people in our city, providing music, poetry, theater, visual arts and more to those who couldn’t access it otherwise. We aimed to ensure the teaching artists providing instruction were highly valued in word and deed to reflect the deep respect we have for them and their work.

We are a man of color and a woman of color. Many of our teachers and staff members are people of color coming from multiple intersectional identities, as are the students we serve. But our demographic statistics don’t, on their own, change the imbalance of power felt by many within our own organization or organizations like ours.

Throughout all of this, one thing is clear, and has always been clear: we believe in the importance of empowering and changing the lives of young people through arts education. And we are committed to doing everything we can to listen, learn, facilitate and support this work in the best ways possible for students, teachers, staff and our community. 

It’s not always easy. But it is unquestionably worth it. 

– James Miles and Tanisha Felder


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A look into an arts integrated residency

In this residency, Arts Corps teaching artist Meredith Arena integrated monologue writing and performance with the Westward Expansion curriculum. Students learned basic performance skills and used their imagination to write from the perspective of someone in a different historical time, considering both the personal and political lives of their characters. Students considered many perspectives on Westward Expansion. The collaborating teachers challenged themselves to help students understand the perspectives that get ignored in this area of study, the Native Americans whose land was being stolen and the slaves who accompanied the white colonizers on their journey.


1 Students rehearse their monologues, gently closing their ears so they can focus on their tools of voice.
Students rehearse their monologues, gently closing their ears so they can focus on their tools of voice.
Students perform for one another and provide peer feedback on their performance and writing.
Students perform for one another and provide peer feedback on their performance and writing.
Students perform for one another and provide peer feedback on their performance and writing.
Students perform for one another and provide peer feedback on their performance and writing.
Students watch a performance and participate in group peer feedback.
Students watch a performance and participate in group peer feedback.
Class edits their monologue scripts together.
Class edits their monologue scripts together.
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A letter from our board president

Dear Arts Corps Staff, Board, and Community,

I first want to say that I hate that I have to send this email. It never crossed my mind that when I took on the role of board president that this would be something I would have to do, and yet here we are.

You know by now, but I want to share with you that we understand that some changes have been made with the structure and staffing of Arts Corps. The Board has been working to understand the ideas and concerns that have been brought to our attention. We understand that some concerns are valid and we are taking steps to implement solutions to address those various concerns.

We know these are not popular changes. We know that it will cause disruption. But we want you to know we are also in agreement about many of the new structural ideas that have been developed by some Staff. We actually are closer to agreement than many of you recognize. It is not solely the WHAT we are challenged by, it is the HOW.

It has become clear that the method used to implement those changes were not inclusive in the way of Arts Corps’ values. We also understand that some of the methods used to voice some concerns were not productive, including publicly complaining about the organization on social media channels and in the office within earshot of other staff, third parties and youth participants.  Evidence is showing that this behavior has continued.

These methods of voicing complaints is not productive in moving towards healing and reconciliation. We expect (and welcome) complaints and concerns pertaining to the Executive Director be brought to the Board (per the Staff Handbook) so that we can work through issues in a productive, private and compassionate way.

Please know that the Board of Directors main role is to protect the organization.We all truly love Arts Corps. It is that love alone that drives us to support decisions that not all agree with, but we are also legally responsible for Arts Corps and James reports directly to us. We are working very closely with him to support and help navigate through this new time and vision. Arts Corps is strong and we believe very deeply in what it stands for. We will be okay. We believe in it and the staff. We ask that you believe as well.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of the decisions that have been made, please reach out to us, specifically me, Tanisha Brandon-Felder (Board President).


Tanisha Brandon-Felder

“One must know not just how to accept a gift, but with what grace to share it.”

Maya Angelou


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