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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Board Spotlight: Kim Hasegawa Darcy

Meet one of our wonderful board members, Kim!

Kim Hasegawa Darcy is the daughter of two amazing educators. She grew up on two coasts as her father was a Professor in upstate NY and her mother a Professor in Seattle. She racially identifies as Japanese American and has embraced her Japanese culture and heritage into her and her family’s lifestyle. She visited Japan every year and eventually lived there while her father was a professor at Hokkaido University. As a graduate of WSU she currently serves students in the Shoreline School District as the District’s Equity Specialist centering BIPOC voices and student outcomes. She is passionate about racial equity work and is honored to serve on the Arts Corps Board. 

What made you decide to become a board member at Arts Corps?
I’ve been a donor and Tanisha invited me in.  I believe that Arts Education is KEY for students and is also a content area where funding in many districts are cut.  I wanted to promote Arts Corps for their amazing work and I’m honored to be a part of it.

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community? 
Funding and access!  That needs to be changed!

Has there been an artist or piece of art which has had a positive impact in your life? 
Music. I love music of most genres.  Music brings me nostalgia, memories, even the gift of youth!  It calms me on stressful days and pumps me up when I need that boost of energy.  I absolutely LOVE going to concerts – recently I have seen Janet Jackson, Madonna, Taylor Swift (with my daughter) and I will go see Peter Gabriel.  My husband and I enjoy Rock, and my daughter and I enjoy pop and Hip Hop.  

What is something that is currently bringing you joy?
Spending time on vacation with my family.  I enjoy warm sunny climates!  I love the fact that my UW sophomore still loves to do Mommy/Daughter trips.  I also love spending time with my 4y/o niece as much as I can.  

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Faculty Spotlight: Adam Collet and Arielle Labra

The Art 4 Life Summer 2023 Arts Corps team at CAM. From left to right: Program Manager Eris Eaton, Teaching Artist Arielle Labra, Teaching Artist Adam Collet. Photo courtesy of CAM.

 

In Art 4 Life Summer 2023, our youth did a lot! In the course of a week, the interns worked with professional artists at Common Area Maintenance (CAM) in Belltown, learned a variety of new visual arts skills, created 5 different pieces, and hosted a showcase event for the community. It was a whirlwind of laughter, growth, and creativity. At the heart of it all were Arts Corps teaching artists Adam Collet and Arielle Labra. Adam and Arielle were the ones to plan the curriculum, lead the classes, and stand by the youth through their challenges and celebrations. We are so thankful for their work and talent! 

Now that the program has ended, we got the opportunity to learn more about these awesome teaching artist and their thoughts on the internship. 

You both have been teaching artists for Art 4 Life in the past. What made you decide to become a teaching artist? What do you like about this program in particular?

ADAM: I came to teaching late in life,  I never thought I would be a teacher, I guess I resisted the call for a long time. When my own children began school I started to see a real need for quality, relevant art education. That was the beginning for me.

What do I like about Art 4 Life? It’s a chance for students with an interest in art, that might not otherwise have access to higher level art opportunities, to work together intensively and produce a new body of work. This latest iteration of Art 4 Life was great, we were at CAM (Common Area Maintenance) for a week. We worked on book binding, zine making, poster making, collage, printmaking, stencil work, photography, and sign painting. There were probably a couple more things in there too. In the end we had an art show/book binding event to showcase all the awesome student work. Big shoutout to Arielle , my co-teacher, and Timothy and Robert at CAM, and all the CAM artists that pitched in.

ARIELLE: Growing up I lacked representation. When I was in school I didn’t have a teacher whom to look up too, not even my art teachers. So I would like to be “that” teacher for someone. I think representation is key for youth, they are trying to figure out who they are and having teachers that don’t fit the norm is key.

As to Art 4 Life, I like that it’s a very intentional program, its main focus is to expose youth to an artist work environment and teach them new art and work skills for their future careers. I think that art programs are essentials in a students life, there are so many art forms out there. I’m grateful we get a chance to show/teach different art mediums to the youth and that they get a chance to try new things.

What has been a challenge about pursuing art professionally? What has been a reward?

ADAM: Haha, pursuing creative work professionally is not for the faint of heart. There’s of a constant struggle trying to balance personal and professional goals and projects. Rewards? Peace of mind, the reward is all in your head.  

ARIELLE: It has been financially hard, teachers and artists world wide are not compensated fairly for their jobs and time. But I love sharing and being creative with others. It feels my heart with joy when I see young artist believing in their craft and trying new things.

What are some of your own creative practices?

ADAM: I’ve been taking photos for a long time now but lately (the last 2-3 years) I’ve been drawing and painting a lot more. Mostly drawing semiautobiographical short comics. Currently I’m mining a lifetime of memories and seeing how they influence the way I interpret the world. I’m also trying to assemble a box camera I picked up recently.

ARIELLE: Being curious, drawing everything, and keeping an open mind! I always take photos of where I go and whatever catches my attention when I’m walking. I always carry a little sketchbook and pencil with me because you never know when you will find something to draw.

What was one of your favorite moments during the internship?

ADAM: We did some linocut printmaking and seeing the students turn a slab of nothing into beautiful works of art was fantastic. Watching them pull those first prints, it was like watching a magic show. That, and giving them the cameras and toy cameras to take photos. It was very cool to see how they decided to document the work that was happening.  Lastly, maybe just seeing everyone so motivated. We had a couple 15 minute breaks built into the schedule everyday but more often that not students would just keep working. Everyone was just so focused and productive. 

ARIELLE: The students faces when they saw their final projects. They worked so hard to make it happen and it showed in their piece.

Do you have other projects coming up, or anything you would like to share?

ADAM: Nothing I want to mention, don’t want to jinx it.

ARIELLE: I’m slowly but surely diving more into tattooing and just moved into a new studio, so my summer project is to make the place look nice and get new clients!

 

Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Adam Collet has been taking photographs and making art since childhood. Adam went to school in Seattle, also attended Seattle Central Community College and the UW where he earned a BFA in Photography. In 2008, he began teaching and passing on an interest in art and design to the next generation. Still living in Seattle with wife, children, and cat.

Besides Adam’s photography and illustration work he’s also a Teaching Artist specializing in Visual Art with a focus on integrating Art and STEM disciplines. In addition to Arts Corps, he’s taught classes, and online content for King County Library System; Seattle Public Library; stArt Exploring, a project of Sound Transit; Seattle Parks and Rec; High Point Neighborhood House; Yesler Terrace, Youth Tutoring Program; Family Learning Program; and various schools in Highline and Seattle Public Schools.

Recent projects include Essentially Seattle – photographing essential workers for City of Seattle/SPU, from the Office of Art & Culture; Public Art Program – photographing publicly sited artworks for City of Seattle, from the Office of Art & Culture. Ethnic Artist Roster, Seattle; Creative Advantage Arts Partner Roster, Seattle; ShoreLake Artist Roster, Shoreline.

 

Arielle A Labra Campos (She/Her/They/Them) is a Queer Latinx artist born to Immigrant parents in Zimbabwe. Moving to South America at the age of 5, living in Chile and Argentina before moving to Seattle in 2018. From an early age, Arielle has explored different art forms to express and find herself. Growing up, they would spend their school breaks at their grandparents beach house in Chile. In summer playing with the waves, the sand and seashells, and in winter Arielle would fill her time with drawings, paintings and crafts. She is inspired by the feeling of belonging and her long-life connection to the sea and their creatures – utilizing blue and purple colorways, and detailed lines and dots to bring her illustrations to life. Her art often combines the creatures of the surface (humans) with oceanic themes. In her work, Arielle brings together elements that sometimes looks like they don’t belong together, bringing harmony and balance to it.

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Partner Spotlight: Common Area Maintenance

A poet stands in front of a microphone with a small crowd sitting in a semicircle around them in CAM.
Margin Shift Poetry Reading: with authors Lila Bonow, Serena Chopra, Michael Haeflinger, Martha Ryan, Ching-In Chen, and Tanya Holtland. August 2022

This summer, Arts Corps is partnering with CAM for the Art 4 Life Summer 2023 internship! It has been such a delight to work with this talented, receptive, and kind group of artists in our journey to create a program in which teens can learn, experiment, and have fun as they get exposed to the world of professional art. CAM is not only a group, but also a space designed to foster creativity and collaboration, and we can’t wait to spend some of our summer there. Get to know CAM a little better by reading below and seeing just a few photos from the very many cool things that they do. 

What is CAM and what do y’all do? How did you come together?
CAM, short for Common Area Maintenance, is a gallery and open-format artist studio located in downtown Seattle. Our mission is to foster meaningful relationships with our member artists and the greater Seattle arts community through creative collaborations and resource sharing. In 2015, we first came together with the idea that creative spaces can be sustainable while remaining wild and rooted in exploring anti-capitalist methodology – both serving as a public benefit and a place to grow in one’s personal practice. One way we foster a sense of wildness in the space is by inviting our artist members and non-members alike to contribute to the curation of shows and events completely free of cost. These shows are also open to the public without any admission fees. So it might be of little surprise that one of CAM’s core values is financial accessibility. From the beginning, we’ve been dedicated to providing affordable space for artists to work and exhibit – and we are thrilled to announce that we have recently transitioned to a sliding scale rent model for our artist members, further enhancing our commitment to financial inclusivity.

What are some of CAM’s creative guiding principles? 
CAM embraces a set of creative guiding principles that revolve around the belief that artists thrive not in isolation, but through collaboration and generous mutual support. In order to foster such an environment, we uphold values of care, flexibility, affordability, accessibility, and unwavering commitment to our labor. Additionally, we cherish joy, play, and celebration – which historically often leads to a lot of karaoke parties!

What role do you think youth arts education has in our Seattle art community? 
We believe that youth-centered education mirrors our aspiration to see all people thrive within the arts and develop a creative voice. More specifically, we trust that youth arts education is the foundation for the next generation of voices in Seattle’s leadership. It provides the material that guides a culture towards radical action, through the lens of self-expression, empowerment, and creativity. We want Seattle’s youth to take over our jobs!

What is something you are excited for in our Art 4 Life program? 
The energy and creative power of young people is unparalleled, so we’re excited to share in that creative space together, while learning from the brilliant teaching artists at Arts Corps. Our time together in preparation has already been so inspiring and we can’t wait to continue – Multi-generational making and sharing is really fun! Another important aspect of this program is the opportunity we have to share with young people that an arts career is a tangible life choice. This feels quite powerful as most member artists at CAM didn’t see that modeled for them in their youth and had to discover or invent their own path. This is a chance to show students that the opportunities to create never stop.

Artists Dani Hopple and Sander Moberg holding up a quilt composed of non-matching squares and a blue border
Artists Dani Hopple and Sander Moberg holding up CAM’s community quilt project. December 2021
An accordion player, a French horn player, and a saxophonist play on a small stage with a sign reading "warm fuzzy feelings"
Warm Fuzzy Feelings: an Exhibition by Alexander Mostov. November 2018
Sepia photo of artists Dani Hopple and Whitney Bashaw, watching a regular color projection on a movable screen outside CAM
Artists Dani Hopple and Whitney Bashaw, watching a live projected poetry reading with author Tanya Holtand. January 2021.

 

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Sponsor Spotlight: Marcus Lalario and Lil Woody’s

Tell us a little about Lil Woody’s and your story! How did you decide you wanted to open a restaurant? How did you get started?

I traveled a lot when I was working in music and I would always come across these cool little burger joints in the cities where we toured. Seattle had some good burger spots but nothing like what I was seeing on the road. So in 2011, we created our first Lil’ Woody’s on Capitol Hill with a lens on music, clothing, community and collaborations. We really just wanted to create a place where we wanted to eat that also uplifted our friends and neighbors who were doing creative things.

In our 12th year of business, we now have four burger joints in Seattle: Capitol Hill, White Center, Ballard and T-Mobile Park.

We also have a couple of new spots opening up, one on Microsoft Campus and one at SeaTac Airport. 

We’re so grateful that people like what we do and that the creative collaborations keep coming.

The Arts Corps’ burger name is “Rise & Bloom”. How did artists and arts education play into your own rising and blooming as a youth?

Kate Becker. The Redmond Firehouse. I was a young alterna-teen and that’s where I went to All Ages shows, got inspired and realized I wanted to work in music and other creative projects. I started out working at Easy Street Records as a teenager where I worked for almost a decade. I also interned for Matt Vaughn during the Gruntruck years, and worked for his parents doing stuff for a Vancouver Industrial band called Econline Crush. 

Then I started promoting nights at local clubs (Yo Son) and showcasing a bunch of local hip hop shows, did a stint managing local bands (Band of Horses, Sera Cahoone), started a record label (Under the Needle), opened some nightclubs (War Room) – worked hard, met a ton of creative people, learned a lot.

How does creativity come into play in your work?

Mostly around finding new people with whom to do creative things and collaborating with other creatives. There are always at least two points of view, two ways of looking at how to accomplish the same goal, and the outcome is often really different than I might expect going into it. So I try not to go into collaborations with restrictions or expectations – I stay open-minded and ready for a better idea to emerge out of the process, something better than what either of us might come up with on our own.

Creativity also comes into play when problem-solving. If I can get a real grasp on the issue we’re trying to solve, there is always a way to resolve it that serves everyone involved. I’ve learned not to force things, to take a deep breath and some space, and let the solution come. That’s all an essential part of the creative process too and it’s also good business.

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Faculty Spotlight: Maryem Weini

Arabic script in pencil with the English translation below, "Stay Strong for Yourself"

You started as a student in Print 4 Life, the screen printing program that Arts Corps T.A. Greg Thorton leads. Can you tell us about your experience in the program and how it impacted you?

My name is Maryem Weini and when I was around the age of 16 years old, I was a bad kiddo. It was then that I first met Claire, who worked at the King County juvenile detention center. I was on probation when we first met, and she told my probation officer that she was trying to help young youth like me fix their lives and get off probation. Claire shared with my probation officer that her husband Greg [Thorton] was starting a program called Print 4 Life. I wasn’t trying to do any of that around that time, but I had to so I could get off probation. As I started Print 4 Life, I met Greg and he introduced me to screen printing. Honestly, I was so confused on what I was supposed to be doing.

Time changed and I started to get more and more engaged in screen printing. I felt so much LOVE, SUPPORT, and MOTIVATION. I can honestly say that if I had never had this opportunity to feel so much LOVE from somebody, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. During Print 4 Life, Greg and Claire showed and gave me SO MUCH!!! Print 4 Life impacted me by showing me a different path in life. I’ve grown so much and my art has also improved a lot. I LOVE making shirts now. Screen printing was an amazing experience which I needed in my life.

Now you’re a classroom assistant! What made you decide to take on this role and come back to a classroom?

I LOVE KIDS!!! Having this AMAZING spot in life where I get to call myself Miss Maryem, an after school visual arts teacher’s assistant, makes me get out of bed everyday to come see all these natural born artists. Coming back into a classroom is different now because I’m the teacher’s assistant, getting everything set up and ready to go. It’s great just sitting next to all the artists, and viewing their work makes me feel strong everyday because I’m sharing the strength with them.

What have been some challenges that you’ve faced as a faculty? What have been some rewarding moments? What is something you’re excited for?

To be honest, I haven’t really faced any challenges while working as a faculty member that I haven’t been able to overcome. One of my most rewarding moments is staying with Art Corps, from being introduced when I was a bad kiddo at the age of 16 to this strong motivated woman who’s 22 years old- it’s been a strong 7 years. What I’m most excited for is to actually become a visual arts teacher, not just the teacher’s assistant – not that I mind being an assistant, because this is giving me the foundation to actually become that teacher.

Arts Corps is kicking off a fundraising season we’re calling “Rise & Bloom.” It’s taking the place of a single annual gala that we called “Festa.”  What does the theme mean to you?

Rising up everyday to face challenges daily. While facing challenges in life – both now and later – people can carry motivation, success and ambition in a little or big way which will help them keep striving to become that flowery bloom.

How can we nurture young people so that they can RISE & BLOOM as their true self? What role do you think art education has in this nurturing?

By encouraging their young hearts, minds and acknowledging their success small and big. Arts nurturing their young minds gives them an avenue for self experience.

What are some of your own creative practices and current projects? How can people support you?

I love coloring, drawing and working on puzzles. A current project I’m working on is my second lesson plan for one of my visual art classes where I’m getting mentored by Greg. Also people can keep supporting me by just being great!!!!!!

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Staff Spotlight: Eris Eaton

Eris, you’ve been part of the Arts Corps community for a while in various ways! Tell us about your journey with the organization and what it was that made you come back?

Finding Arts Corps was a bit of a journey in and of itself. At the time, I was getting my degree in Positive Youth Development at Highline College. I wasn’t in the degree with the goal of starting non-profit work. The larger goal was to get my Master’s in library science, but I felt the degree was relevant and interesting, so I went for it. I was also 19 at the time, which was wild, being a youth and studying about… well, myself. The more I learned, the more I became invested and passionate about community work. 

In the second half of the program, you have to find a place to intern. They just kind of unleash you and say, “Reach out!! Do your best!!” I was so nervous and lost, I just started looking for places that focused on art and music, since those are things I personally enjoy. When I reached out to Arts Corps, they immediately responded with such interest and enthusiasm. I tend to believe I’m imposing on people a lot, but from the beginning, the folks at Arts Corps saw things in me that I had never thought of as valuable and that continues to be a big reason I keep coming back.

I learned one of my biggest life lessons during my time as an Arts Corps intern. When you’re young, there’s a lot of mystique around working, especially around being a “professional.” It’s like being an “adult,” you don’t really know what to expect, but there’s a lot of grandeur spun around it while growing up. What coming into Arts Corps taught me is that the world is just made up of a bunch of people trying their best to get stuff done. Whether you’re a CEO or in customer service, it’s not really any different. There’s no secret code or revelation; we’re all just people doing our best. 

When it came to staying on as a classroom assistant and teaching artist, or coming back to be a program manager, my reasons were always the same. Regardless of what I was learning about myself, what I wanted, or who I wanted to be, Arts Corps had my back. The folks here have always been there for me, cheering me on, and believing in me more than I believe in myself. And hey, they do awesome work. They’re giving something to the world that it really needs: A place to do art and feel loved. Not just to the youth, but to the staff, too. Every day when I come home, I find myself thinking “Wow, I’m so very blessed that my life led me to Arts Corps.”

How did your experiences at Arts Corps prepare you professionally? How did they connect to your journey outside the organization?

Being at Arts Corps taught me a lot about what work is involved in running a non-profit. But, honestly, I think the best thing it did was give me standards! Standards on how to treat each other, on how to uplift those we work with and for, and what it really means to be an “equitable” and “anti-racist” organization. The short time I was gone, I started to see very quickly that not everyone sees the world like Arts Corps does. I was taught here that honesty, bravery, accountability, love, and the desire to grow are the true pillars to being a “professional.” Outside of Arts Corps, I ran into a lot of places that seemed to believe being professional means keeping your head down and your heart closed. People think those systems exist for safety and comfort, but all it’s keeping safe is the system of power itself. Arts Corps taught me that being an “artist” (which is really just being “human”) is all about challenging those systems of power. 

What is something you are looking forward to in your new role as Program Manager?

I just really enjoy the logistics of it all. Someone reminded me we needed to figure out food for a class, and I immediately got excited to plan it. Making connections, providing folks with information, keeping everything together with duct tape and staples if you have to it’s all so satisfying when you know what you’re doing. I’m looking forward to learning more and more so I can confidently claim I know what I’m doing! Then I’ll be able to reach that most satisfying place, where even if I have 10 different projects to juggle, I know exactly what’s happening in each one, and can leap right into whatever needs to happen next.

Everyday though, I’m just excited to help people. As a kid, whenever I came up with a new answer to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my parent’s follow-up was always “How does that help people?” It was drilled into me that what you do to make money should always help people somehow. So, unless I’m being of service to someone, I don’t really feel that I’m working at all. In that way, I’m looking forward to becoming more capable, so that everyone around me can think: “Whenever I need help, I know I can rely on Eris to be there for me.”

What are some of your personal creative practices? What do you like about them?

I like to enjoy a lot of different art forms! I draw, write, dance, video edit, and I recently began my journey in cosplay, which involves a lot of types of sewing and fabricating. I’ll be learning to craft armor with foam this year, for example. There’s little I feel I’ve mastered, but that’s alright, since art is about expression and enjoyment rather than perfection. I can be satisfied with things like sewing and video editing as long as I get to see my artistic vision become tangible. Then I can say I’ve learned something new.

The one thing I try to “perfect” is singing! Music has been in my life as early as I can remember, whether played by friends and family or just on the radio in the car, and singing has always been a part of that. You don’t need any special tools to do it, you just need to raise your voice and go for it! It’s something that’s incorporated throughout the day for me. It could be singing in the car, or while cleaning, or in the grocery store, or anywhere really. Breathing, being loud, and letting the world hear you, there’s nothing else really like it. Singing with others is also a really special experience, which I do mostly in the Level Up! Vocal Ensemble (LU!VE) which I help run in Seattle. These days I’m simply grabbing any performance opportunity I can find and have time for, so I can keep sharing that love for music with other people.

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community?

The main opportunity I’m thinking about these days is the potential to integrate nonprofits in with our local library systems more. Local libraries are nuclei of community, but I haven’t heard of any non-profit so far consistently partnering with them. I’d really like to see organizations turn to librarians to discuss how we can connect and deliver what our community members need. If more of us can walk hand-in-hand when it comes to programming, our net of supporters will become tighter-knit, and more and more people will be served and uplifted.

I find I can’t really speak on challenges, though. A challenge is just another thing to get done, right? I mean, sure, I could write a paragraph here about the fact arts education still isn’t properly funded, the need to restructure the education system to improve the lives of both teachers and students, the effect on youth of growing up in a world where privacy doesn’t exist, or the rise of puritan politics, but what would be changed by that? 

I simply choose to believe in my heart that there is a world where everyone has the opportunity and time to enjoy art. One where everyone loves each other and grows closer because of it. Where everyone values each other and what we have to say. If I work a little harder, and talk to more people, and spread the word, that world is going to exist, it’ll get a little closer. Will there be challenges? Probably. When those eventual challenges appear, we’ll just roll up our sleeves and climb over it. And then one day, on the other side of those walls, that world will become real.

It’s a new year! As we move into 2023, what are some things that you are holding onto or reaching toward?

Last year, my goal was to do everything!! I wanted to push myself to try things I’d never done before, take risks, and never say no. I grew a lot and found a lot of awesome opportunities. I definitely don’t want to let go of that mindset. At the same time, trying to manage everything is exhausting. So I’m learning, now that I’ve piled on so much, how to carefully set some things aside. In 2023, I want to keep up on pushing myself, but also to focus on learning how to pace myself for the many more years of exploration to come.

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Arts Corps Announces its Co-Executive Directors

We are beyond enthusiastic to welcome Naho Shioya and Shawn Roberts as Arts Corps’ Co-Executive Directors, both of whom started in January 2023. This exciting new leadership follows the organization’s decision to create an executive staff structure that better represents our practice and values of shared leadership and collaboration. 

Shawn Roberts will be our Co ED of Education and Advocacy. Shawn has been serving the Seattle community through dance, arts, writing, and personal development programs for the past 25 years. In that time, she has built and directed exceptional programs including the School of Spectrum Dance Theater and STG’s AileyCamp and Dance for Parkinson’s. We are impressed by Shawn’s passion, experience, and knowledge. We have heard from teaching artists and parents of youth that she is a steadfast and inspiring leader. Shawn’s work in the community demonstrates both commitment and love for arts education that has a lasting impact on the lives of participants.
 
Naho Shioya was our Interim ED starting in September 2022 and will now be our Co-ED of Development and Operations. Naho is a theatre artist, educator, and racial equity consultant, who brings a wealth of experience in teaching artistry, strategic planning, and equity work in Seattle, including Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, YWCA, and Associated Recreation Council. In her interim, Naho was already asking important questions that demonstrate true care and concern for our work at Arts Corps. We are moved by Naho’s work on the Ethnic Studies/Theater of the Oppressed program and the ROOTS Culturally Relevant Antiracist Arts Education Framework with Seattle Public Schools as they are close to the heartwork of Arts Corps. 
 
Naho and Shawn come to us with incredible programmatic and development experience. They have both spent their careers cultivating arts education environments that expand access to the arts. We know they will collaborate with one another, our teams, and our partners to further Arts Corps’ mission. We know they will take on challenges with enthusiasm, grace, and determination. We know they will inspire us with brilliance and creativity. 

What is something you are looking forward to about joining Arts Corps?
 
Shawn: I’m excited to be working with Naho and spending time with and getting to know the Arts Corps staff. I look forward to experiencing the beautiful work being done with our partnering schools and students. 
 
Naho: I am looking forward to working with Shawn and continuing to get to know the amazing Arts Corps staff and their work in schools and our communities.
 
What are you reading, listening to, watching right now that is bringing you joy?
 
Shawn: Now that I’ve completed my Master’s, I’m enjoying reading books that are not part of a syllabus, but of my choosing. With this, right now I’m reading “My Grandmother’s Hands,” by Resmaa Menakem. In terms of what I’m watching, I love watching movies, the latest being “Ticket to Paradise” and “Wakanda Forever.” Music has always been a big part of my life. India Arie, Nas, Miles Davis, Raphael Saadiq, Jill Scott and many other artist’s work fills our home.
 
Naho: I’m not much of a TV person but am patiently waiting for Season 3 of “Reservation Dogs.” I’m also binge-watching Marvel movies with my 12-year-old. (It’s actually part of my assignment for the doctorate program I am currently in.) Since we have a musician/percussionist in our family, we listen to a variety of world music and are surrounded by musical instruments (that means anything that will make sounds from a percussionist’s viewpoint) 😊
 
Thank you to the Executive Search Committee — a team of teaching artists, board members, and office staff — for their hard work in hiring Naho and Shawn. 

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Q&A: The Importance of Arts Education in Schools

A pencil drawing of a woman with curly hair and freckles surrounded by stars. Around her, "My Universe Revolves Around Change"

Sylvester Middle School, located in Burien, Washington, is in its fourth year partnering with us and chose to allocate a substantial portion of its budget to Arts Corps programming. In the following conversation, interim principal Chad Kodama and classroom teacher Tatiana Hahn reflect on the impact of arts integration in education and youth development at their school.

Arts Corps: Tell us a little about Sylvester more broadly, for those who may not be familiar.

Chad Kodama: Sylvester is a part of the Highline School District and we’re a 6th through 8th grade middle school. There’s a portion of students on free and reduced lunch plans and we’re also pretty diverse comparatively, serving around 50% white students and 50% students of color, the largest groups represented are from Latino and/or Hispanic, Black, and Pacific Islander communities.

Arts Corps: What were your impressions of the arts in school prior to the Arts Corps partnership?

Tatiana Hahn: I just celebrated my one year anniversary here last week, and before that, it was really limited. We only have the one art class and we have some art clubs and after school groups, but there are many, many, many kiddos here that have a lot of artistic ability — a lot of drawing, a lot creativity, stuff like that — and there just aren’t a lot of outlets for that kind of thing. Kelly, another teacher across the hall, was telling me about Arts Corps curriculum when I first got here and she was like, ‘Just wait until [Arts Corps] gets here, it’ll be a blast.’ That’s how I first found out about your work. Kelly got me all jazzed because she’d had such a positive experience every time.

Arts Corps: Sylvester Middle School recently designated $6,000 to Arts Corps programming. Why?

CK: Right, so I’m the custodian of public funds, meaning that I decide what to prioritize based on both community and staff input. Having worked with Arts Corps in the past, we saw the immense impact that it had on our core content areas. It was very important for us to keep the program up and running and to expand it beyond just one grade level, so now we’re doing three grade levels! Our teachers love it and our students engage with the lessons in a way that they might not otherwise in a more traditional setting. It’s really about making sure every child has something, an activity or interest, that they can connect with at school.

TH: You all just do amazing work with our kids. After I sat in on a lesson, I was like, ‘OK, I understand why kids love this and I understand why classroom teachers are totally willing to give up their teaching time to have Arts Corps come in. It’s a lot of time, but it’s worth every minute.

Arts Corps: Can you take us through what it’s like to sit in on an Arts Corps class?

TH: We spoke with teaching artist Meredith beforehand and then when her and Brian came in, they just had such beautiful control of the class in a way that honestly surprised me. They created this wonderful energy that the kids immediately picked up on, one of discipline and real respect. Even students who usually have problems in class were able to be quiet and positive just so they could participate, which you know, they’re not always able to do.

Arts Corps: What is the value of integrating the arts in with other academic subjects?

CK: Kids learn in so many different ways and so we educators need to make sure to offer multiple avenues to authentically connect with subject matter. When we started partnering with Arts Corps, there were so many robust, culturally responsive options for students to find their entry point into lessons. That is hugely important.

TH: The arts make learning more fun, engaging, interactive, and really accessible. I have many students who won’t say they’re mathmeticians or good readers, but they will say that they’re artists. That’s so awesome, right? A lot of them are willing to take that title of ‘artist’ on and really own it. That pride is beautiful to see in a 12-year-old student. With other subjects, there’s this perception that you have to be an expert or be really comfortable with it to succeed. With art, students get to create something that’s all themselves. No judgement, nothing quantifiable or measurable, just pure creative expression.

This article originally appeared in the Arts Corps 2022 Annual Report.

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Reimagining Teen Programs: Art 4 Life

Arts Corps stepped into our future in 2022 when we launched our revamped teen arts program, Art 4 Life. This program offers youth 13-18 years old paid creative internship opportunities. This summer, Art 4 Life Digital: Art on the Web, was held virtually on Zoom and Art 4 Life Analog: Sustaining Expression, was hosted by Yes Farm, a Black Farmers Collective in Seattle. Teaching artist Meredith Arena got a chance to observe both cohorts:

When I visit the Art 4 Life Analog at Yes Farm, youth participants are scattered around the bountiful garden sketching. They circle up under the biggest tree to reflect on the activity and then buzz around, eager to see one another’s drawings before moving into the greenhouse to continue designs on some garden boxes. Art 4 Life curriculum was designed to replicate working on commission, so Yes Farm tasked them with creating a mural and designing garden boxes as a part of their learning process. The boxes are low to the ground, so most sit or lie down to paint. They collaborate, studying their sketches and planning how to bring them to life.

Hassiel, a youth who wears sunglasses and headphones, paints a strawberry with sunglasses and headphones while his fellow group members paint green vines all the way around the box. Another group paints PRIDE radishes, each radish the colors of a different pride flag. They create endless new color blends –– oranges, purples, a snappy mint green, bubblegum, and fuchsia to name a few. I watch another group split their paint roller into two tones of blue and apply a sky to their box. When the blue dries, they fill the space with sunflowers and butterflies.

Youth creativity is thriving here, saturated in the greens and yellows of the garden, dappled with long awaited sunlight. They break for a hot organic meal, which includes food from the garden made by Chef Steph, a local chef who regularly cooks for the farm. In 2021, teen programming at Arts Corps was at a crossroads. The organization needed to choose between revamping the offerings for teens or turning fully to K-8 programming. Co-Director of Arts Education, Olisa Enrico, describes the process of creating Art 4 Life, named after teaching artist Greg Thornton’s Print 4 Life, a longtime Arts Corps program. “When we stepped back to reassess, we still wanted to work with teens.” Teens are crucial to what Olisa calls the “spectrum of youth development” and she wanted to design a program that was relevant to teen lives and desires.

Olisa and other staff combed through years of student surveys, held focus groups with past and current students, and spoke with younger teaching artists who had participated as youth in Arts Corps’ previous teen programs. What would they create if they had to reinvent teen programs? The idea that emerged is now central to the Art 4 Life ethos: “You can utilize your passion for art, for success in your life. You can use your creativity toward an outcome.” They defined four main areas “like the branches of a tree,” Olisa explains. “Connecting to community, career connected learning, social justice awareness, and creative practice.”

The youth at the farm tell me they joined this program to gain and practice art skills and to get to know other young people. They seem completely relaxed at Yes Farm, moving about with their paintbrushes and sketchbooks in hand, serving themselves cold hibiscus iced tea. I watch them experiment, share ideas, ask questions, and work attentively on the task at hand. Their teaching artists Greg and Vega, along with classroom assistant ZAG, are available with suggestions and support.

Today is the fourth day of a 2-week camp and I can feel the care and commitment that teaching artists and Yes Farm have crafted for youth. Everyone belongs here in a magic that feels distinct from our everyday lives in Seattle. At the western edge of the farm, amaranth plants sway over a busy I-5, cranes and construction frame the eastern edge of the farm, where a condominium is literally being built around the young people as they Make Art Anyway.

Later, when I visit Art 4 Life Digital camp, teaching artist Sorel shares work made by Gran Fury, the propaganda artist collective of the AIDS activist organization ACT UP. Youth discuss the importance of that design work within the context of activism and the AIDS movement. They look at current activist posters too, analyzing the use of color and the effectiveness of design choices. Today is a heat wave, but all students are present at their computers for camp.

Students in Art 4 Life Digital are learning Procreate, Adobe Fresco, and Vectornator. These three apps enable Continued on next page them to design and draw digitally. They are working on Arts Corps-provided iPads with stylus pens. “I draw to show myself. I draw to heal myself,” writes student Ekram in an artist statement. Another youth, Sally, writes: “The world we live in is big and beautiful and should be shared with everyone.”

The posters students design that day showcase Arts 4 Life’s knack for teaching the totality of social justice awareness, from identity outward to environmental and political issues. They read: “Mental Health Matters,” “Proud to Be a Pacific Islander,” “Don’t Hide Your Identity,” “Wear Your Culture with Pride,” and “Beautiful World: Getting Crowded.”

Art 4 Life initially had its test run during Spring Break 2022, when four cohorts (two middle school and two high school) participated in week-long online intensives in digital art. The idea was to integrate career connected learning, which can translate to school credit, résumé building, networking, professional panels, entrepreneurship, financial workshops, and an opportunity to earn money from making artwork. Students sold their artwork through Red Bubble on stickers, tote bags and other marketable items. Similarly, Art 4 Life Analog participants this past summer designed for a specific client, learning how to actualize a vision from a sketch to painting murals.

In the chat, students tell me that they love the daily prompts, the wellness check-ins, and the opportunity to try new things and be creative every day, demonstrating how both the skills and lifestyle required to build an arts practice is woven into the Art 4 Life experience.

I speak with Hayden, a senior at Decatur High School, and Tyon, a junior at Kentwood High School, who took both the spring and summer Art 4 Life. Hayden tells me, “I joined Arts Corps for the spring and summer internships because I like learning new things about art and the process of being an artist.” Tyon adds, “Summer is 10 times better because there is more time.” He likes that the class is doing something new every day and learning more skills. Before Art 4 Life, Tyon didn’t know anything about Procreate, a digital illustration app, but now sings its praises. He jokes that Vectornator, a complex professional graphic design software, made him cry, but that he still appreciates learning it.

When asked what they would take away, Tyon says he is leaving with a better idea of how to maintain a daily creative routine and discipline with art making. It brought structure to his days this past summer. “If I weren’t doing this, I wouldn’t be doing anything,” he says.

Accessibility, availability, and relevance are cornerstones of Art 4 Life. The programs are free and the online option means that youth who don’t have access to transportation or live far from where Arts Corps programming normally takes place in South King County can participate. The need is clearly there. Arts Corps received 560 applications for a mere 60 spots last spring.

Arts Corps Program Manager Cecelia DeLeon says that the success of the program is attributed to its relevance to youth needs: a hearty stipend for participation and “loving, caring” teaching artists who “are aware and know how to ask questions” of the youth. You will not find another program like Art 4 Life in the region right now and Cecelia imagines how popular the program would be if it were available statewide.

Bold imagination –– something the entire team at Arts Corps has engaged with this year. Utilizing our collective experiences in youth development and arts education, we are responding to the ever-changinvg realities of the youth we serve. It is this imagining, listening, and care that will continue to nurture the development of Art 4 Life and all our programs.

We are now challenged to think creatively, just like our young people. The murals students created for Yes Farm depict landscapes with music notes, fiery sunsets, linked hands, and flowers. They are abundant, fertile, life affirming, and they implore us to imagine a future that is big and beautiful.

This article originally appeared in the Arts Corps 2022 Annual Report.

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Alum Spotlight: Xandra Yugto

Arts Corps alum Xandra Yugto sits in a pink dress.

What Arts Corps program were you involved in? What impact did the experience have on you?

I was involved in the Arts Liberation & Leadership Institute (ALLI). Being part of the ALLI cohort felt very freeing. I was able to express myself and I had the tools and guidance to do so. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. The teaching artist, Adam Jabari, taught different photo techniques and challenged us to tell stories with intention. Additionally, I was part of a partnership Arts Corps had with Teaching Artists Guild that involved developing and facilitating virtual professional development for teaching artists. It gave me a space to teach about my passion for filmmaking and it’s how I started to pursue this passion. I even got to meet an actress who was watching the presentation that worked for one of my favorite directors — the very director that inspired me to take a chance with filmmaking — Alice Wu. Her film, “The Half of It,” is what inspired me to take a leap towards the film industry. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Arts Corps?

My favorite memory from my time at Arts Corps was presenting my photos from the ALLI internship at the virtual showcase. I started out by introducing the whole showcase, and my heart was pounding. But I wanted to embrace this feeling and it made me realize how much I love to chase things that challenge me. When it was my turn to talk about my photos, it felt natural and it brought me joy to express the thinking behind my creative process. One notable photo I took is called, “Drowning w/ Flames.” I remember when my teaching artist Adam reacted to my photo and said, “Well done.” It is a photo that I am proud of, especially since it was chosen to be on one of the posters promoting the showcase.

You’ve continued your journey as an artist since being an Arts Corps student. What have been some challenges, moments of growth, and opportunities for exploration you’ve been able to encounter?

In 2020, I achieved my dream job of becoming a Production Assistant for the second season of the popular teen show, Hetero. It was a miniseries about queer teens trying to save their schools GSA. One week before filming started, the show was canceled. I was crushed, but since then, I am so thankful to say that I have had many more opportunities to learn and grow.

In 2021, I became a part of the Digital Production Lab at the Vera Project. This internship was dedicated to giving mostly BIPOC & LGBTQ+ youth artists the ability to be trained by industry professionals in the filmmaking and music community. In this program, I wrote, sang, and recorded a song called, “Two Girls in Love,” that was meant to give representation to the LGBTQ+ community, from my experience as a young queer person. In addition to that, I created a short film that looks into the struggle of feeling like I have to be the model minority as an Asian American and the struggle of accepting my own identity as a queer person.

My most recent internship was with Youth in Focus and I was part of the Creative Career Cohort. In this program we learned about uplifting our own voices and telling our own stories. I created a self-portrait named, “my garden” that highlighted my Filipino culture through a necklace and embraced different aspects of my identity. This program was dedicated to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, so I learned so much just from interacting with the other interns in my cohort. Additionally, we were given a curriculum from BIPOC teaching artists and it was inspirational to learn from people with similar experiences to my own. 

Lastly, I have been working for Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts since May 2022. It is the only nonprofit pole studio in the region and the goal is to empower a diverse community through a safe artistic place. The energy and mission of the studio is what brought me to work there. I am part of the front desk team and I am in charge of social media. In our social media, I strive to post pictures of a wide variety of people and I create graphics that help bring awareness to what we do. We have programs for scholarships to help low-income prospective students take classes at our dance studio and we have community classes that are on a pay-what-you-can basis. This gives a wider variety of people the opportunity to engage in pole and aerial fitness and to build confidence.

I am dedicated to supporting and being a part of organizations that give BIPOC and LGBTQ+ youth like myself a voice. I have learned tons from these experiences, as I continue my art journey. 

Recently, you’ve been producing and working as cinematographer for “The Astute Observations of Samuel J.R. Wellington.” Tell us about it! What has the project been like?

I have spent over 70+ hours putting my passion into this project. There are so many twists and turns to a production that I would not have expected. It’s difficult to manage and communicate with a variety of people to get things done, but we just wrapped our final shoot and I couldn’t be more proud of my team. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. The project included interviewing people for our crew, watching auditions, getting gear, securing locations, and more. We are on to post production work, and we accomplished so much filming, huge learning lessons, understanding what we can fix, and the things that we can’t fix. I got to work with my good friend Ruby Lee who I had met in 2021 in an internship with the Vera Project. The last thing I told her when the internship ended was that I hoped we would work together some day and we did! It feels amazing to be part of something that I put my all into and to know that one day, in the near future, we will watch the finished product. 

Besides the film, what is something you are currently excited about?

Currently, I am working on a podcast at TeenTix. It is a medium that I haven’t explored before, so I am extremely excited to see the endless possibilities. Additionally, I would like to explore what it takes to be a pole instructor and I plan to find an apprenticeship program that will allow me to learn more. Another part of my pole dance future is my goal to be a part of a competition. I am excited to train as best as I can and build strength and eventually compete someday! Lastly, I am excited to go to college to study filmmaking. College has been something so terrifying for me, yet it is also something that motivates me to learn more. Since I am passionate about filmmaking, I believe that going to film school will be very beneficial and will bring me a lot of happy experiences.

How can people support your work?

People can support my work by checking out my website, booking me for photography & video work, following me on my socials, and donating to my Paypal to help me fund new projects and go to college! Please reach out to me anytime! I love to hear words of wisdom and support. 

Website with short films & art I have created: xandrayugto.com

Socials & Paypal: @xandrayugto 

Is there any other project or anything else you would like to share?

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to share my work. I never thought I would be here and it makes me super emotional to think that I was even asked to be spotlighted for this. Thank you so much to everyone who reads this through and for the opportunities brought to me. I am infinitely grateful.

Thank you for sharing your many talents with us, Xandra. We’re eagerly awaiting your next moves! Check out her photography work below:

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Faculty Spotlight: Divya Rajan

Teaching Artist Divya stands in front of a plain background with side lighting. She wears a red top and gold earrings.

This month, Arts Corps wants to celebrate teaching artist, Divya Rajan, and everything she has been doing in and out of the classroom!

As the world re-emerges from the pandemic’s lockdown, our faculty have been busy at work not only creating spaces for our youth to express themselves in, but also creating their own art.

As an Arts Corps teaching artist, Divya is currently working with our programs Best Start for Kids, Out of School Time, and Creative Schools, engaging students of all ages in theatre and storytelling. As a performer herself, Divya has been working in multiple projects. 

We’re grateful to Divya for sharing more about what she does and how she does it!

 

You were involved in various storytelling partnerships these past few months. Tell us them! What did you do? 

It all started with FESTA this year – that was my first performance for the year, as well as one in a very long time. 

“Lost and Found” happened soon after. Organized by the Indian Embassy Spouses Collective, this was an exhibition of personal objects and the stories behind them. My audio story of a broken comb that I have been holding close for fifteen years now was one of the featured exhibits.

7×7 by Griot Girlz and Finding Trails by Penguin Productions gave me the opportunity to create and collaborate on devised, immersive and site-specific pieces.

With Pratidhwani’s Two Minutes of Your Time themed Coming Home, I came home to the stage, lights and a full-house of live audience. And, I also shot for my first commercial this year.

What made you decide to become a teaching artist?

Call it accidental or call it serendipity, but that is really how I became a teaching artist. I taught my first class as a teaching artist in 2011. I took it up because it felt like a fun thing to be a storyteller to visit schools and play games with kids. However, what I saw, experienced, learned, and received from kids impacted me forever.

I didn’t quite have access to art education as a child. Art was always that “extra-curricular” activity. It was exotic for people to call me creative and artistic; and yet life always boiled down to how much I scored in Math and Science. I also grew up being told that all those who pursue arts and humanities are those who are incapable of pursuing important faculties i.e. science or math.

I wanted to pursue architecture as a child. I wanted to design spaces. When a child is passionate about something, as adults we have the choice to create an environment for this passion to flourish or for this passion to be destroyed. I was that child whose passion couldn’t flourish in the environment that I was in.

From starting off as an accidental teaching artist, today I am a teaching artist by choice because I want to do my small bit to create an environment for children’s passions to flourish. Being a teaching artist is the opportunity life has given me to be that person I wish I had in my life while growing up.

How do you approach a new project or a piece that you are creating? Do you have certain processes you like to undergo?

Devising is my thing. To put it in simple words, I like to intuitively start with multiple creative exercises and allow for narratives to emerge. Once there is something I have hit upon, I start to deliberate and build a frame-work around it.

At a deeper level my process is a lot about confronting my identity, asking questions that matter of myself, embracing my vulnerability and seeking my truth. I weave this into the formal trainings I have had in theatre and what I end up creating is an integrated piece of performance art.

What is your favorite part about creating your art?

Surprises! Every time I create art, it is about confronting my uncertainties. It is chaotic. But, when the work is done, it is extremely rewarding. And, I find myself emerging a little more resilient than before.

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community?

Knowledge thrives when it has an application. The various reputations that art has earned over the years, in my opinion is due to the gap between the art-form and its application. Art has existed for as long as humanity has. So, it is important for us as humans to embrace the artists within ourselves. Bridging this gap between art for the sake of art; and understanding its deeper purpose and impact is a big opportunity as well as responsibility I see as an artist. 

However, although many have trodden down this path, it continues to remain an arduous task. It is going to take unlearning several generations worth of colonized perspectives, oppressive systems of power, regressive mindsets for us to get there. And, arts as a field continues to remain under-funded.

There is work to be done, and we must keep doing what we are doing.

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I am in conversation with people about potential collaborations. Hopefully, will have something brewing soon 😊

Thank you for sharing your artistry with us, Divya. We can’t wait to see what you do next!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Brown

Volunteer Susan Brown atop of Table Mountain in South Africa, wearing a sunhat and smiling at the camera

This month, Arts Corps would like to recognize our long-time friend and volunteer, Susan Brown! 

From building art kits for students to providing admin support to prepping for Festa, our incredible volunteers gift their time in order to support our youth and make things happen. Susan has been volunteering with Arts Corps for around 7 years! Susan is an embroiderer, as well as a quilter and a sewer. She is a lifetime volunteer, supporting various organizations in our community. After the passing of her late husband 10 year ago, Susan became very active in our local Pancreatic Cancer affiliate and volunteers at Virginia Mason Hospital in various capacities.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Susan, to learn a little more about her Arts Corps experience!
 

What made you decide to volunteer at Arts Corps?  

A former Board President, Sara Lawson, was a friend with whom I had worked with in Alaska, thought I might be interested. Turned out I was. Arts Corps is a great place to volunteer, and I am always so very happy when you call with some project that needs a helping hand. Thank you for giving me the opportunity. 

Was arts education critical to your development as a young person?

Not art, I was very active in music, and a number of community organizations though. My interests have changed now, and my embroidery machine has become my new place where my art takes place, and I am learning to quilt, not as easy as it would seem I have discovered.

What is one of your favorite memories at Arts Corps?

Listening to the Drum Line at Festa. And just being around the talent in the room. It’s amazing.

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community? 

I think probably funding, always a problem, will continue to challenge, but will also certainly offer opportunities to get even more creative. I know that you are all so very dedicated and that you will continue to work to make it happen. 

Is there an artist or an art piece that has brought you healing or joy recently? 

My home is filled with art, most of it by people I know and it continues to give me joy. Also many photographs of my travels that make me smile. 

Thank you for all the time and support you provide Arts Corps, Susan!

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And so another school year begins…

For 22 years, Arts Corps has been immersed in the rhythms of the school year. The excitement and nervous energy of students and educators in the fall, the much-needed breaks peppered throughout winter and spring, and the limp to the finish line when teaching artists use every ounce of their creative energy and brilliance to keep students focused as summer approaches. These are the cadences that serve as our backdrop when engaging young people in programs that ignite imagination, joy, and well-being through art.

Thanks to ongoing support from our incredible partners and donors, we are embarking on another successful school year. From fall through summer, we’ll bring free arts programming to 2,500 youth across the region with the least access to arts education opportunities. We’ll deliver arts enrichment classes to 17 schools, parks and recreation, and low-income housing sites, collaborating with over 30 classroom teachers to integrate the arts into the school day and connecting 100+ teens to digital media arts and creative career opportunities. 

With all that lies ahead, let’s pause and reflect on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going. Arts Corps has evolved significantly over the last few years in the face of myriad challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, a historic recession, organizational tension, and leadership transition. There is much to celebrate and work yet to be done.  

The theme of our 2021 Annual Report was “Becoming Together,” which highlights our ongoing commitment to learning and growing together as an organization. In the face of uncertainty and change, we doubled down on our “staff care,” took time to slow down, reflect on our values, and learn from the past. We implemented practices designed to cultivate a community grounded in trust, equity, and a shared commitment to Arts Corps’ mission.

Our intentional work to cultivate an anti-racist organization grounded in trust and equity resulted in significant changes to our organizational policies and practices. Over the past two years we have:

  • Remained creative and resilient, providing free arts programming uninterrupted to over 2,400 students annually and have kept all staff and teaching artists employed. 
  • Collectively collaborated to discuss, write, and ratify a culture of equity and inclusion statement.  
  • Developed a transparent, tiered pay structure for all levels of Arts Corps staff.  
  • Explored compensation models to ensure we are leaders in teaching artist pay.  
  • Established a compensation policy that guarantees each employee earns a salary that meets or exceeds median salary for comparable positions in King County, and our highest paid staff member makes no more than 2x our lowest staff paid member.  
  • Added 2 board positions reserved for Arts Corps teaching artists. 
  • Decided to pursue a Co-Executive Director structure that more fully embraces our values of shared leadership and collaboration, aiming to reduce burnout in a single ED model.

In November 2020, Arts Corps’ Director of Development & Communications, Carrie Siahpush, stepped up as Arts Corps’ Acting Executive Director, leading our organization through this challenging time of thoughtful analysis, reflection, and change. Carrie’s time as Acting ED wrapped up on August 30 and our entire organization is so grateful for her many invaluable contributions to our community. Carrie carried the weight and stress of Arts Corps’ historic challenges with a strong constitution, humor, humility, strong leadership, and deep love for Arts Corps and especially the youth we engage. The changes Carrie helped usher in, combined with her deep tending to staff care and organizational culture, are truly a profound accomplishment and will leave a lasting impact. 

As Carrie’s tenure as Acting Director ends, we welcome Naho Shioya as Arts Corps’ Interim Executive Director. Naho describes herself as a mission-driven leader and a value focused professional in the field of education, arts and culture, and racial equity. She has immersed herself in identifying, developing, and implementing action plans to create racial equity and dismantle systemic racism in our community, ensuring success for all children and youth, especially in arts education. Naho will work to support the staff and faculty in the interim period while the next phase of the executive search commences. 

The next phase of our executive search will once again be led by a committee consisting of staff, board and teaching artists. This continues the intentional choice we made last fall to veer from the traditional way executive searches are done. Instead of a search led by our board of directors or an external firm, we decided to move forward with a search committee formed with equal representation from the board, staff, and teaching artists. After a season of developing a cohesive co-leadership model and conducting an internal search, the committee is now excited to announce a call for candidates outside of the organization. And we’re starting that call with you; our Arts Corps community.

We are now accepting applications for Co-Executive Directors. Spread the word!

As we start another school year, we at Arts Corps are excited to continue growing together and exploring the untapped possibilities that lie ahead in arts education. We’re committed to the ongoing work of providing equitable experiences in our classrooms and in our workplace, and we look forward to supporting young people in reaching new heights in their artistry, learning, and sense of belonging. 

We know this work does not happen in a vacuum, and we’re so thankful to our ecosystem of partners, donors, and community members who collaborate with us in support of youth creativity and educational equity. Without you, the work to cultivate joy and creativity is simply not possible. And there is so much of each in abundance! As one student said recently about their experience in an Arts Corps class during the school day, “We took time to do work, but that work was more fun than practically anything else in school.”

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Interim Director of Dev. & Communications
— ARTS CORPS EXECUTIVE SEARCH COMMITTEE

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Board Spotlight: Hilary Cherner

A woman poses with her black dog at on snowy mountain close to the peak.

 
Arts Corps is happy to introduce the newest member of our board, Hilary Cherner!

Hilary is a silo-buster, dot-connecter and philanthropy geek. She has spent the past 15 years shepherding philanthropic consulting firm, Arabella Advisors, from start-up to leader in the social sector. Hilary has a passion for effective giving and, in particular, deploying equitable practices, advocacy, and cross-sector partnerships to achieve greater good. She holds a BA in sociology from the University of Colorado and an MA in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit and public management from Indiana University. Hilary lives in West Seattle with her husband and rescue pup. When she is not working, you can find Hilary trying out new recipes in the kitchen, enjoying live music and adventuring around the PNW.

Hilary joined us late spring and has spent the past few months learning all things Arts Corps, so we wanted everyone to learn a little more about her as well. 

What made you decide to become a board member at Arts Corps?

I am inspired by the work AC does and, in particular, the ways in which it prioritizes equity across the organization. When I moved to West Seattle a couple of years ago, I wanted to find a local organization to get involved with to build a stronger connection with the community. When I first heard about AC (thanks Stone!) I immediately knew it was an organization I wanted to be involved with.

What is something you are looking forward to in your new role?

I am still getting to know the organization – the people, the programs and the impact. I really enjoyed attending Art & Sol and am looking forward to getting to participate in more in-person and virtual events and classes.

Was arts education critical to your development as a young person?

It was! I can’t say I have a lot of talent artistically but early exposure to the arts – in particular music, dance and drama provided me with an important outlet for escape, imagination & community…and they still do today!

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community?

Oof…the challenges are many. In a world of competing priorities, arts can often get short changed. This is why it is so important to have organizations like Arts Corps partnering with schools and communities to ensure programming is accessible for all. On the opportunity side, I think that one silver lining of the pandemic is the way in which the country saw arts in a new light. The arts gained a level or respect and recognition I haven’t seen in the past. I am hopeful we can ride that wave into the future.

Has there been an artist or piece of art which has had a positive impact in your life?

Live music has fueled my soul ever since my first concert in kindergarten (Thriller tour). Too many bands/musicians to name and so many genres included. I continue to explore and love to find new music to both carry me away and help make sense of life. I welcome your recommendations!

We’re excited to have you on board, Hilary!

— GRECIA LEAL PARDO, Development & Communications Coordinator

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Staff Spotlight: Patrick Kang, Programs Manager

 
Arts Corps is so excited to welcome our newest staff member, Patrick Kang!

Patrick is joining Arts Corps as Program Manager, working on our Art 4 Life and Interagency programming.

Patrick grew up in Southern California and holds degrees in English and American Studies. He comes to Arts Corps with a passion for programming, initiatives, and movements designed for young people, particularly those driven for and by the community. Previous work includes promoting educational equity and building power within local youth leaders. Informed by personal experiences – challenging fears on stage as a shy adolescent/young adult, forming bonds through arts & crafts events, and connecting with family history through studying performance – he has a deep appreciation for the capacity of the arts to promote community, reflection, creative expression, and healing. In his spare time, Patrick likes to swim, eat anything with chocolate in it, and learn new ideas and skills.

What is something you are looking forward to, working at Arts Corps?  

There’s honestly so much I am looking forward to! If I had to focus on just one element, I am really excited to participate in Arts Corps’ 20+ year praxis of social justice and youth empowerment through arts education. Even in the short amount of time since starting, I have already been witness to young people actively and collectively exploring visions of the self, community, and life through Arts Corps programming. Shout out to faculty members Arielle, Sorel, and Adam for letting me visit their Art 4 Life Digital Art Internship and for facilitating such a beautiful space for creativity, expression, and compassionate reciprocity.

In his first few week with us, we got to ask him some questions that let us know him a little bit better. 

Was arts education critical to your development as a young person?  

Absolutely! I was very fortunate to have multiple arts-based classes and after school programs growing up. This included music, studio arts, and, my personal favorite, stained glass. Although these opportunities were more focused on teaching techniques fairly rigidly, being able to even partake fostered my passion for the arts. Then in college (and beyond), I was able to step outside the confines of prescribed methods and allow that passion to become an exploration. My forays into new modalities, including digital arts and photography, were framed less as doing something “the traditional way” and more on growing, testing, trying, failing, practicing. The creative process was synonymous with creating community, building confidence, and reflecting.  

What opportunities and challenges do you see ahead for those of us who care deeply about art, young people, and community? 

This might be a typical answer, but I feel like issues surrounding equitable and inclusive access to the arts will persist. Cuts to arts programs continue to challenge the already limited resources and the tumultuous outlook for the future does not suggest an immediate resolution. At the same time, artists across disciplines have historically been able to adapt to vicissitudes and, in turn, set the stage for a critical re-evaluation of the contemporary social constitution. This pattern unfolded during the pandemic, where arts organizations like Arts Corps not only continued to provide arts access, but also created the conditions of possibilities for new rearrangements and imaginings of community. I have confidence this will continue to be the case, whatever challenges, headwinds, and obstacles may come to bear. 

Welcome to the Arts Corps fam, Patrick!

— GRECIA LEAL PARDO, Development & Communications Coordinator

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Sponsor Spotlight: Preston Singletary Studio

Preston Singletary in his studio.

Guests who’ve attended one of our annual Festa galas in past years are sure to have spotted the beautiful prints and glass pieces interpreting Tlingit cultural objects, mythologies, and concepts. These pieces, created by artist and long-time in-kind Arts Corps sponsor Preston Singletary, use a combination of glassblowing and lost wax casting to render totem poles.
 
When asked what motivates him to donate to Arts Corps, he replied: “Arts Corps can help inspire artists through highlighting possibilities. We all have stories of what draws us to make art, and artists sharing their stories can inspire something in individuals to endeavor to create art and share their perspectives.”
 
Singletary himself is an example of this truth. Having grown up in Seattle among glassblowers, he started with production glassblowing in 1982 before studying at the Pilchuck Glass School. There, he learned how artists work with the material and eventually developed the technique and style he uses today.

“The thing I love about my work is that it connects me to a deeper part of my ethnic background.”
 
This connection is evident. Through his many years as an artist, Singletary gained widespread notoriety, something he attributes to the personal dimensions of his pieces, the hard work required to create them, a commitment to learning and practice, and finally, to finding mentors to help along the way. 10,000 hours to master your craft or medium is very real, he explained.
 
As his following grew, Singletary gained the opportunity to travel and interact with different cultures, Indigenous and otherwise. “This process connects me to an older kind of thought process which I like to think of as genetic memories. The more I interact with these cultures, it informs new directions as I continue to develop my work”

Singletary’s journey is unique in that he came to his art form through practical experience, which he believes would be difficult to replicate today. However, he believes that opportunities are always there for people with a passion for art, youth, and community to carve out paths of their own. 

“Everyone comes from somewhere and has a story. That story is unique to each person, it sometimes just needs to be found. Once you find that story, you need the passion and intense focus to develop it.”
 
We’d like to express sincere thanks to Preston Singletary Studio for its ongoing support of Arts Corps and our work in helping young people find and express their own authentic narratives.
 
In his last words to us, Singletary said, “As I see it, we all have a story and that is where the most honest and genuine expression comes from. So go make art!”
 
We couldn’t agree more. 

— GRECIA LEAL PARDO, Development & Communications Coordinator

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Sponsor Spotlight: Hoxie Huggins Construction

Two men smiling lean against a wooden counter with a sign reading "Hoxie Huggins Construction"
Chris Huggins and Rob Hoxie, founders of Hoxie Huggins Construction.

At Arts Corps, it is a deeply held belief that together we can do better.

This is one value shared by our longtime sponsor, Hoxie Huggins Construction. A premier builder of unique, custom architectural homes in the region, Hoxie Huggins creates their best work by collaborating with talented designers, fabricators, engineers, makers and craftspeople in the area and beyond.
 
Every team of collaborators is tailored to the need of the owner and the design priorities. This is because each individual project represents individual set of needs and challenges which require unique approaches. Such work prompts those involved to think and excel in new and different ways every time.
 
Chris Huggins, one of the company’s founders, shared with me how this creates a need for “creative, engaged, empowered and enthusiastic folks,” a clear connection he sees between his company and Arts Corps.

“At times the work seems technical and systematic, but the success is not always due to a masterly of a trade, but the way in which teams can work together in a collaborative and mutually successful way. We feel like we can always teach the technical, but we depend on a baseline level of creative and critical thinking – which Arts Corps clearly is helping to build in our community.”
 
The recognition of the importance of these skills originates from the founders’ own arts educations. Both Rob Hoxie and Chris hold fine arts degree and have a first-hand understanding that there is no clear linear path to career success. Chris described his own arts education as critical to his development as a young person. Born into a family of artists and makers, Chris feels fortunate to have had their lessons and a creative community available to him since an early age.

“The broad range of experiences, successes and failures all helped build a critical way of looking at things and being creative and open-minded and then empowered to confidently find a means to any end.”
 
Hoxie Huggins is aware that not every student has access to the resources which make these types of experiences possible, and that schools face continuous challenges for providing arts education in underserved communities. Moved to do their part in addressing these social and economic challenges, Hoxie Huggins takes the same approach as with the design and construction of the homes they build, which invests in collaboration and processes responsive to the needs of those they serve.

Through their partnership, Hoxie Huggins supports Arts Corps in working towards a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist.
 
“We feel fortunate that we are able to share and know that what we do share is having and meaningful impact in the lives of youth,” Chris tells. “We know that Arts Corps understands how important and powerful creative empowerment can be in building a foundation for youth to stand proud and prosper.”
 
Thank you, Hoxie Huggins, for doing better, together with us!

— GRECIA LEAL PARDO, Development & Communications Coordinator

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Gratitude to the Arts Corps Community


 
Against all odds, I’m starting 2022 with a full heart and a strong dose of inspiration and hope. And it’s thanks to Arts Corps donors. 

Our supporters gave $118,317 in donations to support youth arts education through our year-end campaign- far exceeding our original goal of $50,000! This level of generosity gives us greater ability to take risks in service of our mission of revolutionizing arts education; it serves as another reminder that when we trust in the abundance of our community and place our hope in generosity, we’ll be ok. More than ok. Because our young people have space and support to be their full creative, beautiful selves.

As 2021 drew to a close, I felt hope and optimism eluding me like never before. With dear friends fighting cancer, family members struggling with other health challenges, Omicron spreading like wildfire, and ongoing systemic issues taking their toll on our collective bodies and minds, the end of the year left me heartbroken and exhausted and with a sense that the future was bleak.

So, when I drove to the office last weekend to check our mail and review year-end gifts, I wasn’t looking for hope. I wasn’t looking for inspiration, yet that’s exactly what I found.

As I opened the envelopes one by one, the names of Arts Corps donors started thawing the cold, constricted edges of my heart. Many of the individuals who sent checks have given loyally for years. I recognized their names. Pictured their faces. I felt a profound sense of gratitude. In these difficult times, so many people had dedicated time and energy to mailing a check or giving online. There was $21,100 in year-end gifts in that pile of mail alone.

As I continued reviewing our year-end gifts, I was also struck by the fact that many of the individuals who contributed to the campaign had already given throughout the year. And I don’t just mean financially. One donor chose to give a financial gift after already dedicating hours and hours of her time assembling free art kits for students and families as a part of our COVID-19 Art Kit program. Such generosity of spirit!

We also had many new donors, giving gifts of all sizes. Gifts were in the range of $10 to $50,000. What wonderful diversity of community coming together in support of youth creativity and educational equity!

As I begin 2022, I’m so grateful to the Arts Corps community, and especially our donors.  You  lifted my spirits and reminded me of the hope that lies in generosity and the sacredness of giving and receiving. With your gifts, you’ve brought us closer to our vision of a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond.

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Development Manager

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A message from Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam 🎸

 

I’ve been a proud supporter of Arts Corps since it was founded in 2000. To deepen my commitment to its teaching artists and youth, I recently joined its board of directors. I’m excited to invest my time and resources into a community that helps young people connect with art and with each other.

As a 16-year-old, I stumbled into a connection to art without realizing it. A door opened when I was exposed to the garage rock, punk rock, and outsider music of the ’80s. With no obvious ‘rules,’ I felt like music was something I could do. The confidence and excitement of finding my tribe and identifying a creative outlet was thrilling for me and for all of us playing together in the Seattle scene, showing up to each other’s shows and rooting for each other’s ships to sail.

The success of Seattle’s music’s community will always be because of our shared art and vision. And that is one of the biggest things I love about Arts Corps. Arts Corps is about building community, support, and encouragement to say — sing, dance, draw — from perspectives that feel right to you, find your voice, tribe, find folks that you can make mistakes in front of… that might love your mistakes. An individual doubles or even triples their personal power when they collaborate and play with others, as a musician or as a person in life.

All young people deserve access to art as a core part of their education.

That’s why I am matching all gifts made to Arts Corps by December 31, 2021, up to $20,000. I invite you to make a gift to Arts Corps today. With your support, we’ll be one step closer to Arts Corps’ vision of a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond.

— STONE GOSSARD, Arts Corps Board Member

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Sponsor Spotlight: True North Gear

The True North Gear team at an Earth Day clean-up event earlier this year.

Why would a company that designs and sells protective fire gear sponsor Arts Corps year after year? The short answer is that they deeply value creativity, imagination, and risk-taking; core skills that Arts Corps cultivates in students through our arts integration and out-of-school time programs.
 
True North Gear’s origin story speaks to how intrinsic these values are in the company’s DNA. With a sewing machine from Goodwill and an idea for a new type of pack he wanted to create based on his outdoor experience, founder Alyx Fier launched his company in 1992 out of his garage. While working full-time as a carpenter, he spent six months teaching himself pack design, patterning, and prototyping on nights and weekends. With time and persistence and innovation, he was able to design and sew his own designs.
 
Fast forward 29 years and True North Gear is a multi-brand corporation with a global reach whose products save lives. As Fier proudly describes it: “Everything we make is either used to protect the life of the person using it, or they are using it to protect someone else’s life. That is so consequential and intrinsically meaningful.”

Their products range from chainsaw packs to radio harnesses to flame-resistant pants, and they have dealers across the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Even with their growth, they continue to be a family-owned company, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S, just a few miles from the garage where it all began.
 
When asked if arts education influenced his development as a young person, Fier unequivocally associated it with his success in business. He shared, “I’m living proof that studying and being engaged in the creative process as a student can provide the foundation for an intellectually and financially rewarding life. My college education focused on film, theater, music and audio engineering, none of which would seem obvious choices as a precursor to a successful business career as opposed to getting an MBA.”

Fier continues: “The common denominator of my studies is that they all involved the creative process and what I learned is understanding and appreciating that failure is an intrinsic and important part of success. Knowing that emboldened me to risk taking. You have an idea, you try it, it doesn’t work the way you expected, you learn from that experience and apply it to the next attempt. It’s only failure if you don’t learn anything and don’t then try again. Fear of ‘failure’ is what holds most people back from actually being successful.”
 
Arts Corps is so grateful to have corporate partners like True North Gear who value the importance of cultivating creativity, imagination, and risk-taking among youth. Thank you, True North Gear!

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Development Manager

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Back to school. How is that possible?

 
I’m writing from our West Seattle office where I can hear music and muffled laughter coming through the huge open windows as our team sets up in the parking lot. Masked shouts of love are coming from folks who haven’t seen each other in person for over a year. The energy is contagious, the rhythm is palpable. We’re giddy, maybe even a little awkward, we’re just happy to be together. It’s a much needed salve for my heart. 

Today’s a special day. Our Program Team and veteran Teaching Artists on staff are welcoming new teaching artists to the Arts Corps faculty. 11 new teaching artists will join our robust roster of 25 this fall. Among them are poets, writers, storytellers, music producers, visual artists, theatre artists, and even a puppeteer. As we gather in masks outside on a chilly August afternoon to make art, learn together, and share a socially-distanced meal, it’s clear that these are our people. Artists. Creatives. Educators. Folks who thrive off of sharing ideas. It feels like a rebirth of what it means to Make Art Anyway. 

This school year we plan to hold 60% of our classes in-person. We’re also planning to continue virtual classes. Online learning breaks down access barriers for youth across King County, widening the reach of Arts Corps’ classes. We anticipate that we will assemble and deliver over 5,000 art kits, each of which are unique to each student and their curriculum.  

After walking the tightrope of a global pandemic, a major leadership transition, and navigating the ever-changing education landscape, our organization has taken the last nine months to reflect and build. 

In January, we began the year with a period of intentional deep reflection, beginning with an organizational assessment that helped us learn about and lean into our strengths, identify our warts, and supported us in deciding how to move forward as we begin to search for a permanent leadership solution.

After three months of exploration, we learned that we have a team full of passionate staff and teaching artists. We have a collective commitment to the youth in our programs, to anti-racism, and to our community at large, and that despite the pandemic and other challenges, Arts Corps’ programs have continued to offer the highest quality of creative learning opportunities. It was also clear that we value shared leadership. 

We were also left with some questions:

How is Arts Corps creating a sustainable life for teaching artists? What is our compensation philosophy? How do we manage conflict? To answer these questions, we started at the root. We centered our values of community, equity, and creativity to closely examine how we want them to show up in our daily work.

 
Community: Our team has been talking about the community we want to build together. What makes a community strong, a place for authentic belonging, where each identity and lived experience is valued, and where each person has a place in important decision making? We know that begins with trust. So that’s what we’ve been building. In addition to programming, we’ve been working to establish radical honesty. In March we began working closely with Praxis Essentials, run by our own Co-Director of Arts Education, Olisa Enrico. Olisa is leading us through team building rooted in equity. 

Equity: An important theme at the heart of our staff conflict in 2019 was inequitable pay. It is a critical piece of who we are at Arts Corps to make sure we lead our region in equitable business practices. We need to ensure that our incredibly talented team can not only afford to live and work in King County, but that our families can thrive and have a healthy quality of life. 

This spring we collaborated to draft and pass an equitable compensation policy as part of a more inclusive budget process. Now we have transparent salary bands. This new plan ensures that no Arts Corps staff member will ever earn less than 50% of the median wage for their particular position in King County. Our highest paid staff member makes no more than 2x that of the lowest paid staff member. We have clear pathways to promotions. We also offer a small bump in compensation for every year folks have been in their role, as well as a COLA every other year. In the years without a COLA, we reevaluate salary bands to ensure we are still offering leading wages in the nonprofit industry. 

We took time to reevaluate the way we compensate teaching artists. Some of the feedback that we heard was that there was too much of a gap between our classroom assistants and our most experienced teaching artists, leaving our newest and often youngest teaching artists most vulnerable. Now we offer 3 bands of flat rate wages that not only exceed national industry norm, but are some of the highest paid teaching artists positions in our region. Arts Corps teaching artists now receive access to a 401K with a match from Arts Corps, access to dental insurance, accident plans, and other benefits. 

Our entire team of staff and teaching artists receive a personal and professional development allotment to use as they choose because we know that having a healthy well-balanced life leads to creative expression.

Creativity: We’ve all learned to expect the unexpected, so we will continue to do what we do best. We are here to make art together. We make art at our team meetings, we play theater games, we do scavenger hunts, and show-and-tell on Zoom. This summer, my biggest source of joy were the pop-up performances that we did at four community housing sites — drumming, singing, and dancing with youth and their families is what we all needed. Creative collaboration and expression is where joy comes from.

As we start another unprecedented school year, we’ll learn and grow with our partners as we navigate the pandemic together. We’ll take high level safety precautions to keep each other safe. We care about our community. We care about our students and we can’t wait to make more art. 

— CARRIE SIAHPUSH, Acting Executive Director

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Sponsor Spotlight: Mahlum Architects

Mahlum Architects Staff

For those in the design community, it comes as no surprise that Arts Corps’ longest-running Festa sponsor is an architecture firm. Mahlum, a Seattle architecture firm established in 1938, has supported Arts Corps consistently since 2008. The value of arts education is not lost on those who spend their days designing built environments that foster a sense of safety, connection, and curiosity — the very same outcomes that Arts Corps’ teaching artists work to achieve with students in the classroom!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Anne Schopf, a partner at Mahlum and longtime Arts Corps supporter. Drawing the connection between Mahlum’s work and Arts Corps’ mission, Anne described that arts education was profoundly formative for both her and her colleagues. She reflected: “I can’t imagine not having it. Many of us are all so committed to understanding art itself. If not art, what are we living for? We [Arts Corps and Mahlum] care about the same things. We’re just doing it in different ways.”

Equity and community are two values shared by Mahlum and Arts Corps, and a specific way that they play out at Mahlum is in the firm’s design process. They try to center those who don’t have a voice at the table, honoring the culture and traditions of the primary occupants of the space. For example, in preparation for the design of a new hospital in Nome, Alaska, Mahlum’s design team visited with elders, students, healthcare staff, and local villages to gain a deeper understanding of the values and challenges facing the region’s people. This practice integrated Nome’s rich local culture with the hospital’s ultimate design.

It was clear from my conversation with Anne that curiosity is a core component of an architect’s job. When asked what her favorite thing about working at Mahlum was, Anne responded, “I get to learn something new every day. Right now, I’m learning about autism. How wonderful is that? I get to learn about new ideas that I don’t touch, but I’m learning through the work we’re touching.”

This passion for learning is exactly what we work to nurture through our arts education programming at Arts Corps. My conversation with Anne clarified that we at Arts Corps share a commitment to spaces that cultivate learning and creativity with our friends at Mahlum.

We’re immensely grateful for their partnership!

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Development Manager

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Sponsor Spotlight: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center

Deborah Sepulveda

For the past several years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center has supported Arts Corps as a sponsor for our annual Festa event. The Discovery Center is a free public space that takes visitors of all ages on an interactive journey, bringing the connections we share with others across the globe to life. 
 
With a vision to educate, inspire, and motivate people to take action through storytelling, the Discovery Center is a key partner in Arts Corps’ work to revolutionize arts education by igniting the creative power of young people. In the words of Deborah Sepulveda, the Discovery Center’s Manager of Youth & Public Programs and long-time Arts Corps partner: “We believe our programs amplify powerful stories of our local community in order to foster inclusion and belonging, convene and connect people, share unheard stories, and highlight opportunities to act.”
 
Despite having to close its physical doors last spring, the Discovery Center has continued to provide powerful programming. Last March they kicked off a series of free, virtual lunchtime events called In Community We Flourish that highlight community organizations creating change every day. The upcoming series will be in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald and Civic Commons.
 
The Discovery Center shares Arts Corps’ commitment to youth leadership and prioritizing youth voice. Every year, the center hosts the annual Teen Action Fair, which provides youth with a platform to tell their stories of making a difference. As Deborah sees it, “Youth want to be involved, taken seriously and deserve to be heard. Young people have led the charge on some of the biggest shifts in social change and justice throughout history and we continue to learn from their ideas to change the world… take the time to listen to their questions, ideas and feedback and we will definitely have a better world.”
 
Arts Corps is grateful to have partners like Deborah and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center working with us to cultivate youth creativity and leadership. Their sponsorship helps bring us one step closer to our vision of a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond.

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Development Manager

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LIT: Why I Came Back as a Class Assistant

 

I come from a high school that specializes in helping students to become self-reliant and learn skills through the student’s interests. This is often done by having students search for internships or be an apprentice. When I was a freshman in October of 2018 I had a vague interest in game development and was short on opportunities. 

One day my advisor Steve announced a new opportunity being offered to Big Picture Students. He told us it was an arts program that taught audio, story writing, and virtual reality development. That last one felt like a wild card. I didn’t know much about virtual reality beyond a few brief appearances in online videos or tucked away in some corner of an arcade. No matter where I saw it, it always seemed out of reach like watching an owl perched on a tree. The fact that it was offered to youth out of all people in this high school made it feel like a one-time calling. But because of my lack of experience, I hesitated to raise my hand when Steve was handing out the tour sign-up sheets. I’m not sure what took me so long to finally raise my hand, but it would change my life forever.

Arts Corps is an arts education organization whose mission is to break educational boundaries and allow youth creative minds to use their art to influence the world through various programs. I joined the first LIT program in January of 2019. LIT specialized in teaching students how to use audio software, film equipment, and virtual reality tools to make their art with the help of specialized teaching artists. It was the first year of the program so some things fell a little off track sometimes, but overall it felt like an artist’s journey. It felt like the program was growing alongside you making it; it felt less like a training course and more like it was your program. 

Each session, we’d have morning check-ins, and even though we didn’t always have much to say it helped establish great community vibes. I loved when we went into the larger parts of Seattle on our trips to art studios. Even though meeting people who work in the careers you see yourself in the future is always a motivating feeling, traversing the streets and buses made it feel like the kind of stories you’d tell your grandkids when talking about your career. I don’t get to be on foot in the bigger parts of Seattle that often so that’s what probably amplified the experience for me.

The first major VR project I worked on when joining LIT was a simple exploration experience where you could move across dream-like worlds, which is my way of saying nothing made sense or followed a theme. It was mostly me trying to get my footing with the technology but it helped that VR is totally badass.

The greatest memory I have of the program was the final presentation of my first year. I wasn’t too confident in my weird VR project. It was also a way later time to present than I was used to so I was ready to go to sleep. To make matters worse we had a lot of trouble getting our showcase equipment set up like finding out who’s headset even belonged to someone. We cycled through students each presenting what we’ve been working on for the past six months. 

When my turn came I felt a strange calmness and pride flow in. Suddenly my project didn’t seem like a failure and I started to see with the smiles of the attendees that it was a success. Whereas once, I was some lonely kid in a computer lab, now was able to work on something most people don’t even know exists. It helped that the presentation room was literally a theater, the whole thing felt like a triumphant cinematic moment on film with lights shining on us. 

I’m one of those people that beats themselves up a lot, but I always seek to improve myself. This was the first time in my life I felt like I’d made it. It started off a long chain of future successes and I realized that I could be an artist if I tried. Since then I’ve only felt my progress of self-discovery moving further.

Arts Corps has helped me find what being an artist can mean and the joy it can bring to people. They helped me get my first taste of what it’d be like to pursue my passions professionally. And it’s given me hope that more and more youth have access to their resources so the world doesn’t miss out on the creations of a young person’s mind before their creativity is limited through adulthood struggles. 

I feel the least I can do is help out Arts Corps the best I can as a classroom assistant so that when I eventually become ready to join the games industry I will have helped make the Arts Corps better for youth than when I first joined LIT. So now I’m helping the LIT team with an upcoming week-long intensive. From April 12th – 16th we’ll be helping students from grades 10-12 learn about using immersive technology for storytelling and game development. Applications are due March 19, 2021. Apply here. 

— FABIAN HERNANDEZ-ANGEL, Classroom Assistant LIT 2021

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See Me After Class

It’s funny how you can lose track of someone for years, and then bam! Something can bring their memory to mind with such clarity that it almost overwhelms your senses. That’s how I felt this weekend upon learning the news that my beloved college professor, Dr. Theodora Ayot, had recently passed away.

Instantly, my mind conjured up a vivid image of Professor Ayot. Standing in front of the classroom, she was wearing colorful African dress from her homeland in western Kenya, as she always did. Her deep red lipstick popped in contrast to her rich brown skin, and she had a warm smile on her face. Her eyes shone brightly beneath her glasses that were slightly askew.

It might be surprising that my recollection of Professor Ayot is so strong when I only had one class with her; some kind of history class, the subject and title of which I can’t even remember now. But in the short time she taught me, she left an indelible mark. One that I realize only now, in her passing, has a lot to do with why I’m so passionate about my work at Arts Corps.

It all stems back to the first mid-term she assigned us. When she returned our papers, I flipped mine over to find a big “C” on the top with the words “See Me After Class” written in large letters on top. My heart pounded wildly. I had never received these words on a paper before.

I nervously lingered after class while all the other students gathered their things and left. Then Professor Ayot ushered me to her tiny office. (Or maybe it was just tiny in my memory because I felt trapped?) She offered me a seat, looked me straight in the eyes, and said intensely, “I’ve heard the questions you ask in class.”

I can remember to this day what a strange and surprising statement I thought this was. But Professor Ayot continued on and clarified her point. My questions, she felt, reflected a deep intellectual curiosity and scholarly critique. The work I turned in, not so much.

I was a freshman in college and my social nature was getting the best of me. I was staying up late hanging out with friends and talking on the phone with my long-distance boyfriend, and I was not taking my studies seriously. More importantly, and what I think Professor Ayot knew, was that I didn’t take myself seriously.

I always got good grades in school. Honor roll and all that. But, despite the awards, I never saw myself as smart. Nice? Sure. Hardworking? Sure. But an intellectual? Someone to be taken seriously in the classroom? No way.

The conversation with Professor Ayot in that tiny office started to change that. She had heard my questions. I was bright, she thought. I had real promise as a scholar. But I had to take myself seriously, put in the effort, and do the work. It was a life-changing conversation.

The grief and sadness of these past 11 months has felt unbearable at times. For our family, news of Professor Ayot’s passing comes after losing two family friends to COVID related illnesses. We haven’t seen my parents or other extended family in Chicago in over a year. And the social isolation of quarantine and challenges of online schooling are taking an immense toll on the mental health of my elementary aged kids.

Throughout these difficult quarantine times, my work with Arts Corps has been a lifeline. It’s a privilege to work for an organization as flexible, compassionate, and creative as Arts Corps.  Even more, I’m deeply grateful to work for an organization whose mission I believe in so profoundly.

The work that our teaching artists do with young people every day is the same work that Professor Ayot did we me: building confidence, cultivating curiosity, encouraging risk-taking; helping them to see themselves for the smart and gifted young people they are. And like Professor Ayot, Arts Corps teaching artists model pride in their individuality and cultural heritage. In doing so, they open up to new worlds to the students- within and around them.

These are not easy times. But as I reflect on the legacy of Dr. Theodora Ayot, I am encouraged. Our lives matter. The choices we make matter. We can choose to invest in young people- their curiosity, their creativity, their self-expression, their brilliance. And if we do, twenty years later they may just remember it, and attribute much of their academic success and passion to it.

— CHRISTA MAZZONE PALMBERG, Development Manager

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Change is in the Air for Arts Corps

The fifth inning of the World Series had just ended, with the Chicago Cubs taking a 6-3 lead over the Cleveland Indians. It was game 7 of a seven game series, and if it’s not clear from my numerous tattoos and all that I talk about when people ask me about anything related to Chicago, I’m a HUGE Cubs fan. I love the Chicago Cubs since I was a baby. Growing up in Chicago, close to the baseball field, Wrigley Field, the one aspect of my life that was certain was my allegiance to the best baseball team in the multiverse, the Chicago Cubs. 

I happened to be in Chicago, with my colleague and dear friend, Jamel Mims, to pitch a hip hop education project to the International Education Funders Group. The presentation was the following day, so we were able to enjoy game with some my high school friends. Though the game was in Cleveland, Chicago’s streets were crowded with everyone spilling out of bars and their homes to celebrate a run for us, and decry a run for Cleveland. 

By the 8th inning, the game was tied. I was bent over at the waist, crying, because Cleveland was looking strong. I hadn’t eaten food really and only consumed beer, which seemed to have no effect on me. All of my Chicago friends looked the way I was feeling: lost and depleted. Executive functioning was limited as our hippocampus refused to hold memories. We repeated the same conversation over and over again. We were all prone to drastic mood swings. Time was mutable for us and each minute seemed to last either a second or an hour. Though the 8th inning ended, we didn’t fully grasp that the 9th inning was the last inning of the World Series. I was fixated on each individual play as if I alone had control over the outcome, and my computational skills were minimal.

Maybe I was feeling the beer after all…

With the game tied after the 9th inning, the rain started to come down hard in Cleveland, causing a rain delay. Time slowed. We waited. We drank more beer. I ate a hot dog and some chips. We barely spoke. Jamel looked at all of us warily, not sure of what we would do next. 

The tenth inning began with Cubs at bat. They started strong and scored two runs, which we celebrated loudly with tears. Cleveland was up at bat next and after two outs, they scored another run. The entire city of Chicago was silent for 2 minutes as the final Cleveland player stepped up to the plate. The pitcher threw the ball, Cleveland hit a groundball up the third base line, which was caught and thrown to the first baseman, who tagged the base for Cleveland’s third and final out. 

Time stopped when we realized the Cubs won the World Series! This was the first time the Cubs won, since 1908!! We jumped in the air, yelled, cried, and immediately went outside to hear others celebrating and crying and screaming too. We hugged strangers, laughed loudly, and even high fived police officers. It seemed as if everyone and their mother, including my own, was outside smiling ear to ear. It was the happiest day of my life. The next day, Jamel and I had a fantastic presentation, made some wonderful connections, and flew back to New York. My euphoria lingered as I went back to work, proudly wearing a Cubs hat and  nothing could bring me down. 

A week later, an alleged criminal was elected to be the next president of the United States of America, and all of the happiness and joy I was feeling disappeared, almost instantaneously. Those same pangs of distress I felt watching the World Series game increased 1000%. My amygdala was overexcited and my cortisol levels increased. My generally healthy lifestyle went by the wayside, my skin broke out, I was depressed, I was angry, and felt this way for the next four years. 

One of the only positives during the past four years has been working at Arts Corps. A month after the 2016 election, I flew to Seattle to interview for the role of Executive Director, and three weeks after that, we moved to Seattle. I started on January 21st, 2017, to coincide with Inauguration Day. I counted my days in office, and compared them to our new president’s. Every vile policy, he enacted, we worked to address those actions using creativity and empathy. As he tried to divide, we sought to unite. We brought love into schools, and appreciation into the lives of young people. We shed a light on the power of arts to make change. We resisted and remained resilient. We sometimes bumped heads, but we all believed in the work we were doing. We believed in young people. We grew, we shrank, we grew again. We had good times and we had bad times. We experienced fracture and we made steps towards healing. We worked shoulder to shoulder, until we were asked to stay 6 feet apart. We shifted and we adjusted. We prevailed.  We made art anyway. 

Quickly, November 2020 was coming closer to being a real date, and a feeling of unease built. My family became more emotional and scared of what would happen. Every time I saw one of my neighbors, we could barely manage a congenial hello.The schools where we work were struggling with maintaining normalcy in abnormal times and the election added to their concerns. The future was uncertain. The whole country voted, and then we waited. My screen time increased 120% over the past week, constantly checking the results of the election. It was impossible for us to see what tomorrow could hold because of this sense of inertia.

My parents In Ohio called everyday to check on us. My friends in NYC and California texted regularly that they couldn’t get out of bed. Then on Saturday morning, I hear fireworks going off. I looked at my phone and saw 75 texts. My wife said we elected a new president, a different president, a president that wants to heal, and I felt a release. We felt a release. As an organization, as a city, as a state, as a country. We can see a future where there’s more possibility. Where there’s a black woman in office. Where the White House could look more like the people that it serves. We see a path forward. It will be hard work, progress will be slow, but I think we can all feel a collective weight off our shoulders. I know, this is the first time I breathed a deep breath in a very long time. 

Yet, I also know that racism, hetero-paternalism, and xenophobia didn’t disappear overnight. On Saturday, I was just as likely to be pulled over, arrested, and potentially killed by police as I would have been Friday evening. My kids would still see images of whiteness as a default, and told their brown skin and African curls aren’t ‘beautiful.’ Many of the youth we serve would remain outsiders inside the only country they’ve known, and my non binary friends and colleagues would still have to click ‘other,’ on medical forms. There may have been a historic election of many firsts, but until we no longer need to add the moniker of ‘first (fill in the blank)’ there is still work to do.

Arts Corps will continue the work we have been doing for twenty years, serving over 3000 youth in south King County. Arts Corps will remain one of the only organizations consistently employing teaching artists and providing creative outlets for families across the region. Arts Corps will still make strides in providing our culturally responsive arts based framework to educators across the world. Arts Corps will do all of the above and more, but it will happen without me, as the Executive Director. 

Though the timing is coincidental with the election cycle, my decision was not predicated on the outcome. Working on advocacy and policy has been of interest to me since I quit acting and became a full time educator in New York City. As happenstance would have it, I was recently presented with the opportunity to be the Executive Director of Mentor Washington, and organization that does advocacy and policy work centered on youth development. At the same time, Arts Corps became a tighter and stronger organization, and most importantly, a stable organization.

Leaving Arts Corps has been one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make, yet I realized that like the White House, new leadership was required. That leadership will come from Carrie Siahpush, our current Director of Development and Communications, who has been with Arts Corps for over four years. She will step in the role as our Interim Executive Director, and I have nothing but faith that she will steward Arts Corps through the next phase, and into another 20 years of amazing arts based programming. Carrie brings with her a focus and acumen needed to keep pushing towards meeting Arts Corps’ mission. She is both an incredibly successful fundraiser and astute at administrative management. She is passionate and she is thoughtful. She is awesome. 

Like the release I felt during the 2016 World Series, like we all felt after the 2020 election results, we are excited about the future of Arts Corps. Though I will no longer work here, I will hold it dearly in my heart, and “stan” from the sidelines. Much love to Arts Corps, to the teaching artists, the board, the staff, the youth, the community, and to our supporters. As I am writing our catchphrase for the final time, I hope we can all continue, no matter what, no matter who, no matter how, to Make Art Anyway. 

Bless up,
James

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Out of the Storm

A tractor was upside down on the street, the top of the license plate scraping the concrete. Trees were knocked down, as were power lines. Sand and dried salt water dusted everything, in sight. A house was somehow on the opposite side of the street from where its foundation lay. 

SuperStorm Sandy hit NYC in 2012, and to prepare for the storm, my family and I stocked up on food, water, candy, and beer. We didn’t know what would happen, and we didn’t want to freak out our three-year old twins, so we turned the lights out and played in-the-dark singing. When the storm actually touched down, the wind whistled past our windows, and the frames shook. There was some heavy rain, but that was the extent of the storm, from our perspective. When we turned the news on, we saw the real damage to the city. Subways were flooded and the Hudson River splashed onto western side of Manhattan, Statue of Liberty in the hazy background. Trees fell down, and homes were demolished. The parts of New York closest to the water were hit the hardest and it was there, in a part of Queens called The Rockaways, where I saw that house on the wrong side of the street.

I was working as a teaching artist for many different organizations in NYC at the time and had worked with some of the students in The Rockaways. I felt a sense of inertia because I didn’t know if there was anything that I could personally do, besides donate to food banks and housing assistance programs. One of the organizations, the New Victory Theater, called a handful of us and suggested we go to The Rockaways and do some playmaking with the youth. I was more than happy to offer my services, but wondered why the hell we would do some play-making when kids were hungry and living in shelters. 

The trains weren’t able to go to The Rockaways because there was no electricity and buses were very much delayed because of the damage to the areas. So, we woke up early, got into a large rented van to drive from midtown Manhattan to The Rockaways. The news coverage showed some of the damage of the storm, but it was nothing compared to what we saw when we arrived.

In addition to the wrongly situated and damaged personal items that I mentioned, there weren’t any lights on anywhere and it was desolate. Those that were able to evacuate did, but not everyone had the means to do that. Fifty- three people died and many, many more were displaced. Thousands of homes and several hundred vehicles were destroyed. It is estimated that 19 billion dollars worth of damage was done to the New York Metro area. When we arrived, days had passed since the storm and the impact was still very raw and real. 

We arrived by van and parked several blocks from the ocean, where there were several housing project buildings in close proximity to each other. People were outside, and they watched us approach. Most of the faces were black and brown with a mix of old and young. Some of the youth must have been in the same clothes they had on when the storm hit because the clothes were stained white by the saltwater. On the ground there was sand everywhere, and it was blowing softly down the street. After we parked the car, we headed inside of the dimly lit recreation center, where there were tables filled with packaged foods, drinks, plates, and utensils.

We were guided to a couple areas where we could set up activities. The visual arts station had crayons, paper, scissors, and other items. We also had a skills section set up where youth could work on creating a clowning skit, and learn juggling, hula-hooping, and balancing skills. Lastly, there was the physical comedy/ acrobatic station where youth could create pyramids with their bodies or attempt a new physical skill. 

I headed to the clowning area outside, ready to begin teaching some physical comedy and object balancing. We pulled out feathers, scarves, and plates to juggle, as the young people started to pick which area they wanted to focus on first. Not more than 3 minutes passed before there was the familiar sound of children laughing and smiling. Parents and elders were called and told to ‘Watch’…’Hey, look at me!’ and some of the adults started to participate, as well. During a break to grab some water, I happened to look around and saw happiness and joy, where earlier there was sadness and gloom.

One hundred people or more were gathering in the middle of the street, participating in some form of arts education, and though they may not have had electricity or running water, they had each other and they had the arts. It was at this moment, that the power of the arts to change lives, even during dire circumstances, was showcased and embraced. I had been considering a retirement from acting to focus on education, full time, and this experience confirmed my decision. I saw the New Victory Theatre lead that charge in these communities that had been suffering, and it cemented my love for that organization, specifically, and for arts education, in general. 

Eight years later, we are in the midst of another life altering event, this time on a much larger scale. The novel coronavirus has accounted for 30 million infections and almost 1 million deaths, worldwide. Businesses have been shuttered since March and many remain unemployed, most of whom are artists and gig workers.  The New Victory Theater closed its doors in March 2020 and remains closed until theaters can reopen. They have released online resources which are amazing, and it continues to be a source of inspiration for me; yet I worry about the organization that has brought so much joy and love to youth and families. 

Many artists and hourly employees remain without an income. Actors Equity Association, the union where I am a proud member, has an unemployment rate of 97%. Predictions state that two-thirds of restaurants and bars in NYC will close by December 2020. Despite the fact that Washington State boasts 10 of the wealthiest people in the world, and Bezos’ net worth almost doubled over the past year, we are faring no better. If anyone has been to downtown Seattle recently, they will confirm that it’s a ghost town. Over a hundred businesses have closed their doors permanently. This, in addition to theaters, performance halls, museums, nonprofits and those they employ struggling, and I am afraid more businesses will close before the end of 2020. 

Add to the list of issues hitting us in 2020 a revived and continued effort to end police violence, wildfires and smoke on the West Coast, hurricanes and storms on the East Coast, climate change in general, murder hornets, zombie cicadas, horrors of remote schooling, an upcoming election, and now the passing of feminist hero and judicial icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We are all feeling sad, depressed, hopeless, and withdrawn. We are searching for a light. We are searching for a better tomorrow. We are searching for the feeling those families had in 2012, after their lives were changed by Superstorm Sandy. We are searching for an answer. We are searching for the arts.

The arts have the power to create something out of nothing. The arts can uplift, ignite, and inform. The arts provide us with the ability to imagine a better tomorrow. When we hear music, it hits all four lobes of the brain, particularly the corticospinal portion that makes us want to move and dance. That affects the brain evoking emotions and memory. It provides a release and it unites through a common song. When we are drawing or doodling, our cortisol levels drop and our stress levels decrease.

Visual arts send a jolt to the reward pathways of our brain, decreasing our anxiety, which increases our ability to process new information. Albert Einstein said “play is the highest form of research,” so when we play, our executive functions are strengthened, helping us plan, pay attention to details, and organize our thoughts. Play enhances our gross motor skills through movement and helps with coordination. 

The arts are so essential right now, and we should do all we can to ensure the intrinsic value of the arts is accessible to all of us. Where other regions have drastically cut arts from schools, thankfully Washington State has mandated that the arts continue to be part of every student’s schooling. However, a mandate isn’t enough, as only schools with enough funding can afford to make that happen, which is where Arts Corps steps in.

Thanks to our donors and supporters, we are lucky enough to help bridge the access gap to the arts. We are also lucky that we have been able to transition to a new way of teaching and learning this year. Our classes at 6 Interagency High school sites started on the 14th. Arts Corps provides synchronous remote arts classes to the students enrolled at these schools, and we are their art credit, a credit needed to graduate from high school. Soon, we will continue our Creative Schools programs at several Highline Public Schools providing culturally responsive arts integration. We have been doing this work in Highline since 2014, and we will continue to boost academic mindsets and strengthen social emotional learning, much needed during remote learning.

Our LIT program will be entering its third year of providing hands-on training in tech skills needed to work on video game design and virtual reality filmmaking. Based on student feedback and last year’s successes, we plan to expand the number of youth from different schools that can participate, by hosting two week-long intensives during school breaks, and then a month-long summer intensive. In two weeks, the ALLI program starts, where students are paid to work in visual arts, music, and digital storytelling pathways twice a week, for ten weeks. This is different from the usual in person, two- week summer intensive, though it will be just as impactful and inspiring.

Arts Corps’ partnership with Southwest Youth Family Services remains strong and we hope to build on our work with four of their sites by also working with some of the older youth and adding an additional site, pending funding. Most of our work will be remote, synchronous teaching this year, yet we are also addressing some technology access gaps by delivering thousands of physical art kits to schools and sites in King County. This has been very successful, and this summer we were able to facilitate several live drive-through performances for youth and families  in collaboration with our partners at SWYFS. 

Complementing our work with youth, Arts Corps will provide more professional development to teachers, this school year, as well as collaborate with other sectors. We have joined the Free the Vaccine campaign with UAEM and C4AA, to help ensure that when a covid vaccine is available, it will be safe, effective, and accessible to all, regardless of income. Health Secretary Azar stated that he won’t promise that the vaccine will be affordable, which is utterly reprehensible. If this country truly wants our students and teachers to go back to school, we must make sure that a vaccine is accessible to the school communities, particularly communities where we work, as the CDC reports that of the children that have died from covid, 73% were Black and Latinx. Lastly, we are working with a network of national guilds to promote voting and voter registration. Similar to the REACT work which was a response to the murder of George Floyd and others, our Voting Values initiative will launch soon.  

I must reiterate that Arts Corps is lucky to be able to keep our doors open and continue to operate our programs. Like everyone else, we are worried about funding, sustainability, and the future of our nation, so we rely on foundations, grantors, and our community to keep us alive. My experience eight years ago in The Rockaways gave meaning to our hashtag #MakeArtAnyway. With your support, we will continue to live and breathe that motto, long into the future. 

If you believe in the power of the arts to bring something out of nothing, then help us #MakeArtAnyway by joining Art Corps’ Culture Club today. Your monthly investment will fuel our work to ignite the creative power of young people in our community, making space for them to lead us out of the storm and into the streets.

— JAMES MILES, Executive Director

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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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The Arts are ‘Essential’


On Monday night, Governor Inslee mandated that Washington residents must ‘shelter in place.’ All non-essential businesses were ordered to close and we were all urged to both stay inside and to drastically limit interactivity with anyone outside of the immediate household. These measures were an effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. We are in unprecedented times and we need to do a better job of looking out for one another. California, New York, and Chicago instituted the mandate earlier, and I only wish we had done it sooner.

When I awoke today, I picked up my phone, as I’ve been doing more frequently and with more rapacity recently, and checked out what was, in fact, essential business: groceries, gas, sanitation, food, defense, and health care. We stocked up a couple days ago, but with the four of us home all the time, we definitely needed to get more food, soap, and other sundries. As soon as I sat at my computer to start my day, my phone pings to let me know that my local dispensary is open. This makes sense as marijuana helps some people engage in the world around them, helps others express themselves, and releases stress for those that partake. I have a lot of anxiety as a black man raising two black girls in Seattle, especially now that we are living amidst a global pandemic. My local dispensary has been readily utilized.

So, if dispensaries, like liquor stores are open and considered essential for daily life, how do those under the age of 21 engage in their world, express themselves, or relieve their stress? Well, that is obviously the arts.

As Audre Lorde stated, “the arts are not a luxury.”

As Einstein writes, “Play is the highest form of research.”

As Marina Abramović writes: “Art must be life — it must belong to everybody.”

And as author and motivational speaker Brené Brown states, “Art has the power to render sorrow beautiful, make loneliness a shared experience, and transform despair into hope.”

Arts are essential and provide the needed support, relief, and guidance that makes the world tick. Yet, they are still relegated to the ‘Other,’ They are as necessary to our wellbeing as the food we eat, the healthcare we need, and the toilet paper we hoard. The arts are even more essential now that we are trying to derive meaning from a world that we have never experienced. It will outlast all of us and it will tell the story of our times to future generations.

While schools are out, families are at home with their children for an extended time, possibly for the first time in a long time. They are searching for activities for their kids to do. They are searching for learning materials to keep their young people engaged in school work. They are worried about rent, bills, groceries, They are searching for an escape from the monotony of being at home every day. They are hoping for a brighter day. They are seeking more art in their lives.

As we are working with our young ones, let’s please remember to add arts to their daily schedule. Before ‘shelter in place,’ we passed out arts kits to childcare centers in the Highline School District.

Arts Corps is now releasing instructional videos, lesson plans, and other resources on our website, but we aren’t the only ones trying to #MakeArtAnyway. Coyote Central has an amazing list of arts activities. Pacific Northwest Ballet is teaching ballet online. Creative Advantage is creating videos to be shared on SPS YouTube channel. The New Victory Theater is creating Arts Breaks every week for families and children. The Globe is streaming Shakespeare plays straight to the viewer. Artist Home has created a list of virtual music teachers for young people interested in learning an instrument. Creative Generation has also created #KeepMakingArt for their campaign to bring awareness and support to artists and arts organizations. Adobe and Avid are providing free software. Comcast is offering free internet. There are too many to list here, but Arts Corps will continue to post artistic resources to add to the list weekly.

On Instagram Live, musicians have been streaming live performances to get you moving, providing a welcome respite from the newsfeed. From Questlove, 9thWonder, DJ Premier, Erykah Badu, to John Mayer, and Jon Bon Jovi, thousands have been tuning in. The Saturday sessions from 1980s hip hop wunderkind, D-Nice, had 200,000 viewers watching as he deejayed for 10 hours straight. Even Oprah Winfrey and former First Lady Michelle Obama tuned along with a host of other celebrities. It proves that everyone needs art and artists now, and that the arts are one of life’s essentials.

As my own children have started to record cooking videos for their friends, making stop motion movies, I know they are not alone. My brother and sister-in-law did live stand-up sets for Comedy Central. My mom is taking arts classes online.

What are you doing? What does #MakeArtAnyway mean to you? Share your story to info@artscorps.org so we can spread love with the rest of the Arts Corps community.

— JAMES MILES, Executive Director

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Arts Corps’ COVID-19 Response

 

I loved, loved, loved, Mork and Mindy. I loved the comedy. I loved the characters. I loved the story. To me, Robin Williams was a god. His energetic humor and boundless happiness made me sing. He made me want to be an actor, a comedian, and a human beacon of love.

A couple years later, I saw the play, Merchant of Venice, at the Goodman Theatre, starring Paul Butler, a black actor, as Shylock. His daughter, Jessica, was played by an Asian American actor. It was the first time I saw an actor onstage that looked like me and talked like me. I turned to my friends and said, “yo that’s us!” I was 16 years old.

That’s why I’m here today. To bring love like Robin Williams, and to represent the faces of my students like Paul Butler. I wouldn’t have been the actor I was, the educator I am, the future that my children will be, if the arts were absent from my life. Arts changes live and puts a mirror to the world in which we live. My wife is an artist. My brother is an artist. My sister in law is an artist. Art has shaped the world around me and for others to not experience the power of art, is pure travesty.

I also know the WHO declared that COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and the White House declared the outbreak a national emergency. Restaurants are closing. Hotels are closing. Schools are closed. People are out of work, and we are wondering where our next check is coming from. We haven’t experienced such global impact since the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Everyone is straight up stressed!

Yet still, we must not forget the arts. They make the world a better place. They uplift society. They are the light in the darkness. We can’t neglect art and artists. Art showed me a world I didn’t know could be imagined. It has given me pride and has provided a platform for me to express the humanity of the world’s inhabitants. During this time of uncertainty, it is crucial that we remember our first movie and our first play. The first time we felt seen or heard. Then we must see and understand our children’s artistry and experiences. We must make a better future than the one we have inherited. We must have arts. We must make art. We must keep pushing. In spite of anything, or maybe because of everything, we must #MakeArtAnyway.

Here, at Arts Corps, we are continuing to pay ALL of our staff and TAs. Both the LIT and Spokes programs will continue as students will work online, and remotely with our teaching artists. We are finding ways for teaching artists to support families, who are now at home with their children for an extended amount of time, by providing them with art supplies and activities for families to keep. Our 20th Anniversary Fundraising Gala, FESTA, has been reimagined to now be an online livestreaming event, featuring TAs, staff, and youth alumni performing for a national audience.

If you are a funder, grantor, donor, we ask that you offer relief to non-profits of program deliverables during a time of crisis. We also ask that you do not withhold, or limit, funding at this time of need. We are incredibly appreciative of those that are able to navigate the changing situations daily, by extending deadlines, offering open online support, waiving fees, and finding ways to offer financial support. To paraphrase a recent ArtsFund email, “a loss of revenue is a loss of the funds that provide paychecks for artists, staff, and contract workers.” We are the cultural fabric of the region, and we are woven together through everyone’s support.

Support your local artists and hold us close. We are all that we have.

Bless up,

James

P.S. Check out our Online Learning page, where our teaching artists are creating online content, step-by-step instruction, and simple activities that you can do from home. 

DOWNLOAD THE EVENT’S PRESS RELEASE HERE

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CHANGES

A new year marks a new beginning. For the past several years we have been under attack by policies set up by the current administration. There have been upticks of hate crimes in places where our president speaks and counties where he has won. He’s ridiculed and attacked women and people of color that are critical of his work.

The immigration protocols that are supposed to make this country the best in the world have made the US look inhumane: minimizing access to SNAP benefits, threatening civilians overseas, and openly cavorting with foreign governments to interfere with domestic elections. He’s even besmirched a teen climate activist.

Now that our president has been acquitted of impeachment charges, I know many of us are thinking, “will anything change, or will he be held accountable?”

Xenophobia and nativism are not solely US issues. From the deforestation and colonization of indigenous lands in Brazil, to the dismantling of the rights of Muslims in India and China, we are experiencing threats to our freedom, globally.

This year was the last year Arts Corps will have been a recipient of the New Executive Fund. This award is given to new leaders of non- profits that work in human rights. Arts Corps is one of the only arts organizations to receive this grant and we are the only education-focused organization in the last three years.

It has been an honor to receive acknowledgment from George Soros, a known advocate for equity and justice. Recently, he pledged $1 billion to fund a new university network that would tackle nationalism, namely in the countries mentioned above.

My last international trip was several months earlier, in April, in Germany, when I was working with UAEM. As you know, I had difficulties enjoying it completely, so I was eager to have a better time in Spain. Spain had been experiencing some protests and unrest, regarding Catalan becoming an independent republic, separate from Spanish government. Catalan has a distinct language and culture and almost operates as an autonomous community. Yet it is still a part of Spain. The people are split about whether or not this should move forward, but 12 activists and politicians were recently sentenced to up to 13 years in prison for sedition. People immediately took the streets to protest the convictions, or to support the decision.

In Catalan’s biggest city, Barcelona, however, there was little I saw in terms of protest or unrest. It reminded me of a sleepy port town in rural Maine. I was expecting something out of Vicky Christina Barcelona, with vibrant colors, beautiful people in fancy clothes, and delicious food. Instead it was more like… well a sleepy port town in rural Maine.

After eating dinner and recovering from jet lag, all of the new executives gathered for our first session the following day. Looking around, I noticed a big difference, even from two years ago. Most of the executives in attendance were of color and the number of non-binary and trans executives tripled. It was first time that I sat in a room of C Level folks and they looked like me and were from similar communities to the ones Arts Corps serves.

A noticeable exhalation happened as others noticed the same. We were coming from all over the globe and this year also had more representatives from the Global South. It was an amazing feeling to be in a group where you’re not the “other.” I’ll speak for myself, but I’m sure others felt similarly, like we aren’t in this alone.

Then we started talking about our work in human rights and our work as leaders within that field. We spoke of issues familiar to all non- profits: lack of funding, overworked staff, work feeling like its never finished, out of touch funders, and love of our work despite all of that.

It didn’t take long to get deeper though. We spoke of operating within the non- profit industrial complex based in patriarchy and white supremacy. We spoke of the disparity of philanthropic resources available to people like us that didn’t come from those communities. We spoke of the lack of trust funders have in POC, queer, non-English speaking, immigrant, and trans communities. We discussed how the current political environment is making our work more difficult, and for some physically dangerous.

Quite a number of my colleagues talked about armed forces trying to stop the work of non-profits. Some spoke of being forced to leave the country they’re operating in, for fear of violence. While the name George Soros brings some cache to US-based human rights organizations like Arts Corps, his name is anathema to countries and communities being led by oppressive dictators.

For those that inherited the leadership role from a white cis predecessor, we spoke about the difficulties in doing so. Even though, my predecessor was incredibly helpful and supportive, still to this day, there’s no denying we are held to different standards. By funders, by our community, and by our staff. The internal conflicts sometimes matched the vigor of the external conflicts for many of us.

One ED said it best, when she said, “We are in a state of crisis, and there’s no end in sight.”

I sat there staring at the floor, tears forming in my eyes. The work of providing the Maslovian needs to people that have been stripped of their humanity should not be this difficult. We are all working for a better world, but the cards are stacked up against us. A couple of my colleagues were leaving the non-profit sector and others gave themselves a definitive end date, not far from today. We were all hurting, and luckily, we had one another with whom we could commiserate.

The work of human rights is draining but it needs to be done. Communities have had their resources taken from them and we must fulfill those needs, but only by competing with one another and for fraction of the costs that it takes to meet those needs. The disparity between the haves and have nots is growing yet philanthropy overall hasn’t changed much. In fact, the wealthy are giving less and it’s our communities who suffer.

What do we do?

Obviously, using the “master’s tools” aren’t working, and haven’t worked, as Audre Lorde predicted decades ago. We need another tool. My question is can art be that tool?

If art can be the tool for black liberation as Alain Locke writes, can it also be the tool to liberate others?

If we look at Great Depression, and how the Harlem Renaissance provided both pride and a source of income, could we continue that modus operandi in 2020? Look at how Manchester addresses their homeless problem with the arts. How the arts are a central core to Finland’s education system, which is the best in the world. How the work of Amplifier, in Seattle, sheds a light on issues facing us, locally, and across the US. How the group Appetite for Change uses hip hop to bring awareness to healthy living.

How the work of my friend, playwright Mathilde Dratwa, whom provides a perspective to the misogyny of David Mamet writing about #metoo, a world in which he is oblivious. Akwafina winning a golden globe for telling her Asian American story. Bong Joon-Ho winning Best International Film, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay for the Korean language film, Parasite. Art provides voice to those whose voice wasn’t valued. It provides an expression of how we feel and an outlet for how we want to shape the world.

Art is liberation and artists are the liberators. Though we all may feel downtrodden, let us remember the arts. Let’s look to artists and believe in their visions and let’s be artists that make our own world. Let’s Make Art Anyway and know that there is no better resistance to oppression than that of creativity.

— JAMES MILES, Executive Director

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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

APPLY TODAY

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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Community Spotlight: Manny Cawaling on Doors Open

A youth wearing a shirt reading "Make Art Anyway" sitting in front of a doorway, cleaning a glass door
An Art 4 Life intern helps clean the glass door into CAM, to display art behind it.

 

At Arts Corps, we know the necessity of arts education. The skills built through culturally relevant art classes are the skills necessary to understand ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It is through creativity that we are able to navigate the present, and it is through creativity that we will be able to imagine and create a better future. We also know that the cultural sector in our communities has been facing difficult circumstances. Inequities relating to access that have long existed were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects. We start the school year with many art programs in our community endangered, if not already gone. This is why advocacy for arts education and the greater cultural sector is so important. Thankfully, there are people who have been doing the work. 

Inspire Washington is Washington state’s cultural advocacy organization, uplifting the power of science, heritage, and the arts. For several years, they have been working on a program that would increase funding for the cultural sector, thereby increasing access for all people to have culturally meaningful experiences. Recently, they’ve reached a major milestone. Manny Cawaling, Executive Director of Inspire Washington, was kind enough to take a moment amidst the commotion to connect with us and explain what is happening.  

 First, some background: 

Back in 2015, the state of Washington passed a legislature (RCW 36.160) granting local governments power to create a Cultural Access Program in their city or county. This program would be funded by a small sales tax and could make transformative investment in cultural programming. 

So far, two communities in Washington have adapted their own program: Tacoma passed a program in November 2018, called Tacoma Creates and Olympia passed one in the spring of 2022, with the name Inspire Olympia

So, what happened recently?

On Monday, Sep. 25, King County Executive Dow Constantine, introduced legislation to King County Council asking them to adopt the cultural access program. It would be called “Doors Open”. This is a major milestone! 

What does this mean?

“Well,” explained Manny, “It means that, if approved by the council, there would be an increase in public investment for cultural programs of over $90 million a year”. This would be a historic investment in the nation. Washington’s creative industry already represents 10.8% of the state’s GDP, so an active investment in the industry would help develop the local and state economy. Still, the true meaning of a cultural access program would be the impact on the community.

Historically, there have been various communities that have been excluded from cultural programs for a variety of reasons, including cost and cultural relevance. Public funding would help bridge this access gap. It can incentivize organizations to create more diverse offerings, and it would increase the possibilities of new programs happening in more places. “There are kids that live in a city in King County who want to be in a youth choir, but their parents can’t drive them across town to the nearest youth choir. Well, with funding that community could start their own, right?” 

Space is another big issue in King County. Beyond the problematic fact that people who work in the creative sector often can’t afford places to live, we also lack affordable spaces for exhibitions and performances. More funding means we could build more spaces or renovate the ones which already exist. We can make spaces more accessible, so that a greater number of people can enjoy them.  

Finally, the investment would directly impact people. “I know that [when running cultural organizations] half of my budget was always, at least half of my budget was always people.” Manny shared, “I feel very confident that investing over $90 million in cultural programs will build jobs, build cultural and creative jobs.” Not only that, but the jobs which already exist could improve their wages. Currently, the wages in Washington’s cultural sector can’t compete with other industries. As a result, creative and cultural workers are either changing sectors or leaving the state of Washington. This funding can help create the resources which people need to stay in the area and stay in the sector. 

What happens next?

A cultural access program in King County is still not a done deal. It must be approved by the King County Council, who is currently debating it. 

One of the issues that are being discussed is the sales tax which would pay for the program. The tax is modest, $40 per year per household. However, Manny explained that some argue against it because it’s regressive, meaning it disproportionately affects lower-income communities. The argument on behalf of the sales tax is that the program is focused on providing resources to these same low-income communities, who are currently being under-served.  

“I have a really on-the-ground perspective.” Manny tells us, “My dad was a machinist in Boeing. We were a Filipino American family, one-income household, we couldn’t afford a lot of things. But my dad also understood the value of a good deal. He loved museums, so he was always looking in the newspaper and reading newsletters finding out when there were free days, and that is how he pieced together cultural experiences for us. So I will agree that sales tax is regressive. I also understand this program will overdeliver for communities that are low income.”

In the 2022-23 school year, 69% of the youth Arts Corps served were on free or reduced lunch. Many of our families are facing the very real challenges of economic disparity. These same families are the ones who consistently give us the same feedback, quarter after quarter, year after year: provide more programming. Parents and students alike wish there were more classes, on more days, for longer periods of time. They understand the value of art and the fact that their communities deserve to experience the beauty and joy it brings. Our staff and faculty do their best to create as deep of an impact as possible, but we are ultimately restricted by limited funds. Many organizations are in similar positions.  

The rich, tangible value that a Cultural Access Program would provide to our youth, families, and communities is the reason why we must advocate for it to pass. Funding means more access to museums, more art classes, more beauty and joy for everyone. This program is an opportunity for us as the public to prioritize creativity and to invest in ourselves and each other.

How do we help?

The fact that King County Council is debating the Doors Open Program means that we have an opportunity to share our creativity and the deep impact it makes in our life. On Nov. 1st, the council will be holding a hearing that the community can attend virtually. It is important to display large community support, so please attend.

During the hearings, the council will be listening to testimonies. As a community of artists, we understand the power of a story. As a community of artists, now is the time when our stories can spur action. Each testimony lasts only about a minute or two. If you would like to testify about why this issue matters to you on Nov. 1 at 9:30am, you can sign up here. 

Thank you to Manny for helping us understand the significance of this moment, “It matters because there have been people and communities across King County that historically have not had access to programs and that’s not right. There’s no justice in that. Arts Corps is of course an arts organization, but you are also a social justice organization. We need to make sure that the communities that you serve get the same level of access as other communities. This is an urgent need. It’s about equity.”

Learn more about the proposed Doors Open program here. 

—GRECIA M. LEAL PARDO, Development and Communications Coordinator

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