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

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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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