Inside the Storage Studio World Premiere

Do you ever wonder …
How do teaching artists help unlock creativity in young people?
What transformation does Arts Corps help make happen?
What happens behind the scenes?

Find out in Arts Corps new vlog series – Inside the Storage Studio.

Teaching Artist & Arts Corps Faculty Development Manager Eduardo Mendonça introduces the Storage Studio.


Eduardo talks about how he helps young people unlock their creativity.

Stay tuned for more inspirational stories, insights and vlogs!

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Stepping Into My Power

This story was written by Henry Luke, Arts Corps alumni and Youth Speaks Seattle coordinator.  Youth Speaks Seattle became a program of Arts Corps in 2011. This article was originally published in Arts Corps’ latest magazine and annual report which can be found here.  

In 2008, I walked into my first poetry slam. I had never been to any event featuring spoken word. When I heard the word poetry, I thought of dead white men like Shakespeare and Robert Frost. I never expected to enjoy poetry, let alone perform it.

Henry at the 2011 Grand Slam Finals. Photo by Kari Champoux

When I arrived, people were laughing, dancing, and freestyling. I wanted to know them! Itwas an atmosphere of spontaneous energy and emotion that I had never experienced before. At the time, very little felt sacred in my life, but when the poets began performing I felt a kind of reverence for the power of their words. The audience clapped and snapped their fingers, gasped and shouted, even cried. I was moved by the power of a poem to pull me into a story, make me feel so many emotions in a few minutes. I had never seen anyone declare themselves like that, to get onstage with nothing but their story and say “This is who I am! This is what I believe in!” I saw nothing ironic or self-conscious in their celebration of life and love. Each word was a piece of their truth.

My introduction to Youth Speaks Seattle coincided with a massive change in my worldview: I realized I was a part of many massive and unjust systems that disconnect and silence people I know and love. At the same time, I came to see myself as a fragment of something even larger, an interconnected universe filled with meaning and mystery. Poetry became the piece that tied everything together: when writing, I never had to compartmentalize the personal and the political. Performance gave a sensation of release, speaking my stories into existence made them that much more real.

At Brave New Voices International Poetry Slam (the national Youth Speaks gathering), I met poets from Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, New York, and Guam. I sat twenty feet from Bobby Seale as he spoke about the founding of the Black Panthers and compared it to the work Youth Speaks does today. I have realized spoken word is not just an art form. It is a movement. There are young people across the world speaking their truth and creating spaces where that is safe to do. We are storytellers of our generation.

Today when I hear the word poetry, I think of my friends, I think of myself. And my journey continues in my new position at Arts Corps as the Youth Speaks Seattle Coordinator.

I am honored to hold space for other young people across Seattle to express themselves and step into their power, whatever form that takes.

Youth Speaks Seattle’s 2012 Slam Series Info:
Feb 10, 7pm @ Harambee: 316 South 3rd St, Renton
Mar 2, 7pm @ Theater Off Jackson: 409 7th Ave South, Seattle
Stay Tuned for Details on the Wild Card Slam and Grand Slam Finals here!


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My last day at Kimball Elementary School

It was June 2011, and the spring was still offering some raindrops as apparent resistance to the sun who timidly appeared to announce the proximity of the summer. The undefined weather resembled my last day at Kimball Elementary School reflecting on a mixed feeling around my heart.  Happiness for moving to a different direction with Arts Corps after accepting my new role as Faculty Development Manager, blended with the sadness of knowing that I made a decision to stop teaching my afterschool class.

I didn’t intend to overload myself with too many different activities, so I could embrace my new responsibilities and ongoing activities with more efficiency. Although, not ready to cease my academic activities, I will still be teaching music once a week at a non-profit music school in the Eastside. I felt that I was ready to join the Arts Corps staff and become a new component of an impressive team that bravely fights to provide quality Arts Education to King County.

On my way to the gymnasium where my class was held, I performed the same ritual: stop first in the lunch room, say “Hi” to Mary, and pickup the basket full of snacks to distribute to my students after our usual check in. I was almost entering my teaching space, when a student intercepted me, and with a beautiful smile on his face and a vivid voice said “I know you… you are the drumming teacher, and I can’t wait to join your class next quarter”.

Without waiting for my response, the boy disappeared into the long corridor among other students, parents and teachers who moved rapidly in different directions to who knows where. What I know is that his statement made me ponder how that child’s reaction would be when he finds out that the class he wanted was no longer available. I had to “put myself back together” and be prepared to bring a positive presence to my students who were about to arrive.

After my class, before I turned my car on, I spent a few minutes reflecting about the weather and myself. Why the image of the child walking away after his solid announcement was affecting me so hard and why I was thinking about the rain and the sunlight. Those assorted conditions some how made me understand even better, that Teaching Artists are making a difference.

It was clear that that child wanted to stay afterschool because my drumming class did exercise a positive response while making the school still a safe environment even after-hours. I should not procrastinate on giving a bigger step to help Arts Corps to imagining possibilities by looking at ways to expand the action of Teaching Artists who for sure will hear some other boy or girl saying: “…I can’t wait to join your class next quarter”.

Eduardo Mendonça
Arts Corps - Spring 2011
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Creative habits – from art to lunchboxes

My 7-year-old daughter Clara has never been in an Arts Corps class, but she’s been impacted by Arts Corps in more ways that she knows. Last year out of the blue, while I was at Festa – our biggest fundraiser of the year – she declared that she “prays to Arts Corps and Buddha.” There are many unexpected aspects of that statement but it always makes me smile.

The public school we chose for her – our decision and criteria totally influenced by Arts Corps – is an alternative one with full time visual arts and music teachers, dance residencies, yoga and more. At the tour, the principle wove poetry into his talk about the school. Test scores were never mentioned. Individualized learning and art and organic gardens and community were. I wanted to go back to kindergarten.

Last year in first grade, Clara became friends with a tiny little spitfire of a girl named Kate. Kate is delightfully spirited (at least to me; I’m not her mother), creative and full of life. On the drive home from school, I would sometimes be lucky enough to catch tiny glimpses into Clara’s day. Special guest from the Seattle Public Library. Caterpillar at show and tell. What Kate packed in her own lunch. That’s right – 6-year-old Kate apparently packed her own lunch.

Sometimes it was cereal. Sometimes it was an English muffin and 6 snack boxes of raisins. Without hesitation, she’d solicit better looking food from her friends. I always questioned to myself how much of this was true. The one time I questioned it out loud, the response was an exasperated eye roll and sigh from my 1st grade tween: “It’s true mom. She told me so.” Adults are so dumb.

Until one day when Clara said all Kate had was leftover spaghetti in her lunchbox. And Kate doesn’t even like spaghetti. Clara was silent for a while and I could see in the rear view mirror that her eyes were focused and partially closed – her “thinking” look.

Very thoughtfully she said, “I don’t think Kate packs her own lunch.” I daringly ask “why” hoping not to awaken the inner tween and shut her down. “Because if she DID pack her own lunch, she wouldn’t pack something she didn’t like.”

I had to pull over because I was whooping so vigorously. “Do you know what you just did? That was CRITICAL THINKING!! YEAH!” An excited explanation about critical thinking ensued, along with me spilling over with pride and probably tearing up a little. Clara looked pleased with herself. I said a silent prayer myself to art making and the wonderful things it brings out in us all.

Next up – getting my awesomely adventurous 4-year-old son Michael to grasp on to the creative habit “persistence and discipline.” Here’s hoping.

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Reflecting on our teaching

On June 7th, Arts Corps held the end-of-the year Teaching Artist Meeting.

Our veteran master teaching artist Vicky Edmonds took us on an astonishing journey to deeply reflect on what teaching means for us.  Using her wizard technique of encouraging all of us to submerge into our soul to inundate our papers with words of hope and confidence on what we do. Thanks Vicky. Reader, please find below, some excerpts.”

“….teaching is like gardening sewing wildflowers, volunteers and heirlooms….” (Stephany Hazelrigg)

“ …. Is like the tide, sure as the pull of the moon….”    (Elizabeth Whitford)

“….my students demand that I become my better self sooner than I had dreamed….”  (Aaron Walker-Loud)

“….hidden light in the soul, getting out to the light of the sun….”  (Tomas Oliva)

“…the process of creating is like a metamorphosis…finally emerging to spread its

wings and shine…”   (Lana Sundberg)

“… you think nobody likes the meat. …when the class is over, everyone is hungry for more….” (Geoff Garza)

“…teaching is like eating a watermelon with a lot of seeds…” (Amber Flame)

“…teaching is like a nap in the spring… one finds renewal in both light and storm…”  (Sean O’Neill)

“….teaching is like Che Guevara walking unarmed into the storm…” (Daniel Pak)

“….burns and breaths things and in to its smallest and most basic

elements of truth…”  (Arturo Rodriguez)

“…my art is like …..erupting in red and purple, dark and yearning for light….” (Lara Davis)

“….celebration and love encouraged those children whose explored arts without fear the beauty (Eduardo Mendonça)

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And so, here we are…

Beefin, curve, sprung, and fly are just some of the many words I’ve learned this year during our teen time class at the Low Income Housing Institute’s Meadowbrook View Apartments. It’s pretty funny really. I didn’t have the slightest clue what these words meant until I started ‘hangin’ with the teens.  And if you’re as clueless as I was, just check out


Teen Time was a special request from the teenagers themselves. They wanted some time away from the younger kids to chill and talk about things that concerned them. Quite frankly, Lynn, Darnesha, and I also used this time as a way to keep an eye on them so as to steer them away from any trouble.

We encouraged them to speak their mind and ask questions. We honored freedom of speech and made a pact of confidentiality (unless it was something that could potentially harm them or someone else) and at their request, we spoke with frankness ourselves. To make it fun, we added a family style dinner twice a month where we would cook, set the table, give thanks, eat and converse without the distractions of facebook, texting, and TV.

It was a hit the first month or so as our group maintained about seven teenagers. It was awesome watching the youth take on responsibility and enjoy being together—but soon the interest started to dwindle. They had more important things to do and a series of unfortunate events rattling our community made things worse. In the end, only two teenagers remained. Two young ladies that stuck it out and really, really, REALLY wanted to be there.

I have to admit, it was discouraging to be in a near empty classroom. Once again, I felt like a failure, totally uncool, and wondering what the hell I’d been doing all this time—but these two girls demonstrated willingness, dedication, and a yearning to learn.

While it was sad that we’d lost some of the other teens, it worked out just dandy. We shared some interesting and in-depth conversations about life, relationships, music, family, friends, and more. Don’t worry, we had some good laughs too, sometimes we just played games and listened to music.

Every conversation was a teachable moment.

Heck, their chicken tacos were darn good too!

More importantly, they learned about positive communication, mastering their socialization skills and growing as young adults.

This was supposed to be a music class, but it transformed into something else. The girls felt cherished and understood and that’s a good thing.

And so, here we are–two years of an extraordinary adventure has come to end. I may never see these kids again, but all I can say is that they’ve taught me to listen with an open heart, temper my words, and meet them at their level. They’ve taken me on crazy roller coaster ride into a new world of teaching…just when I thought I was done with that world. For that I am grateful.

Thank you ArtsCorps.

Thank you Meadowbrook.

Thank you teens.

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