Student Spotlight: Mica Viacrucis

Student Mica Viacrucis, a teenager with dark shoulder-length hair, wearing a flannel in front of potted succulents

We are so excited to spotlight one of our talented student, Mica Viacrucis! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your art with us, Mica.

What Arts Corps programs have you been involved in? What impact have these experiences had on you?

I was an intern at Arts Corps’ Art 4 Life Program @Octave 9, which took place Spring 2023. Alongside other creative youth, I practiced film, photography, and performance, focusing on themes of environmental justice. This program helped me realize how wonderful surrounding myself with other youth artists is, and how thrilling putting myself out there can be!

The program lasted less than a week, but I could feel my cohort open up to each other as the days passed by. At first, we were hesitant to participate in activities like singing and dancing in front of each other. I watched as others stepped out of their comfort zone, trying new things and accepting vulnerability, and it inspired me to join too. The initial embarrassment washed away as we shared these experiences and got to know each other. I’d met such amazing visual artists and skilled musicians, and generally such welcoming people. I made friends that I still talk to today, almost a year later! The love and encouragement I received from them has helped me find the courage to put myself out there more often.

I remember the final showcase, when I was backstage with one of my dear friends I joined the program with, Lorein. It would soon be our turn to perform our duet. We were going to sing “City of Stars” from the musical La La Land. I’d never sang for a crowd that wasn’t family or close friends before, so I was feeling very anxious. Lorein and I had practiced for hours, but I still worried I would forget a lyric or my voice would crack. Though when I started singing, my nervousness melted away and was replaced by excitement. We sang together under the purple lights, our hard work paying off as we listened to the applause and cheer. Later, one of the friends I made told me this shouldn’t be the last time I perform in front of an audience.

Those words touched my heart. Since Art 4 Life, I’ve pushed myself to try new things and have more confidence in myself. I sang at my school’s Open Mic, and danced in front of hundreds with my cousin in the Philippines. I’ve also attended many art events and joined art programs since then, after realizing my love for community.

What does creativity mean to you?

Creativity is everything to me. A means of self expression, entertainment, and a way to connect with others. I’m often lost in deep thought and imagination. Ever since I was a young child, my parents would catch me staring off into space at the dinner table and have to remind me to eat.

I’m someone who is easily inspired by the things around me and the people I meet. The view after everything has been rained on, and the beauty of light breaking through clouds. The warm sound of people laughing together in bustling restaurants, each person molded by their own unique experiences and thoughts. With my art, I want to capture impactful moments and immortalize those I’ve cherished with stories, words, and drawings. For me, expressing my love through art is a form of self expression.

I’ve also created a lot of art without an established meaning, as the process of creation is simply fun to me. Sometimes my hands move first and my thoughts follow after. Sometimes it feels like I am not thinking of anything! It feels right for me to do art, and it’s hard to imagine myself without it.

Creativity is powerful. Sharing art with others, whether that be making art with someone or for someone, brings people closer together. There have been many times where art could convey emotion impossible for me to explain. Many times where I could bond with people I knew nothing about beforehand through art.

What mediums do you like working in and why?

I have tried a ton of different mediums: acrylic paint, pastels, markers, collage, papercraft, and so much more. I like exploring different outlets for creativity and feel my skills in one medium transfers to others. I also enjoy other disciplines of art, such as photography, music, and dance!

I am most familiar with digital art, and like the convenience and endless opportunity it provides. I’ve practiced digital art since 2021, starting out with my phone and finger on free art apps. I now have a drawing tablet, stylus, and an art software, although I strongly believe materials don’t matter. Many of my favorite pieces were created on my phone!

I also like oil pastels and watercolor. Compared to digital art, these mediums are much less forgiving, but having these limitations pushes me to be more intentional with each stroke.

What is one medium you haven’t tried, but are interested in exploring?

I would love to try oil painting! I’ve seen a handful of people around me use it and I have the materials, but I haven’t gotten around to trying it just yet. I’m curious on how different it will feel from other types of paint. I know that its consistency can vary based on the mediums you add, and the drying time is significantly longer.

What artworks are you most proud of?

Kingdom of Debris – Digital art, Clip Studio Paint (Drawing tablet)

I am proud of this art piece considering both its emotional significance and the technical aspects of the art. It is inspired by one of my dearest friends’ fictional stories that they would tell me about, of a king whose kingdom would fall under his reign. I wanted to make their story come to life by drawing the protagonist. I am most proud of my attention to detail in the armor. I did studies on how metal looks, and took the time to draw cracks in the armor. This is also the first piece I created when I got a drawing tablet!

Digital art by Mica Viacrucis: a king wearing battered armor in a throne room, light streaming in and roses losing petals

Oblivion – Digital Art, ibisPaint X (phone and finger)

I went to my friends’ highschool orchestra concert, and was mesmerized by the string bassist, who seemed to hold the song together. I could feel the low hum of the instrument in my chest. The spotlights above the stage reflected beautifully on the musician and his instrument, and I wanted to capture this moment. In the background of the drawing is the sheet music of the piece he played.

Digital art by Mica Viacrucis: a string bassist playing, with a blue background of sheet music titled Oblivion

Sophie – Oil Pastel on Black paper

I made this for my older sibling, who has supported all of my art endeavors, and me as a person. Sophie is their lynx point siamese cat! As one of my favorite mediums, I like the consistency of oil pastels and blending the colors. I always make a mess when I use them though!

Oil Pastel on Black paper by Mica Viacrucis of a lynx point siamese cat wearing a silver tag "Sophie"

Untitled – Watercolor and Colored Pencil

I’ve only recently got into watercolor, and I am proud of my progress in this medium. I like the texture of the paint and enjoy layering colors. I worked on this for 6 hours straight and am proud of the depth of this painting and how the flowers turned out!

Watercolor and colored pencil piece by Mica Viacrucis of half a face with abrun around the eye, surrounded by flowers

 

What is one lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to share with fellow student artists?

I’ve learned how important it is to surround yourself with other artists and creatives! Going to art events and joining communities has been a huge factor of my own improvement. Gaining new perspectives, advice, and support from others is important. I often find myself stuck, or stare at a piece of art or writing for hours because it just doesn’t look right. Sometimes a pair of fresh eyes can see what I can’t, offering new ideas and pointing out what could be improved. I am someone who values mentorship! Learning from someone more experienced than you, that challenges and supports your growth, is extremely helpful and inspiring. I encourage youth artists to join programs, take classes, and talk to professionals in the fields they are passionate about!

In a video you made for Art 4 Life @ Octave 9, you and your classmate Lorein spoke of littering in Seattle and a possible solution being the deposit-refund waste management system. How do you see art intersecting big topics, such as environmentalism and public health?

I see art intersecting topics like environmentalism and public health in very significant ways. I’ve seen many people share art on social media relating to the environment, social justice, mental health, and more. Social media is a fast way to reach a lot of people. Being able to share stories and spread awareness is powerful in an age where media censorship is prevalent in many parts of the world and telling your own story in the face of that is important. 

There has been a well documented rise of young people experiencing mental health challenges. The youth mental health crisis is something I care a lot about, as I know many people who suffer from anxiety and depression. In the future, I hope to become an illustrator and create stories that can reach people. In my own art, I want to provide visibility for marginalized and underrepresented communities. Representation for communities I too am part of, that I didn’t have when I was growing up and discovering who I am. I hope my art can make someone entertained, have a more open mind, or feel seen.

 

You can learn more about Mica and their art through their website: mivi

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Arts Corps a Yield Giving Awardee

"Yield Giving Open Call Awardee" in blue and green over light background with green lines

Today we have big news to share with our community.

Arts Corps has been selected to receive a $2 million gift as an awardee of the Yield Giving Open Call!

Last spring, Yield Giving launched an open call for community-led, community-focused organizations whose explicit purpose is to enable individuals and families to achieve substantive improvement in their well-being through foundational resources. We applied, along with 6,353 other applicants from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. After a process of multiple levels of review, feedback, and diligence involving peer applicants and an external Evaluation Panel recruited for relevant experience, we are so proud to say we are one of the awardees. 

As you can imagine, we are beyond excited and incredibly grateful for this transformative gift! At Arts Corps, we work towards a world where barriers to arts education no longer exist and all young people can creatively lead the transformation of schools, neighborhoods, and beyond. We do so by creating opportunities through the arts which address racial and socioeconomic inequities, igniting the creative power of our young people. 

This gift will enable us to deepen and expand our programming, to create new partnerships in new sites, and to support us as we grow in our own space. It brings critical stability after years of challenges, and we will leverage it in order to contribute to the cultural economy in King County. First and foremost, this gift will allow us to invest even more in our youth, furthering the ways we can support them not only as students in our classes but as growing artists in their own personal journey. 

We thank Yield Giving and their managing partner, Lever for Change, for their belief in our work and in our vision. We thank our incredible staff, faculty, and board for their unrelenting heart and drive. We thank you, *|FNAME|*, for supporting us through our journey.

Let’s get to work.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Naho Shioya & Shawn Roberts
Co-Executive Directors

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Community Spotlights: Arte Noir, Asé Theatre, Wa Na Wari

At Arts Corps, one of our beliefs is that everybody deserves to experience the joy of artistic expression and that we must work to nurture, uplift, and celebrate every person’s creativity, especially those who’ve faced systematic barriers. In honor of February as Black History Month, we are spotlighting three local organizations who do just this: nurture, uplift, and celebrate Black artistry and Black creativity. Make sure to follow and support their amazing work year-round!

Logo, Arte Noir in black, blocky graphic letters with yellow dot in center of "o"

Arte Noir exists to uplift Black artists. It spotlights and celebrates the Black community through the articles in its online publication, covering local, national, and international figures and events. Its physical space in the Central District serves as an anchor, providing a gathering space for community where they can find and support Black art through its retail shop and fine arts gallery. The space helps create consistent revenue stream for the artists, only selling items made by Black creatives who receive 100% of net proceeds.  

Currently, the gallery is showcasing “Once Upon a Spacetime”, a collection of ethereal artworks by Aramis Hamer which transcend the boundaries of time and space to explore the interconnected narratives of strength, grace, and spiritual elevation. Check out more about the gallery here.

Looking forward, Arte Noir is working to expand to include a small recording studio for training young people in audio and music production, as well as an art and maker space for classes and artist use. Help them make this possible by supporting them through their website. Follow their Facebook and Instagramto hear about their latest publications, events, and more. 

Asé theatre logo, "Asé" in big black cursive, and "Theatre" in sans serif caps, pink over black background

Asé Theatre is a community-based theater company dedicated to engaging the power of storytelling to inspire and bring about change. They use cultural practice and performance to preserve and promote ancient practices and principles of African and Indigenous theatre, including Ritual Poetic Drama within the African Continuum. Previously known as Griot Girlz, Asé Theatre is familiar to our Arts Corps community as it is led by former Co-Director of Arts Education, the talented Olisa Enrico.

Asé Theatre designs culturally responsive arts based curriculum for people of all ages. Every summer they host Gxrls Act, an immersive paid performance internship in which self-identified teenage gxrls are taught skills in movement, acting, dance, and songwriting, and are empowered to share their voice. The internship culminates in a collaborative performance. Asé Theatre also hosts classes and workshops for community throughout the year. Currently, they are offering a Movement and African Dance class with Teaching Artist Aishe, every other Monday, 7-8pm, in Washington Hall. Make sure to follow them on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with all their awesome work, and to visit their page to donate.

"Wa Na Wari" logo, with black caps, "Wa" and "Nari" bolded. On top, two black triangle outlines over trapezoid, like a roof

Meaning “Our Home” in the Kalabari language, Wa Na Wari is more than just an organization or a reclaimed space, it is an immersive community art project and a statement about the importance of Black land ownership in gentrified communities. Sited in the historically Black Central District, Wa Na Wari rents a fifth-generation, Black-owned home and gives it back to the Black community, providing a space for organizing, movement building, and Black creativity. It offers free art exhibits, film screenings, performances, and workshops.

Wa Na Wari hosts The Seattle Black Spatial Histories Institute, a two-year community story training program which works with a faculty of Black oral historians from around the country, as well as with local historians, archivists, geographers, librarians, and artists, to teach the ethics, techniques, best practices, tensions, and dilemmas of community-based oral history and Black memory work. Every year, it also hosts Walk the Block, the annual outdoor visual and performing arts festival. Follow their Facebook and Instagram for updates on all the happenings and support their work directly on their page.

 

 

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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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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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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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