Aaron Walker-Loud is an artist, band director, composer, producer and educator. He is the founder and director of Big World Breaks (a production company built for performance, studio and education), that has shared stages with Janelle Monae, Kool DJ Red Alert, Digable Planets, DJ Qbert, Macklemore, Reggie Watts, Saul Williams and many more. B.W.B. has also produced live show backing for various artists such as: Grammy Nominated vocalists Wayna and Rocky Dawuni, Sy Smith, Zo!, Dynamq, Choklate, Kimberly Nichole, Massive Monkees and Xperience. Aaron is a proud alum of the CD Music Factory (Washington Middle School Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Mr. Robert Knatt, and Garfield High School Jazz Ensemble / Drumline, under the direction of Mr. Clarence Acox). Aaron began working with youth and families in 1999, eventually becoming the Education Director for Seattle JazzED (2010-2016), a teaching artist for Arts Corps (2008-present) as well as the drumline director for Washington Middle School (2008-2016) and O’Dea High School (2012-2018). Most recently Aaron became a member of the Creative Advantage roster, co-founded 50 Next: Seattle Hip-Hop Worldwide in 2012, founded the award-winning intergenerational BWB Drumline in 2015 and co-curated The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop exhibit at MOHAI (with over 31,000 attendees and 20 co-produced events), which won the 2016 American Association of State and Local History Leadership in History Award, “the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.”
ZAG, real name Amr Awwad, is a Hip-Hop artist, Spoken Word Poet, and DJ. Since coming to the US from Zagazig, Egypt in 2015 when he was 16 years old, he’s developed a passion for writing poetry and music that expresses his identity both back home and in the diaspora. Driven by his passion for social justice and Equity, ZAG has been vocal and active in the Hip-Hop and Spoken Word community, performing at many venues including The Moore Theatre and MoPop’s Sky Church. ZAG is also a 2016-2017 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador. In the future, ZAG hopes to go back to Egypt and start his own nonprofit, helping youth know their rights through art and self-expression.
Erica Merritt began singing and performing at 5. In middle school, she was featured in a band called “Starlighters,” which consisted of three student vocalists and a few members of the faculty. At 14, she joined theatre and music performance groups at Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center. She studied voice and music in college, and began teaching choir through Northwest Folklife in 1998. She has continued to teach voice, songwriting and choir intermittently through various art organizations over the last 10 years. Erica has also worked in the field of social and human services for over 15 years and has enjoyed the amazing opportunity to combine her passions of social well-being and music through the art of teaching.
Erika is a Seattle-born and raised writer and vocalist. Since her childhood discovery of the shared family trait of musicality, Erika has sung and provided musical instruction in churches and community spaces most her life. She played the role of Nina Simone in Nu Black Arts West Theatre’s Dark Divas in 2015, has toured with Seattle groups Black Stax and artist Daniel Pak, sharing stages with Clinton Fearon, Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, Tony! Toni! Toné!, Divinity Roxx, and J Boog, and has worked alongside Top 40 recording artists. A self-taught drummer and beatmaker, Erika sees life as one continuous song. Her passion for community and youth empowerment powers her work as manager of West Seattle’s arts hub, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (DNDA). Erika believes the realization of one’s purpose has power to change lives, and worlds
Olisa is a performing artist, arts educator and arts administrator who believes that art is essential in the cultivation of community and culture. Born and raised in Seattle to a multicultural music family, Olisa spent her childhood writing and performing. She traversed genres and rooted in hip hop as her primary form of expression. As she grew in music she branched out to theater and found passion for the power of story to reveal and heal. Olisa is a member of The Conciliation Project (TCP). TCP uses theater to start courageous conversations around the inequities that are woven into the fabric of this complex nation.
She is a founding member of Griot Girlz and works with the award-winning youth arts program Creative Justice. Olisa teaches with Macklemore’s youth development through hip hop program, The Residency. Olisa provides professional development, curriculum development, and workshops through her business Praxis Essentials.
Sumayya E. Diop is a teaching artist, dancer, choreographer, actor, and administrator specializing in Folkloric performance dance culture, of the African Diaspora, and whose artistic goals and aspirations are rooted in the love of dance theatre. Sumayya has created and presented works in both traditional and contemporary African dance styles. Sumayya is currently Teaching Artist Coordinator with Arts Corps, as well as partnering with The Creative Advantage, and Youth Arts through the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. She is a co-founder of Griot Girlz, which works closely with Seattle Public Schools students in developing creative capacities and academic mindsets through arts integrated instruction. Other responsibilities include performances, community building and special projects. Sumayya has contributed to the field of dance, music and theatre through performance, instruction, and program development.
Sumayya is passionate about sharing dance, song and music of the African Diaspora and bringing youth, young adults, and adults to the stage using performance as a vehicle for increased self-confidence, esteem awareness, a rooted sense of belonging, and the preservation of cultural legacy. Sumayya attended Cornish College of the Arts, majoring in dance, and was most recently selected to participate in a 7-week International Conference and Professional Development workshop in Choreography of Traditional and Contemporary African Dance in Senegal, West Africa.
At age 15, Shelby Handler performed at a poetry slam for the first time and upon finishing their piece, immediately ran off the stage. Since then, Shelby has been running back and forth from the stage and supporting the next generation of poets to take the mic. As a writer and performer,
their work queers accepted notions of belonging, ancestry and home through explorations of Jewish identity at the margins. Their work has been featured in books, public buses, literary journals and stages across the country. Shelby is honored to call Youth Speaks Seattle one of their forever poetry homes. They used to manage the Teen Leadership Program but henceforth, they shall assume the role of Awkward Fan Grrl at the slam series and if they’re lucky, a teaching artist for Arts Corps and YOUTH SPEAKS! Find more from them @shelbeleh.
Aishé Keita, a first generation Malian-Jamaican-American performer, actress, teacher and yogi, attended Cornish College of the Arts and American Conservatory Theater. During her time in Seattle Aishé has been in productions at Seattle Shakespeare Company, Intiman Theater, Seattle Repertory Theater , Book-it theater, Freehold theater and toured to Minneapolis and played at the Guthrie theater. She splits her energy teaching at Washington Correctional Center for Women funded by Freehold theater , providing artistic outlets for the incarcerated. Aishé is dedicated to storytelling, studying ritual, African traditions in her homeland Mali in order to keep her history alive. Aishé was recently awarded a Gregory for best actress for her role, Young Maya in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Meredith Arena is a writer and interdisciplinary teaching artist from New York City with 18 years of teaching experience for youth ages 5-15, both in afterschool and school-day arts integration environments. Before teaching at Arts Corps, Meredith was a teaching artist in Brooklyn, New York. Meredith holds an BA in Cultural Studies, a BFA in photography and an MFA in Creative Writing. She teaches at the intersection of creativity, self-awareness and community building. Her favorite classes to teach are Performance and Creativity (students explore theater as a tool for self-awareness and community building) Media Arts (students make, photo essays, podcasts and documentaries about issues of concern to them) and any Writing class that involves writing and performing poetry and monologues. She also facilitates meditation for adults and young people. Meredith endeavors to make her classes a joyful and safe place where students can examine and subvert the status quo. She wants students to know that creativity is all about making choices, both in their art and in their day to day lives.
Born in the Philippines, Carina A. del Rosario immigrated to the United States as a young girl. She earned her B.A. in Communication from Santa Clara University in 1991. She has studied photography with Magnum Photographer Alex Webb, Rebecca Norris Webb, Raul Touzon and Eddie Soloway, and a variety of visual arts media at Pratt Fine Arts, Cornish College of the Arts and other cultural institutions. In addition to her own creative and documentary projects, she is a teaching artist and helps youth use visual arts and digital media to explore their communities, advocate for what matters for them, and express their own experiences. She works with a number of schools, cultural institutions and community-based organizations to help students develop 21st century skills through the visual arts. She collaborates with non-profit organizations and educational institutions to help illustrate issues such as poverty, education, health and civil rights. She also founded IDEA Odyssey, a collective that promotes cultural diversity, community development and economic prosperity in the International District/Chinatown neighborhood through visual arts. In 2013, the International Examiner honored her with a Community Voice Award for an Individual Artist.
Greg is a teaching artist, small business owner, visual artist and screen printing instructor who has a great passion for teaching youth. Greg was a restaurant manager and had been for many years when he was asked in the fall of 2013 by a local school district to present a curriculum for an art program in the district’s middle schools. From the first minute of his first class, Greg knew he had found the job that he wanted to do for the rest of his life – teaching and engaging students with art. At the beginning of his teaching artist career, Greg also had an opportunity to teach teens at an inpatient drug/alcohol treatment facility and at programs involving court-involved youth. Those experiences solidified Greg’s desire not only to teach students in a public school setting, but also to work closely as a teacher and mentor at-risk youth and youth in need. Greg engages students in the creative process by focusing on them as individuals, helping them to express their fears and their dreams, to set goals, and to develop the desire to succeed despite possible difficulties. Greg’s main goal is that each of his students learn to express their own voices in a creative and positive way. Greg’s lessons also teach skills that translate to other areas of the students’ lives – collaboration, leadership, acceptance, empathy, public speaking. Greg realizes that not every youth will become a great artist during his courses – but that truly is not the goal. Greg simply asks each student to embrace the journey of discovery and hopes that creating art helps build confidence in his students and that they have fun.
Jiéyì Ludden is an interdisciplinary artist who has shapeshifted through many mediums. Jiéyì was born in Nagoya, Japan and moved around many times as a child before landing in rural Kentucky as a queer, trans, and mixed race tween. Making art has been a refuge to return to because it is a way of tapping into the generative space between words. Through art, Jiéyì opens towards play and imagination so that they can untangle the truthiness of a story. They hold an MFA in 4d art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where they focused on socially-engaged arts practices. Jiéyì lives in a collective house in Seattle, Washington and likes to dance wildly in the kitchen.
Maria Luisa Guillen Valdovinos (Poesia Mariarte) is a visual creative thinker/artist, educator/art therapist and Indigenous Rights observer in environmental, food, and social justice movements; based in occupied Coast Salish Territories. Art ingrained in cultural experience, she graduated in 2010 from the University of Washington in Bio-Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Gender & Sexuality Studies. She was born in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero Mexico and after studying graffiti in Lima, PERU IN 2009 with Jorge Miyagi and drawing flowers in Biology projects begun building creatively in cultural political movements, traveling with the National Indigenous Congress, parents of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa, and visited Autonomous Zapatista communities as a human rights observer with FRAYBA, an indigenous human rights organization based in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas Mexico. Featured as a performer in BBC’s 100 Womxn in Mexico City 2016 and A Published Writer featured in “Chapter 9: Travels of a Diaspora Community: From La Sierra Madre Y Tierra Caliente to the Pacific Northwest” MEXICAN-ORIGIN FOODS, FOODWAYS, AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS: A DECOLONIAL PRESPECTIVES, The University of Arkansas Press 2017; Publication “Xin Fronteras”, Seattle Journal for Social Justice Seattle University School of Law. Overall she is a lover of all things creatively expressive.
Mylen Tumaliuan-Huggins believes that the arts are an essential part of being a person. She is greatly inspired by and thrives on the creativity and expressive confidence that comes from young emerging artists. Trained as a graphic designer/illustrator, her true passion is teaching artistry, engaging youth in the creative process of visual arts. She’s been a teaching artist for over a decade serving youth ranging from kindergarten to high school from her early days at The Children’s Museum to several Seattle and Highline Public Schools as well as teaching for Arts Corps and Seattle Art Museum. In addition to being a teaching artist, Mylen is also an artist mentor for Arts Impact and serves on the board for Arts Corps.
Sabrina Chacon-Barajas graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a BA in Studio Art. She used her senior art show to challenge the SPU community on stereotypes of the Latinx community. Her work incorporates multi-media art to represent the intersectional identity of being a brown femme. Her work mostly consists of creating illustrative profiles of people and diving into the issues and experiences of the Latinx diaspora. Sabrina is a teaching artist that cares about representation in the classroom and closing the achievement gap through the power of the arts. She centers her curriculum around sense of belonging in the classroom using culturally responsive pedagogy. Sabrina speaks Spanish and empowers her students to speak and write in their language by being transparent in her experience as a first generation person who is more comfortable with Spanglish and translanguaging. Sabrina has taught with various art programs and non-profits in the PNW such as REEL GRRLS, SAM, Gage Academy of the Arts, South Park Community Center, Ailey Camp, Pratt Fine Arts, and Centrum in Port Townsend.