City building at Mount View Elementary

I moved to Seattle eight years ago intending to dive fully into the city’s culture. I’ve wandered the halls of 619 Western Ave during art walks and cheered on slam poets late into the night. I’ve learned to effortlessly distribute waste/recycles/compost into each appropriate bin. I make my own kombucha and am pretentious about coffee with the best of them. Weather does not deter my outdoor activities and of course I don’t use an umbrella.

I came to Seattle for much more than sipping lattes though.

I came to contribute to and see this city reach its full potential for greatness. At some point along the way, I decided that I wanted to do more than be an artist in my own right; I felt compelled to seek out opportunities for all youth in the city to engage in the arts. Arts had shaped my youth and my life in Seattle, and I wanted to see these opportunities made available to the generations behind me. Thus working with Arts Corps to teach ceramics at Mount View Elementary (within the greater Seattle area) has been such an honor and so fulfilling.

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Today our class wrapped up the City Building project that we spent much of Winter quarter working on. Students had collaborated and used various ceramic techniques to construct businesses, a zoo, a hospital, homes, parks, a soccer field, a transportation systems (and yes, our city had two coffeeshops). They saw the culmination of their hard work as they combined individual pieces into one collective city, choosing where to place each piece of the city and drawing roads connecting each piece to the others. As they stepped back, they saw how their individual contributions added to something so much larger.


I was really excited about this project because it not only allowed the students to use all the ceramic techniques we had thus far learned, but the project also required the students to dream into and then create a city as they would build it. My hope was that the project would empower the students to think of themselves as significant contributors to their community!… That they are culture shapers!… That anything is possible!


Today was also my last day as a resident of Seattle. Tomorrow I move to San Francisco to join the Exploratorium’s Extended Learning team, where I’ll continue to create opportunities for people of all ages to engage in curiosity, creativity, and possibility. I’ll surely immerse myself into that city just like I’ve done here, but as I leave, I’m hopeful that something lasting has been planted here in Seattle. More than a few skills in ceramics, my hope is that I’m leaving these students with a greater sense of their potential, both as artists and as contributors to their world.


With all that Seattle has to offer (and yes, today was sunny and 70), I cannot think of a better way to have spent my last afternoon in this city than investing into these budding artists, moreover, young culture shapers.

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Facilitators announced for our Arts Education & Social Justice Institute

We are excited to announce that Roberto Ascalon, Lara Davis, Diana Falchuck, and Tina LaPadula will be facilitating our Arts Education & Social Justice Institute on October 4th & 5th. This dynamic group will lead participants through exercises to identify, unpack and challenge manifestations of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism and adultism in the classroom and beyond. Read more about the institute here.


ascalon_smNYC-born Roberto Ascalon is a poet, writer, arts educator, and spoken-word performance artist who lives in the historic Youngstown/Cooper School in West Seattle. Roberto uses his love for the craft of poetry to transform the world that surrounds him. He connects with audiences via universal narratives that encompass topics like racism, first kisses, love, family, and Spam.

Roberto has taught for The Hugo House, Arts Corps, Youthspeaks, and Seattle Arts and Lectures. His writing has appeared in Seattle Poetry on Buses and National Poetry Slam Anthology. He has also been on two Seattle National Poetry Slam teams and is an integral part of the Seattle spoken-word community. Most recently, Roberto won the 2013 Rattle Poetry Prize. His poem was chosen from over 8,000 poems and will be published in the winter issue of Rattle.


lara-davisLara Davis is the arts education specialist for the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, a new position that builds capacity for arts education efforts. Lara will help align the work of Seattle Public Schools and community partners through Seattle’s city-wide K-12 arts plan (The Creative Advantage), a comprehensive strategy for closing the access gap in arts learning.

Lara has been active in youth development and community arts education for more than a decade. She has served as a Seattle Arts Commissioner and is the former program director for Arts Corps, an award winning Seattle-based youth arts organization. Lara facilitates race and social justice trainings for teaching artists and youth workers, local arts groups and at national conferences. As an artist and administrator, she knows firsthand the power of creativity necessary to foster engagement, transform communities and inspire systemic change.


CAT117_APod_2_Arts7Diana Falchuck is a national consultant, facilitator, educator and practicing artist with 13 years experience developing and leading community-centered programming, policy and trainings. Her expertise includes designing and facilitating trainings on oppression and cultural competency, and managing partnerships between community organizations and government that use hands-on, creative channels to achieve equity and provide alternatives to incarceration. Diana has a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Washington where she trained as an Intergroup Dialogue Facilitator. In addition to her consulting practice, Diana works as Outreach Specialist with the City of Seattle Office for Civil Rights/Race and Social Justice Initiative, through which she is designing and managing a multi-sector, regional education campaign to build public will for racial equity, in partnership with Pacific Science Center and numerous community and for-profit organizations.


Arts CorpsTina LaPadula is a teaching artist and one of the founders of Arts Corps, where she is currently serving as the Education Director.  Her commitment to emergent curriculum, art for social change and student-centered assessment, helped shape the Arts Corps philosophy. Tina has performed for theatre, film and television in Seattle, New York, London, and Pennsylvania and has taught theatre, performance and storytelling at Centrum Arts, Power of Hope, A Contemporary Theatre, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. She has facilitated experiential learning courses called “Making Student Learning Visible” through the University of Washington’s Pipeline Project, and regularly leads workshops on equity, the power of arts learning, and creative habits for the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, Seattle Public Schools, School’s Out WA and various national conferences. Tina is board chair for the Association of Teaching Artists and co-founder of the Seattle Teaching Artist Network.  She serves on Seattle Public Schools’ strategic vision team for the arts, as well as Service Learning Seattle. She credits her early work at the YWCA for teaching her the fundamentals of youth care and illuminating the need for quality arts experiences for all young people.


Registration for the institute is now open. Go here to register.

For more information, please contact

The Social Justice and Arts Education Institute is the result of three years of Arts Corps’ work of providing racial justice and anti-oppression leadership (via consultations and workshop facilitation) in the fields of the arts, youth development, and education.

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Arts Corps presents the 1st Arts Education & Social Justice Institute

October 4th-5th, 2013

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Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
4408 Delridge Way SW
Seattle, WA 98106

Facilitated by Arts Corps Staff and Teaching Artists

Cost: $200
(Includes materials, light breakfast, lunch and snacks for both days.)

Register here.


This two day institute is primarily geared toward arts teachers, teaching artists, and creative facilitators seeking to deepen their practice of teaching the arts through a social justice lens. Arts Corps will lay the groundwork with national and local statistics about the access gap in arts learning, and the powerful links between arts education and the struggle for educational equity and transformative social change. Participants will then be armed with creativity, community-building and liberation tools to transform how we approach our collective work. Attendees will engage in personal reflection, group activities, and participatory theater exercises to identify, unpack and challenge manifestations of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism and adultism in the classroom and beyond.  Arts Corps teaching artists and staff will model strategies for building accountable relationships betCreative Practiceween youth and adults, and participants will receive helpful frameworks to bring back and share with organizations and school communities.

This institute will explore the following themes:

  • Language: Develop a common language around racial justice and anti-oppression
  • History: Explore the history and values of arts education through a social justice lens
  • Practice: Sharpen creative teaching practice and deepen capacity for social justice classrooms
  • Assessment: Utilize social justice assessment tools to reflect on our work
  • Inspiration: Begin to look at models of  arts educators  working for transformative social change


Register here. For more information, please contact

The Social Justice and Arts Education Institute is the result of three years of Arts Corps’ work of providing racial justice and anti-oppression leadership (via consultations and workshop facilitation) in the fields of the arts, youth development, and education.

Read More