Guest Post: the Youth-Led Campaign to Educate, Entertain and Empower

Photo by Tim Aguero.

Jamil Suleman served as the Mentor Artist to the most recent session of Creative Justice, our program offering an arts-based alternative to incarceration for court-involved youth in King County. In this Guest Post, Jamil shares insight into what the group of participants learned and accomplished:

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Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

Jamil Suleman served as the Mentor Artist to the most recent session of Creative Justice, our program offering an arts-based alternative to incarceration for court-involved youth in King County. In this Guest Post, Jamil shares insight into what the group of participants learned and accomplished:

I’ve done this before, but there was something different about this group…

The process for me as a Teaching Artist focusing on Hip Hop Culture is usually the same every time, no matter the location or age bracket. Take a group of young people, have them produce music and film, lace the classes with relevant cultural studies that influence the content to be more socially conscious, crank out a legit business plan for merchandise and performances, and build a mini-movement in a handful of months. The result is a cohesive group of artists who, after taking some risks to express themselves, if everything worked out as planned, come out with a stronger sense of self-confidence and reaping the rewards as a team.

There’s nothing like seeing all the weeks of hard work pay off when your shirts sell out after you rocked a set of music that really puts your thoughts and feelings out there. To share your story, and to see it being appreciated by people from all backgrounds, is a life changing experience that sets the tone for a young person’s dreams and pursuits from there on forward. It’s experiential proof. Now, there is no doubt, if they put their mind to it and work hard with a small group of their friends, they can do it.

It can be done.

We started with a group of youth, some who knew each other, and some who were completely new to the area. We’d come in, twice a week, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, and start with a brief activity or meal. Considering the political climate we are in, with everything from the protests at Standing Rock to the election of Donald Trump occurring during our session, you can imagine the dialogue was always lively. It was these conversations that gave a foundation for our art work.

Once we started to form a cohesive core, we looked at all of the various social and cultural issues we discussed and experienced, and decided to pick a campaign to focus our creative project on. With #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL going viral, the youth chose their own movement: #FreeTheYouth. Stemming from the idea of the everyday struggle, the class picked #FreeTheYouth as a way to give voice to youth experiencing incarceration and the school to prison pipeline. That message is what fueled the music, video, shirt design, and the overall purpose of our Creative Justice session.

Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

And in early December, after having wrapped up our last session of Creative Justice 2016, I look at our class of young high schoolers, who’ve gone through their own personal journeys of ups and downs in and out of the courts and foster homes…beaming. They did it. And each one of them is taking home $40 tonight after selling several of their #FreeTheYouth shirts and wristbands they designed while in class. One of our students had a breakthrough moment when she performed in front of a crowd for the second time, now without needing her lyrics. Fear conquered, mission accomplished.

Proof. It can be done.

That’s the main mission for me. To be able to be given a real opportunity, to be vulnerable with students, to be their friend, their ear, their family member…to just be there for them. After having worked several jobs in the field, I can say with confidence that Creative Justice really gets to the core of what our youth and community needs. The heart to heart relationships we build, that lay the groundwork for the foundation of educating and learning from one another, and using our creative talents to express that growth. It allows us to build the necessary trust with each other, so when we make our art, it can be true and authentic, and when we share it, it’s that much more impactful.

I was right about this group being different. I felt, this time, that I was closer to my purpose while teaching with Creative Justice, and the dynamics of the class really prove that. There are always obstacles, and you can expect that things won’t be easy some times. But the way we were able to navigate throughout the quarter allowed us to grow in ways I wasn’t expecting, which gave us a synergy that I feel lasts past the program, and resonates with our entire community.

Photo by Tim Aguero.
Photo by Tim Aguero.

#FreeTheYouth is a movement, and it’s not going anywhere until our youth are free. Free from the shackles of judgement from systems that have been created to silence us. In the time and age we live in, it’s going to be up to our youth to make sure we make it through, for them and their children. After having gone through this session with a dozen very strong and confident young people, who are now seeing their own potential to inspire, I have faith.

It can be done.

#FreeTheYouth

Guest Post: Providing Access in South King County

Jean McFee Raichle, Summer Flowers. Image courtesy of The Art of Alzheimer’s.

Led by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture provides South King County, arts, heritage, and botanical organizations with networking opportunities, advocacy support, and professional development. Here, Barbara provides an update on a recent meeting designed to help the group’s members improve their services and engagement with the public:

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Jean McFee Raichle -- Summer Flowers -- Elderwise ® creative outreach class
Jean McFee Raichle, Summer Flowers. Image courtesy of The Art of Alzheimer’s.

Led by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture provides South King County, arts, heritage, and botanical organizations with networking opportunities, advocacy support, and professional development. Here, Barbara provides an update on a recent meeting designed to help the group’s members improve their services and engagement with the public:

At a recent meeting, our topic was access—we put together a panel of terrific folks who are working to provide meaningful cultural access to both artists and audiences with special needs.

Marilyn Raichle, founder of The Art of Alzheimer’s, talked about discovering how her mother, who had dementia, found a way to express herself even after she became nonverbal. With a paintbrush in her hand, Raichle’s mom created beautiful art with interesting content and vibrant colors. With this newfound evidence that her mother still had a creative spark and stories to share, Raichle has been working to spread the word about this way to connect. Earlier this year at Seattle City Hall, she presented The Artist Within, an exhibit that featured the art of dozens of individuals living with dementia. The disease affects about 100,000 people in Washington State alone.

The Jack Straw Cultural Center has developed several different audio production programs for blind and visually impaired individuals of all ages. Joan Rabinowitz, executive director at Jack Straw, noted that some of these programs have been running for more than 20 years. The Blind Youth Audio Project is an extracurricular workshop series that runs in conjunction with a University of Washington-based summer youth employment program for blind and visually impaired high school students. Students can get involved in radio theater production, interviewing, music recording and mixing, or soundscaping projects. Another program involves visually impaired high school students interviewing visually impaired adults about their careers, and how they achieved their goals. These and other initiatives have been collaborations with organizations including Humanities Washington, the Washington State School for the Blind, Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences, and the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind. And Jack Straw would love to find groups to partner with in South King County.

Our other two panelists focused on programming for special needs youth. Sammamish Arts Commissioner Lin Garretson has developed Special Arts 2Go, which partners special needs kids with high school student mentors to work together on hands-on art projects facilitated by professional instructors. Students are encouraged to express their creativity in a variety of mediums. Garretson said that the events are geared for youngsters on the autism spectrum, but that students with other special needs are welcome. Both they and their teen mentors have been enthusiastic about the program, and both sets of young people have benefited from the teamwork. The program has become immensely popular and has grown significantly in just a short period of time.

And South King County’s own Elisa Lewis, founder of the Maple Valley Youth Symphony, shared the story of how her organization formed a Jam Club when she learned that a couple of musicians in the Youth Symphony had special needs siblings. When the Jam Club started out it served just a couple of children. But as word spread about this Music Therapy based music education program, Jam Club has expanded over the last couple of years to include musicians from second grade through high school. Jam Club participants work toward musical and social goals, and perform with the Maple Valley Youth Symphony on specially selected pieces at every concert.

This program has had the additional advantage of connecting the parents of these kids and giving them a chance to share experiences and resources.

Marilyn, Joan, Lin and Elisa all provided inspiring and concrete examples of how to reach out to under-served populations in our communities. In South King County and elsewhere, let’s dedicate ourselves to doing more to dismantle barriers to participation!

Artist Talk with Deborah Faye Lawrence

Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.

Deborah Faye Lawrence: Open Carry
On view November 3—December 1, 2016 at Gallery4Culture
Artist Talk: Tuesday, November 29, 6:00 pm

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Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.
Deborah Faye Lawrence. Open Carry, 2016. Fabric and paper collage on canvas. 40 3/4 x 34 3/4 inches. Photo: Lynn Thompson.

Deborah Faye Lawrence: Open Carry
On view November 3—December 1, 2016 at Gallery4Culture
Artist Talk: Tuesday, November 29, 6:00 pm

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
– Bertolt Brecht

Deborah Faye Lawrence uses satirical collage as a political and psychological tool. Join us on Tuesday, November 29 at 6:00 pm at Gallery4Culture to learn about her life’s work and the injustices explored in Open Carry.

Creative Justice Youth Take a Stand Against Gentrification with Pop-Up Exhibit

 

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Clockwise: Breana Commodore. A Good Day, 2016; Aaron Counts. Chain Link, 2016; Delino Olebar. Street Selfie, 2016; Faisal Provincial. Pratt, 2016. Photos courtesy of the artists and Creative Justice.
Clockwise: Breana Commodore. A Good Day, 2016; Aaron Counts. Chain Link, 2016; Delino Olebar. Street Selfie, 2016; Faisal Provincial. Pratt, 2016. Photos courtesy of the artists and Creative Justice.

Creative Justice
We Still Live Here
December 7—15, 2016
Curated by JoJo Gaon and Aaron Counts
Opening: Thursday, December 8, 6:00—8:00 pm
Gallery4Culture – 101 Prefontaine Place South, Seattle, WA 98104

Our region is changing. Fueled by the thriving technology industry, Seattle has become one of the fastest growing big cities in the country. But the booming real estate market isn’t enjoyed by everyone. Rents are rising at an alarming rate, while incomes remain stagnant for middle and lower class families. Schools continue to fail at reaching all students equally, and the opportunity gap widens.

This inequality means our affordable housing crisis is yet another burden disproportionately shouldered by people of color. The issue is much more than a discussion about dollars and cents. It is about the future of our area: its character and aesthetics as expressed by its diversity, or lack thereof. Those families being displaced by gentrification are real people, attempting—like all of us—to lead full lives. As neighborhoods change, their proximity to community may be in jeopardy, but their sense of place within it is not.

In WE STILL LIVE HERE, Creative Justice youth stake their claim as residents of our region, documenting their existence, showing us their struggles and their joys through the lens of their smartphones. The exhibition, inspired by the art of Martha Rosler and the Streetwise series by photographer Mary Ellen Mark, juxtaposes images from the daily lives of the artists with the construction of a new and changing Seattle. In many respects, it is a tale of two cities, but the tale hasn’t been completely written. These young artists are creating a new chapter, refusing to be pushed into history.

WE STILL LIVE HERE is a collaborative project by the Youth Leadership Board of Creative Justice, an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County. With the guidance of mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration like racism and other oppressions, focusing on the positive role their voices can have in building a more just and equitable society. The Youth Leadership Board consists of past participants who continue to shape the direction of the program through their creativity and vision. Celebrate and support their work on Thursday, December 8.

Photography
Breana Commodore
Jamila Daka
Marcus Lawson
John Leoto
Delino Olebar
Faisal Provincial
and the Creative Justice mentor artist team

Poetry
Jamila Daka
Jazmine Speed
and Marcus Lawson

creativejustice.4culture.org

Support for Creative Justice comes from 4Culture and the National Endowment for the Arts. This special project and exhibit was underwritten by The New Foundation.

Community4Culture Takes Off

Studio Lazo is a group of artists and community members working to create a welcoming venue to showcase the creativity of Latino artists, writers, and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.

What would it look like to be able to truly support all of King County?

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We are a group of artists and community members who support the arts. After years of struggle to carve out space for Latino artists within existing cultural communities, we decided to create a new, welcoming venue that especially showcases the creativity of Latino artists, writers and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.
Studio Lazo is a group of artists and community members working to create a welcoming venue to showcase the creativity of Latino artists, writers, and musicians. Photo courtesy of Studio Lazo.

What would it look like to be able to truly support all of King County?

We’re extending our existing equity work through a new grant program called Community 4Culture that sets aside funds to go directly to organizations that do vital cultural work but, due to geographic, income, and other disparities, have been historically underserved.

This presents many challenges, and we quickly realized it would require a great deal of learning and listening on our part. Rather than asking these organizations, all of which are dealing with small staffs and budgets, to conform to our processes and procedures, how do we instead adapt those processes to the needs of our community? How do we build the organizational knowledge and skills we need to be able to effectively serve these cultural doers?

It has been and will continue to be on ongoing process, but we are proud to announce that the first round of Community4Culture recipients has been selected! They come from all over King County, work in many different cultural disciplines, and serve diverse communities:

JHP Cultural and Diversity Legacy
Indigenouz PlaceMakerz
Studio Lazo
Total Experience Gospel Choir
Ewajo Collective
Latino Theatre Projects
Great Northern and Cascade Railway

We’re excited to move forward in collaboration with each of these organizations. Community4Culture is not a “one size fits all” grant—it’s based on ongoing capacity-building. If you think this grant may be a fit for your organization, learn more about it here, and don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.

Guest Post: Seeds

Creative Justice 2016, Session 2 participants creating mosaics at Pratt Fine Arts. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.

Olisa Enrico-Johnson is a Mentor Artist in our Creative Justice program, an arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County. After leading a group of court-involved youth through three months of creating and dialogue, she shares her insights:

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Creative Justice 2016, Session 2. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.
Creative Justice 2016, Session 2 participants creating mosaics at Pratt Fine Arts. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.

Olisa Enrico-Johnson is a Mentor Artist in our Creative Justice program, an arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County. After leading a group of court-involved youth through three months of creating and dialogue, she shares her insights:

The first day of our 12 week session. Chairs set in a circle. A black journal on each chair. I sat on the floor waiting as they came in. The postures posited, who was this woman? What does she want from me? The thing about young people is that they can smell bologna from a mile away. Knowing this I left all of my processed fake mindset in my past. I know that if they do not trust me and my intentions that our time together will be fruitless so I make an offer of truth. I tell them that they can ask me anything on this day and this day only. Stumped by my offering they asked simple questions about my life, do you have children, how old are they, what’s your favorite color. The most important question hangs in the air “Why are you doing this program?” I shared my truth and in return they shared theirs. From our first story circle to our last they were as amazingly wonderful as I had hoped they would be.

We began the 12 week session with ‘getting to know you’ and each week we built together, created together and ate together. We examined the world around us and our place in it. We dipped our hands into the soil as we planted seeds that we would take turns watering, recording our hopes for our plants in our black journals. We hoped they would grow.

The seeds planted by Olisa and participants grew into plants. Photo by Tim Aguero Photography.
Session participants planted seeds that were nurtured into a garden. Photo by Tim Aguero Photography.

Each week we planted metaphorical seeds. I hoped they would grow. We talked about food deserts and created food art. We learned about the power that words have over water and contemplated our bodies as bodies of water that words in this world have power over. We shared stories of identity and interrogated how we fit into our worlds, discovering how our realities may or may not overlap. We wrote poetry. We laughed. We sang karaoke and discussed how music exists in our lives and in our culture. We wrote poetry, made mosaics, designed shirts and painted on canvas. Each week we dabbled in a new art form, a smorgasbord of creative endeavors. Most of these forms I had truly minimal experience in. That didn’t matter. We were trying new things and producing works of art!

Each week we gathered to examine the “Stories of Self” through artistic expression. From the beginning it was my desire to impart to them that we are all learning and that we have not arrived. I remember being 15 years old feeling as if I was done growing. The most important lesson I have learned over the years is that I am always learning. Life is a journey and we arrive at the destination when we die. It was my goal as the Mentor Artist to not only introduce them to art forms but to also expose myself to new art forms and in that way model the truth that we are all growing and that we must nourish ourselves, mind and body.

When we culminated for our final presentation the youth represented themselves. I received kudos for the work that they had done. I smiled and thanked people for their compliments. I would reply each time “It was them, their ideas, their work. Aren’t they amazing?” I led the journey but they walked the path. It is Indeed the journey that is the thing, it is the process of discovery, of uncovering our own human potential. Plant seeds in fertile soil, water them and let them bask free in the light of the sun. They just might grow.

Remembering Jazz Legend Ernestine Anderson

MOHAI, King County News Photo Collection, 2007.45, photo by Sally Tonkin.

We are proud to share this very special post, featuring two legendary figures of Seattle’s Jazz community. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Ernestine Anderson passed away in March, leaving behind the legacy of an incredible career that began in Seattle’s Central District. Her friend and Garfield High School classmate Grace Holden—daughter of Seattle Jazz’s “royal family”—generously shared some of her memories of Ernestine with us.

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Image Number: 2002.45_ErnestineAnderson_01 Jazz Singer Ernestine Anderson
MOHAI, King County News Photo Collection, 2007.45, photo by Sally Tonkin.

We are proud to share this very special post, featuring two legendary figures of Seattle’s Jazz community. Grammy-nominated jazz singer Ernestine Anderson passed away in March, leaving behind the legacy of an incredible career that began in Seattle’s Central District. Her friend and Garfield High School classmate Grace Holden—daughter of Seattle Jazz’s “royal family”—generously shared some of her memories of Ernestine with us.

In 1944, the Anderson family—Joseph, Erma, and their teenage twin daughters Ernestine and Josephine—had just relocated to Seattle from Houston, in search of wartime work. Ernestine, who had already begun performing in Houston clubs, quickly located Seattle’s active underground jazz scene. She connected with other young musicians at Garfield High School, including Grace Holden. Grace says of Ernestine:

“She was someone I looked up to. My experience with her was that she was always pleasantly quiet yet strong in my presence. During our youth we first met during our Garfield High School classes. As time passed we began to find we enjoyed music. We listened and hummed sounds of songs and artists like Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn.”

In fact, some of Ernestine’s earliest recorded music was a cover of a Sarah Vaughn song. By 1947, Ernestine had formed a band with another Garfield student, trumpeter Quincy Jones, after playing music together at the Washington Social and Educational Club, located above a butcher shop at 23rd and Madison owned by local bandleader Robert A. “Bumps” Blackwell. Ernestine, Quincy, and their band  recorded an acetate “instant disc” cover of Sarah Vaughan’s classic song “Lover Man” at Tom and Ellen Ogilvy’s Electro-Mart record shop and recording studio.

Scan_20160609 (2)
Scan of the billing for the Local 493 Reunion Review Concert at Jazz Alley, October 17, 1994. Courtesy of Grace Holden.

Ernestine and Grace continued to make music together: “Eventually, we decided that we would enter into local contests in and around Seattle. We had fun entering and being identified as local performers.” Even as their careers and lives spanned decades and took them across the state, country, and even abroad, the two women found ways to share the stage. Grace recounts that, “One of our most memorable appearances was when we were showcased and appeared on the program at Jazz Alley’s Local 493 Band.” The event, which took place on October 17, 1994, billed itself as “A musical celebration of the proud history of Local 493, the African American Musicians Union through the first half of this century” and invited audiences to, “…enjoy and honor this important history and hear these jazz pioneers perform reunited for the first time in decades.” The impressive roster of performers, which of course includes Ernestine and Grace, can be seen in the document above, shared with us by Grace.

Of her friend and fellow musician, Grace told us: “Surely, I shall never forget her and her genuine personality.” We thank Grace for sharing these memories, and we thank Ernestine for sharing her immense talent with the world.

All biographical information on Ernestine Anderson is courtesy of HistoryLink.org.

May 2016 is Arts Education Month

The King County Council designates May 2016 as Arts Education Month in King County.

At its May 16 meeting the King County Council issued a proclamation designating May 2016 as Arts Education Month in King County, extolling the benefits of a complete arts education and recognizing the efforts of arts educators and advocates throughout the county for their commitment to providing a comprehensive arts education for all students. Thank you King County Council for your support of this critical issue!

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The King County Council designates May 2016 as Arts Education Month in King County.
The King County Council designates May 2016 as Arts Education Month in King County.

At its May 16 meeting the King County Council issued a proclamation designating May 2016 as Arts Education Month in King County, extolling the benefits of a complete arts education and recognizing the efforts of arts educators and advocates throughout the county for their commitment to providing a comprehensive arts education for all students. Thank you King County Council for your support of this critical issue!

Supporting that work, 4Culture and ArtsEd Washington have just released the Cornerstones of Creativity (C3) Report that details the results of a county-wide survey conducted in 2015 of all 19 King County school districts that included one-on-one interviews with district leadership and a follow-up online survey.

The Six Key Features for Equity in Arts Education were identified through research conducted by ArtsEd Washington and supported by 4Culture.
The Six Key Features for Equity in Arts Education were identified through research conducted by ArtsEd Washington and supported by 4Culture.

Cornerstones of Creative Capacity is a research project designed to support equity in arts education by identifying the current arts education infrastructure reality in school districts throughout King County, Washington and determining infrastructure essentials to sustain arts education as defined by state policy and law.

The Six Key Features for Equity in Arts Education were identified through this research. They are intended as guideposts to support administrators, educators, and partners as they work to provide high-quality arts education equitably to all students within their districts. We encourage you to engage with this material and to share widely among colleagues, advocates, funders, and community partners.

More information on this project, as well as the detailed findings and implications, can be found in the Cornerstones of Creative Capacity Full Report from which the Key Features are drawn.