Stephanie Guerra: Stories Unlocked

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Rob Ellis, 1/365 I think I've got too much time on my hands? Digital Photograph. (cc) 2011

Rob Ellis, 1/365 I think I’ve got too much time on my hands?, Digital Photograph. (cc) 2011

 

Stephanie Guerra was awarded an Art Projects grant for her project, Stories Unlocked, an ongoing publication of writing by students incarcerated in King County Juvenile Detention Center and at-risk teens in our region. Here Stephanie shares why she does this work and why these young people are motivated to write.

On any given day, more than 100,000 teens are incarcerated in the United States. Countless more are considered at-risk for incarceration, based on factors such as homelessness, poverty, gang membership, substance abuse, grade retention, and more. Research shows that literacy is one of the most important protective factors against recidivism.

I’m a teaching artist and children’s author, and since 2005, I’ve been running creative writing programs in detention facilities in King County. Currently I’m teaching the teen girls at King County Juvenile Detention Center, and I’m moved and inspired by their writing. Their voices are unique and their stories are powerful.

Thanks to an Art Projects grant from 4Culture and a Youth Arts grant Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, I was able this year to realize a long-time dream to offer my incarcerated students a chance to share their stories and poems with the public. Together we launched storiesunlocked.com, a digital magazine of their work. I invite you to visit the web site and experience the voices of teens whom you may pass on the street, know personally, or otherwise intersect with in King County.

Sometimes we write for ourselves alone, but for many writers, an audience is a powerful motivator. The Stories Unlocked Project brought out a new level of focus and determination in my students. Especially after the initial site launch, I noticed their intense motivation to write more and better.

In their own words (names omitted to protect privacy):

“This web site is really inspiring. It’s true stuff, that’s why I like it.”

“It’s great because we finally get a chance to tell people what it’s really like.”

“People actually listen to us.”

“It truly means a lot to me that you guys are going out of your way to publish our writing. Having someone come in and offer this program to us is amazing because we didn’t realize how others want to hear what we have to say.”

These are just a few examples of the positive feedback I’ve received from the girls. This opportunity means a lot to them; they feel heard. During the Stories Unlocked Project, I’ve seen emotional breakthroughs, friendships built, and stellar work produced. I’m especially moved by the handful of students who’ve committed to novellas and are sticking with a project for dozens of pages. Many thanks to 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts & Culture for making this possible. Thanks and congratulations to the young writers at the Stories Unlocked Project. I am so proud to share your work with the world.

This is What It's All About

Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Creative Justice is 4Culture’s arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth. Spoken-word artist, teaching artist and anti-racist organizer, Nikkita Oliver led the final  project session of our inaugural year of programming. Oliver believes that the power of the arts is in the power of our voices, and works alongside young people, helping them develop creative skills and tell their stories. From September 15 through December 3, she mentored twelve teen participants twice per week as they spoke truth to power through writing, performance, poetry, theater, music, and visual arts, even publishing a chapbook—Things I Need You to Know—at the end of their session. Here, Nikkita shares her thoughts on the experience: 

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Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver
Creative Justice Mentor Artist Nikkita Oliver. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Creative Justice is 4Culture’s arts-based alternative to incarceration for King County youth. Spoken-word artist, teaching artist and anti-racist organizer, Nikkita Oliver led the final  project session of our inaugural year of programming. Oliver believes that the power of the arts is in the power of our voices, and works alongside young people, helping them develop creative skills and tell their stories. From September 15 through December 3, she mentored twelve teen participants twice per week as they spoke truth to power through writing, performance, poetry, theater, music, and visual arts, even publishing a chapbook—Things I Need You to Know—at the end of their session. Here, Nikkita shares her thoughts on the experience: 

I began the 4th session of Creative Justice’s inaugural year with so much love and hope, as well as a bit of fear and trepidation. I have been a performance artist for years, so I feel less and less stage fright. Yet there is nothing quite like the anxiety welling up inside me just before I start a new teaching artist residency with youth. Young people can spot a fake from a mile away! They know if you are genuinely engaging with them, they know if you want to be there, they know if you truly care. They always demand authenticity and honesty from the moment they meet you—as they should.

Teaching is a constant dance. Each day has a different rhythm and you can fight it or be responsive to it. I have learned to be responsive; to expect and accept with humility that my plans will likely change. Teaching art requires the artist to be a learner! I have learned to be flexible and listen to the dynamic and self-determined hearts, minds and spirits that invite me to be a part of their creative process. As much as I may think I have something to teach, I have so much more to learn and those lessons often come from the youth.

Each day the youth artists brought their full, whole selves—their hopes and dreams, their struggles and fights, their growing edges and gains, their addictions and triumphs. No day was without a mountain or two to climb. No day ended without a mountain peak summited. It would be easy to look at the numbers, the attendance, the chapbook, the photos, the final celebration and miss the many important nuances—the daily challenges, the daily gains, the silent prayers, the open hearts, the bowed backs that stood a little straighter, the turned down heads that looked up for at least a short moment, or the attention span that extended a few seconds longer. I live for the small day-to-day moments because that is where the change happens exponentially yet often goes unseen.

Oliver led the participants in Session 4 in publishing a chapbook of their writing, titled Things I Need You to Know.
Oliver led the participants in Session 4 in publishing a chapbook of their writing, titled Things I Need You to Know. Photo by Tim Aguero.

While I am incredibly proud of the chapbook, the photography, and the powerful culminating 4th session celebration, I am most inspired by the day-to-day achievements. There were hard days. Days where the youth didn’t like me, didn’t like each other, and didn’t like their selves, but they kept coming back for more! They did not let fear nor hard feelings stop them from completing what they started. They allowed their selves to be challenged and accepted discomfort as a place to grow. They kept working on their selves. They continued digging into their creativity exposing places of hope, trauma, power, struggle, and resilience. In the end, while I may have facilitated a creative process, they did the work of Creative Justice.

Everyday many youth who are court-involved are forced to take risks for survival, and sometimes those risks come with unexpected consequences. However, the reality is that youth everywhere take risks—some youth simply have more safety nets to catch them when they fall and more opportunity to make mistakes from which they can learn and grow. Art is a risk. It is an opportunity to make mistakes and figure out which ones are worth keeping. In my opinion, this is what Creative Justice is about and why we must keep striving to build more art-based alternatives to incarceration in King County.

Flo Lentz Leaves a Legacy of Preservation and Advocacy

Flo received Northwest Seaport’s Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.

The close of 2015 will mark the end of an era at 4Culture. Flo Lentz, who has headed our preservation program since its inception in 2003, will retire. She leaves behind a formidable list of accomplishments. Flo essentially invented the 4Culture preservation program and for years was its only staff.

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Flo received Northwest Seaport's Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.
Flo received Northwest Seaport’s Maritime Heritage Hero Award in 2013.

The close of 2015 will mark the end of an era at 4Culture. Flo Lentz, who has headed our preservation program since its inception in 2003, will retire. She leaves behind a formidable list of accomplishments. Flo essentially invented the 4Culture preservation program and for years was its only staff.

When the King County Office of Cultural Resources morphed into the independent public development authority that we know today as 4Culture, the functions of the King County Historic Preservation Program stayed in county government, designating and regulating King County landmarks. We imagined 4Culture developing a preservation advocacy role, promoting the values of historic preservation especially at a time of rapid real estate development throughout the county with the accompanying pressure to replace the old with the new.

Who would head this new program area? How about someone with more than 25-years’ experience at the national, state and local levels in historic preservation. That of course was Flo Lentz, handed a blank slate: a bricks and mortar landmark rehabilitation program with total funding of about $45,000.

Over the years, Flo was instrumental in saving and restoring Washington Hall in partnership with Historic Seattle, partnered with a group of volunteers on Vashon Island to try to save Mukai Farm and Garden, a Japanese-American historic site, advocated with Washington Trust to preserve the Alki Homestead in West Seattle, actively worked to save the Skykomish Hotel; and much more. Flo and Heather Dwyer of the 4Culture arts staff are architects of a new program called Vets Restore, which offers returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans training in preservation carpentry. In just the past year, Flo convened a group of preservationists to address Equity in Preservation, which is focused on calling attention to and rehabilitating historic sites that are important to communities of color.

That one funding program that Flo was handed in 2003 when she took the preservation position? It is now four funding programs: preservation special projects, operating support for preservation organizations, landmarks capital, and an emergency fund. The two words that come up most frequently when talking about Flo’s accomplishments are “partner” and “save.” Flo is one of those rare individuals who focuses on goals, not credit. She readily works with any other organizations whose assistance will help achieve a positive preservation outcome.

The state of preservation in King County is much improved since her arrival. She will leave an indelible mark on the built environment of King County. Have a great retirement, Flo. You’ve earned it. We’ll be announcing the new manager of our preservation program soon—stay tuned!

Introducing the 2016 Creative Justice Mentor Artist Cohort

4Culture’s Creative Justice offers an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County, Washington. Through collaboration with mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in building a more equitable justice system for our region.

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4Culture’s Creative Justice offers an arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County, Washington. Through collaboration with mentor artists, participants consider the root causes of incarceration as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in building a more equitable justice system for our region.

Who are these mentor artists? The cohort changes each year based on the recommendations of a panel made up of professional teaching artists, youth and adult community members, and court representatives. This year’s panel recently convened and selected four incredible individuals that will give life to 2016 programming:

 

King Khazm. Photo © Cahn Nguyen
King Khazm. Photo © Cahn Nguyen

Daniel Kogita
Emcee, artist and organizer Daniel Kogita AKA King Khazm advocates for community empowerment through Hip Hop culture. As a bi-racial, disabled person from Seattle’s South end, Khazm’s story of perseverance is a testament to Hip Hop’s founding principles. He is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization, 206 Zulu Nation as well as the indie label, Fresh Chopped Beats/MADK Productions. Khazm’s commitment to nurturing youth has been recognized by communities around the United States and the world, as well as by dignitaries such as Hip Hop’s Godfather, Afrika Bambaataa, former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, and Governor Jay Inslee.

 

Olisa Enrico. Photo © Khadeidrah Cochran
Olisa Enrico. Photo © Khadeidrah Cochran

Olisa Enrico-Johnson
Olisa “Spyc-E” Enrico-Johnson has been rockin’ the mic for over 20 years. Born into a life of music, she began exploring theatre in 2003. She holds a BFA in Performance and an MFA in Theater Pedagogy from Virginia Commonwealth University. Olisa believes that artists and the arts are vital to the state of culture and society and she hopes to share her soul through performance and teaching. A board member of TheConciliationProject.org, she works to promote open and honest dialogue about racism in America through active and challenging dramatic works. Olisa teaches students of all ages and stages. Her teaching, of any subject, incorporates principles of community and shared responsibility.

 

Jamil Suleman. Photo © Aaron Jacob
Jamil Suleman. Photo © Aaron Jacob

Jamil Suleman
Jamil Suleman is a Hip Hop artist, filmmaker, traveler, and teaching artist. Acclaimed in his field not only as an artist and educator, but as a community organizer, Jamil uses music and entertainment to educate and empower people to become the strongest versions of themselves. A passion for creativity, culture, and sustainability, drives Jamil to work with like-minded individuals in the pursuit of a socially just and ecologically equitable world for future generations.

 

Shontina Vernon. Photo © Joanna Degeneres
Shontina Vernon. Photo © Joanna Degeneres

Shontina Vernon
A returning Creative Justice mentor, Shontina Vernon is a storyteller, singer-songwriter, performer, and teaching artist. Her interdisciplinary work fuses live music, poetic narrative, and multimedia to tell the diverse stories of underrepresented communities. She is a National Performance Network touring artist, a recipient of 4Culture’s Art Projects Grant, and a nominated playwright on the Kilroy’s List. Her solo performance piece titled WANTED centers music in a coming of age tale about forgery, fear, and juvenile justice. Shontina’s work has been produced by Seattle’s ACT Theatre, SoloNova, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas in collaboration with the Hansberry Project.

 

Aaron Counts will continue in his role as Lead Engagement Artist and Nikkita Oliver, a 2015 mentor artist, will assume the position of Case Manager.

 

Local Arts Agencies: A Time of Opportunity

Theater Simple recently performed their outdoor fantasy Wonderland in Ballard, Kent, Bellevue, and Auburn. © 2013 Theater Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva

4Culture supports a growing network of more than twenty local arts agencies (LAAs)—volunteer arts commissions located in many of King County’s cities. LAAs advocate for arts programs within municipal governments, which are often the primary cultural service providers for residents in suburban and rural King County. LAAs regularly put on free performances, concerts, exhibitions, and arts education, and manage grants, public art selection, and cultural planning for their communities. Since its inception, 4Culture has convened a roundtable meeting of LAA staff coordinators every two months. This network serves as a regional peer group of arts staff and commissioners, sharing information, best practices, program development, and advocacy. Everyone is welcome at these meetings.

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© 2013 Theatre Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva
Theater Simple recently performed their outdoor fantasy Wonderland in Ballard, Kent, Bellevue, and Auburn. © 2013 Theater Simple, Wonderland, photo by Henry Alva

4Culture supports a growing network of more than twenty local arts agencies (LAAs)—volunteer arts commissions located in many of King County’s cities. LAAs advocate for arts programs within municipal governments, which are often the primary cultural service providers for residents in suburban and rural King County. LAAs regularly put on free performances, concerts, exhibitions, and arts education, and manage grants, public art selection, and cultural planning for their communities. Since its inception, 4Culture has convened a roundtable meeting of LAA staff coordinators every two months. This network serves as a regional peer group of arts staff and commissioners, sharing information, best practices, program development, and advocacy. Everyone is welcome at these meetings.

4Culture also supports the growth and development of LAAs with annual funding and collaborative programming. This year, the Maple Valley Creative Arts Council set a great example for how LAAs can positively impact their communities through the arts. Using a 4Culture grant, they plan to turn a neglected alleyway into a much-needed after school gathering place for high school teens in partnership with neighboring businesses and the city of Maple Valley.

With the dramatic growth and diversity of our Northwest region, many cities are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and to build a renewed sense of cultural identity. In many cases, these communities are comprised of immigrants from all corners of the world. This is a perfect time and opportunity for the arts to take a leading role in promoting cultural awareness, engaging people of all cultures, crossing generational boundaries, overcoming language barriers, sharing ethnic traditions, and celebrating the differences and the humanity that we all share. This is a time when local governments all over King County should be investing more than ever in cultural opportunities, and embracing the growing cultural richness of our region.

Toasting a Year of Poetry at Dia de Muertos

Poetry on Buses: Writing Home launched with a celebration at the Moore Theatre in November 2014. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Poetry on Buses at Dia de Muertos

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Poetry on Buses: Writing Home launches with a celebration at the Moore Theater in November 2014. Photo by Tim Aguero.
Poetry on Buses: Writing Home launched with a celebration at the Moore Theatre in November 2014. Photo by Tim Aguero.

Poetry on Buses at Dia de Muertos

Saturday, October 31, 12:30 – 4:30 pm 

Poets begin reading at 3:20 pm 

Seattle Center, Armory Main Floor, 305 Harrison Street

It’s hard to believe we are nearing the end of Poetry on Buses: Writing Home. The past year has seen writing workshops, road shows, filled-to-capacity celebrations, and communities coming together to foster creativity. The work of hundreds of King County poets – many of whom had never written poetry before this program – has traveled thousands of miles on Metro buses. We at 4Culture are inspired by this tremendous effort by countless individuals!

We invite you to commemorate this year of Poetry on Buses with us at Seattle Center Festál’s Dia de Muertos: A Mexican Celebration to Remember Our Departed on Saturday, October 31. Stop by our table any time from 12:30 – 4:30 pm, and be there at 3:20 pm for a special presentation by our Spanish-speaking poets, including: Catalina Cantú, Laura Cruz, Amaya Beroiz Elizalde, Jose Luis Espinoza, Victor Fuentes, Ana Garcia, Nora Giron-Dolce, Lindsay Little, Baudelio Llamas, and Raul Sanchez. They’ll read their work in both Spanish and English, and we’ll share a toast to all who helped make the program such a success – many thanks to our good friends at DRY Soda for providing the “bubbly!”

Be sure to explore the entire Dia de Muertos celebration as well. Experience the cultural roots of Mexico all weekend long through live performances, community altars, special hands-on activities, food, face painting and exquisite rituals. This incredibly popular yearly event honors the lives of loved ones who have passed, as well as the art and spirituality of Mexican culture. We’re honored to bring Poetry on Buses to this event, as we honor home and family through this year’s collection of poems.

Jacque Larrainzar, who will emcee the poetry reading and is both a long-time organizer of the annual Dia de Muertos festvities at Seattle Center and the Latino Community Liaison for the Poetry on Buses project, sees a natural connection between the two:

Poetry has always been an important aspect of Dia de Muertos. La calaca litararia is another way to honor our ancestors and keep our families together as we share stories and anecdotes about our loved ones, or make fun of those who made our lives difficult thought out the year.  We are very happy to have local Spanish speaking poets as part of this years celebration and of our partnership with Poetry on Buses. We hope to support writers and poets for many years to come!

Visit poetryonbuses.org to enjoy these last weeks of a new poem every day, and keep visiting to explore past favorites. While the Poetry on Buses: Writing Home collection will be coming down from buses soon, we are happy to announce that the the online collection will be available for another year!

Caring for Our Shared Heritage: 2015 Collections Care Grant Recipients

Collections Care is about important stuff – the “stuff” that teaches us about where we come from and where we can go. All over King County, archivists, librarians, and historians help preserve the real, tangible objects that make up history so that future generations can continue to learn from them. Our annual Collections Care grant program supports this work by providing the funds necessary to assess, organize, catalog, clean, repair, photograph, scan, and, ultimately, save, the things we value.

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Collections Care is about important stuff – the “stuff” that teaches us about where we come from and where we can go. All over King County, archivists, librarians, and historians help preserve the real, tangible objects that make up history so that future generations can continue to learn from them. Our annual Collections Care grant program supports this work by providing the funds necessary to assess, organize, catalog, clean, repair, photograph, scan, and, ultimately, save, the things we value.

We’re proud to announce the recipients of this year’s grants! Reviewed in July by a panel of collections care and heritage experts, 16 out of 28 proposals received a total of $78,000 in awards, ranging from $1,940 to $8,000. Here are some highlights:

Blues singer Dee Dee Hackett at the Union Club. Onstage left-to-right are Hackett, Al Hickey, Al Marshall, Vernon Brown and Al Pierre. The woman in the audience is Shirley Norris Phelps. Seattle 1940's
Blues singer Dee Dee Hackett at the Union Club. Onstage left-to-right are Hackett, Al Hickey, Al Marshall, Vernon Brown and Al Pierre. The woman in the audience is Shirley Norris Phelps. Seattle 1940s, MOHAI, Al Smith Collection

MOHAI, Al Smith Photo Collection

The Museum of History & Industry recently received over 40,000 photographs taken by photographer Al Smith, who documented the lives of his friends and neighbors in the Central District through almost every decade of the 20th century. In collaboration with the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, MOHAI is digitizing and preserving this massive collection, and recording oral histories of the stories behind the photographs. MOHAI’s Curator of Photography Howard Giske welcomes volunteers for this project! Please contact Howard at photos@mohai.org.

The Kubota Garden Memorial Stone, circa 1963.
The Kubota Garden Memorial Stone, circa 1963.

Kubota Garden Foundation, Archive Project Phase II

The Kubota Garden Foundation plans to use their Collections Care funding to digitize audio and video records that document the oral tradition of the Garden’s development. These include interviews with Tom Kubota, former employees of Fujitaro Kubota, and landscape architects. Digitizing these records will preserve the information – that now exists only on fragile cassette recordings – and make the interviews accessible for research and site interpretation.

 

Analog video is digitzed at Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound, 2015.
Analog video is digitzed at Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound, 2015.

Moving Image Preservation of Puget Sound, King County Pilot Project

Video formats like VHS, Betacam, and U-Matic are no longer being manufactured, yet many organizations have troves of analog video housed in their collections. MIPoPS enables them to rediscover, digitize, and make these unique and historic files accessible to the public. In its first year, MIPoPs has already digitized hundreds of hours of video. With 4Culture funds, they will be able to broaden their outreach, digitizing video free of charge to several Seattle-area organizations. We can’t wait to see what they find and save!

 

Congratulations to all recipients of 2015 Collections Care grants. You can view the full list of organizations and projects here.

Creative Justice Mentor Artist Daemond Arrindell Embraces Challenge

Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.

With the pilot year of Creative Justice—4Culture’s arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County—almost complete, we are reflecting on lessons learned and looking towards the future. We asked Session 3 Mentor Artist, Daemond Arrindell to provide some insight into his experience working with participants and helping to shape this ground-breaking new program. The call is open for 2016 Mentor Artists—apply now!

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Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.
Mentor Artists Daemond Arrindell leads Session 3 of the pilot year of Creative Justice. Photo by Tim Aguero.

With the pilot year of Creative Justice—4Culture’s arts-based alternative to youth incarceration in King County—almost complete, we are reflecting on lessons learned and looking towards the future. We asked Session 3 Mentor Artist, Daemond Arrindell to provide some insight into his experience working with participants and helping to shape this ground-breaking new program. The call is open for 2016 Mentor Artists—apply now!

Last month saw the culmination of eight weeks of work for the participants of Creative Justice Session 3. The members of the group who took the stage at a celebratory closing presentation expressed pride, gratitude, and seemed to have enjoyed themselves afterwards. But, when I say “work,” I mean just that—they worked hard to get to a place where they could celebrate, and it was far from easy.

This group was at a disadvantage compared to the other Creative Justice session participants—their session took place during the summer. They had less time to get to know one another, build trust, take risks, and try on new versions of themselves. Summer is code for “break”—and it takes a great deal to compel anyone, much less a teenager, to give up part of their summer break to enter a classroom. Some of the participants knew each other, which in some ways is an asset as they supported each other, but also created cliques. If you were to sit down with any of the participants to engage in conversation, you’d find an individual with intelligence, who is inquisitive and has a mind of their own. But in a group, it’s not so easy to be an individual, especially amongst peers. So there was posturing, bravado, one-upping, and a lot of energy that was difficult to direct.

A big focus for this session was definitions and labels. All of the participants have been labelled—by family and friends, their social groups, society. Adolescence is a time when we really begin to define who are, and those labels can limit our scope, our self-worth and sense of what is possible. Each time that we got together, we began with a meal and a discussion. The topics: strength, beauty, power, respect, second chances, prison reform, self-sabotage. The discussions were rarely easy because these young people don’t typically get asked for their opinions on such matters—but that’s exactly why they should be asked. The objective: to recognize that words and definitions can be reclaimed and re-defined for ourselves, that we have agency.

Participants worked with graphic artist Greg Thornton to create their own t-shirts to visually demonstrate the principles that are important to each of them. Singer/songwriter Naomi Wachira visited them and gave a live, impromptu performance—as she began to strum her guitar and her voice filled the entire building, the participants were enthralled. It was the quietest the group had been the entire summer. They also watched a documentary called “Rubble Kings,” about the gang warfare that took place in the Bronx during the late 1960s, and how those kids transformed that violent energy into something positive—Hip-Hop.

Their final presentation followed the same format as their weekly gatherings. We began with a meal, but this time, the participants got to ask the questions. They went around to the tables of our guests and led conversations on the topic of their choosing. Some focused on second chances, others on the prison system. To close it all out they performed their script, which though edited by me was written completely by the participants. It provided an opportunity for them to share how the topics we had just discussed affect their lives personally.

It’s honestly hard to believe that it’s over—spending a little more than four hours with this group of young people each week doesn’t seem like that much, and very little of it came easy, but then they say nothing worth having ever does. All in all, that’s the deeper message, I think—to keep going, in spite of the work and challenge, so that we can become better people on the other side. That we, and the work, are worth it. Each young person walked into the sessions with a past filled with choices they made for themselves, and some choices that were made for them. The results? They still remain to be seen, but the process of trying to “Turn the Page,” which takes heart, patience, forgiveness, and courage, has begun.

– Daemond Arrindell

Guest Post: Integrating Pioneer Square’s Communities with Michelle de la Vega

Image courtesy of the artist.

This month we open an exciting new season at Gallery4Culture, and today we look ahead to January, when artist Michelle de la Vega will put on a show that responds to the building, architecture and community surrounding the gallery. She shared insights into her process as she works now to prepare:

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Image courtesy of the artist.
Image courtesy of the artist.

This month we open an exciting new season at Gallery4Culture, and today we look ahead to January, when artist Michelle de la Vega will put on a show that responds to the building, architecture and community surrounding the gallery. She shared insights into her process as she works now to prepare:

On September 3, during the Pioneer Square First Thursday Art Walk, there will be a showing of work created during a workshop I’m teaching at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission entitled “Sculptural Storytelling”. The workshop is the community engagement portion of an installation project I’m creating for Gallery4Culture entitled “SUCCESSION: The Exchange Project,” and opening January 7. A central theme of the project is to explore “exchange” between the un-sheltered community and the community of artists that share the Pioneer Square neighborhood, and which are largely segregated. A friend of mine recently said that one characteristic of a healthy community is self-awareness—this initiative explores that through experience and exchange. The exchange process starts with myself, by personally delving into the world of the homeless community, inviting them into mine, and inviting others to come along on the ride.

I work through a model that I’ve developed—and continue to develop—that creatively integrates community groups that are centrally related to the theme of a project directly into the generative process. I use a non-linear curriculum that includes dialogue, writing, drawing, patterning, collage, sculpture, and sometimes spoken word or simple movement. The curriculum is designed to enable people to create artwork out of information from their own lives; their personal values, thoughts, feelings and stories. I have found this to be both creatively and personally productive to a wide demographic range including high school students, non artists, professional adults, young artists and special needs communities. It is a relatively simple process with the capacity to furnish as much complexity and depth as each participant desires. The adaptability of the curriculum continues to surprise me, and I’m excited to see how it will develop though future applications.

For each community engagement workshop, a pre-show of the artwork is held at each local organization. At a previous workshop at the Recovery Café we shared work at the monthly Recovery Café Open Mic event—if you’ve never attended one of these, it’s a blast! For the UGM workshop, we’ll be showing at UGM’s Art from the Streets event, located at the corner of S Washington and 3rd Ave Streets in Pioneer Square, during the First Thursday Art Walk on September 3. Please stop by!

This project is generously supported by a 4Culture Arts Projects Grant.

Cubix-Fremont Artists Want to Hear from the Neighborhood

© Jean Whitesavage & Nick Lyle, View Marker under the Aurora Bridge, 1998, Adobe Art Collection. Photo by Laura Haddad.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 9 and 10, 4:00—7:00 pm
Saturday, September 12, 10:00 am—1:00 pm
Fremont PCC Natural Market, 600 N 34th St

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IMG_3863
© Jean Whitesavage & Nick Lyle, View Marker under the Aurora Bridge, 1998, Adobe Art Collection. Photo by Laura Haddad.

Wednesday and Thursday, September 9 and 10, 4:00—7:00 pm
Saturday, September 12, 10:00 am—1:00 pm
Fremont PCC Natural Market, 600 N 34th St

Of all Seattle’s distinctive neighborhoods, none seems to have more iconic symbols than Fremont—bridges, trolls, statues, a year-round market, its own coat of arms and catchphrase. Artists Laura Haddad and Tom Drugan want to dig a little deeper, though, and find out what the residents—both long- and short-term—of the “Center of the Universe” think truly symbolizes their neighborhood.

Haddad and Drugan will be at the PCC Natural Market at North 34th Street Wednesday and Thursday, September 9—10, and Saturday, September 12, and you are invited to share your memories, mementos, and thoughts about what Fremont means to you. Did you find your favorite sweater at the flea market? Are your photo albums full of great shots from around the neighborhood? What takeout menus from the place around the corner do you keep on your fridge? Bring them all, and more! The artists want to hear what they mean to you, and document them—not keep them. Neighborhood residents and PCC shoppers who’d like to simply chat with the artists about Fremont are welcome as well!

As we announced in July, Haddad and Drugan have been selected to create public artwork for the façade of Cubix-Fremont, a new mixed-use building planned to open in the heart of the neighborhood in 2017. The artists were selected from a pool of 46 West Coast artists, and bring many years of public art experience to the project. The pair lived and worked in Fremont for many years, and always seek to use their work to connect community to place.

4Culture staff will also be on hand at PCC to answer all your questions about our programs and opportunities! Drop by and learn more about what we’re up to this Fall.

 

Poetry on Buses Reading at 5th Annual Celebrate Little Saigon

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August 22, 2015, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
1200 S Jackson St
Poetry reading at 12:30 pm

The 2014 Poetry on Buses program began as an open invitation to explore the poetry of home — on the bus, online, and in the community. “What does ‘Writing Home’ mean to you?,” we asked. We wanted to hear from diverse communities here in King County, and held an open call for poetry in English, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese. The community responded, and as a result, the Writing Home collection of 365 poems is incredibly rich and varied.

Later this month, the Poetry on Buses Roadshow continues, and we get the opportunity to highlight one community in particular: our Vietnamese poets.

A group of artists will be reading their work for Poetry on Buses in Vietnamese at the 5th annual Celebrate Little Saigon festival in the International District, an outdoor summer festival celebrating Vietnamese-American food, arts, culture, and community held in Seattle’s Little Saigon. The poets will take the main stage at 12:30 pm—come listen to them read their poems in the language in which they were written! Make sure to also stop by the 4Culture festival booth to learn more about Poetry on Buses and all 4Culture community programming.

4Culture would like to thank our Vietnamese Community Liaisons, Anh Phan and Khang Do, for making this project possible, and for helping share the poetic work of this vibrant community. More information about the 5th annual Celebrate Little Saigon festival is available online. We’ll see you there!

Poetry on Buses is launching a new poem every day for a year through November 9, 2015, at poetryonbuses.org. Special thanks to our media sponsor of this Poetry on Buses Roadshow stop KUOW 94.9.