Mentor Artists Join Creative Justice

2015 Creative Justice Mentor Artists

Creative Justice is a new arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County. Launching in February of 2015, the pilot year of programming will engage 48 youth and families involved with the juvenile court.

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Creative Justice is a new arts-based alternative to incarceration for young people in King County. Launching in February of 2015, the pilot year of programming will engage 48 youth and families involved with the juvenile court.

Through collaboration with mentor artists, participants will 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.

Aaron Counts, the Creative Justice Lead Engagement Artist, serves as program coordinator. He and a panel of stakeholders including professional teaching artists, community members (youth and adults), and court representatives recently selected the four incredible individuals that will help give life to the program:

 

Daemond Arrindell

Daemond_use
Photo: Nora Nathoo

 “If we want youth to become productive, active members of our communities, we need to stop demanding that they do more with less. Transformation only becomes possible when we begin to treat them like the people we want them to be. I believe Creative Justice can provide a necessary path in this direction.” – Daemond Arrindell

Daemond is a poet, performer, and teaching artist. He is an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts, faculty of Freehold Theatre and co-facilitator of poetry and theater residencies at the Monroe Correctional Complex. Daemond works with young writers in his role as Artist-In-Residence with Seattle Arts & Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program. He has performed in venues across the country and was recently published in Specter Magazine, was a 2013 Jack Straw Writer, and is a 2014 VONA/Voices Writer’s Workshop fellow.

 

Nikkita Oliver

nikkita_oliver_20140905-90_TomothyAgueroPhotography_small
Photo: Timothy Aguero Photography

 “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”  – Scott Adams

Nikkita is a spoken word artist, teaching artist, and graduate student pursuing concurrent degrees in the School of Law and the College of Education at the University of Washington. As a teacher, she works alongside young people, helping them develop creative skills, tell their stories, and speak truth to power. As a student of the law, she has the capacity to teach youth about their rights and how to advocate for their communities. Nikkita has dedicated the last decade of her life to service in Seattle Public Schools and the King County Youth Services Center. She is currently the 2014 Seattle Poetry National Team Coach and Grand Slam Champion.

 

Otieno Terry

Otieno
Photo: Hayley Young

 “I’m not saying that I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”  – Tupac Amaru Shakur

Otieno is a singer-songwriter (with roots in soul, hip-hop, and jazz), producer, teaching artist, and youth organizer. He believes that music strongly influences the minds of young people and uses his art to inspire positivity, self-confidence, discipline, and healing. As a part of the duo Hightek Lowlives, Otieno has collaborated with Owuor Arunga, Raz Simone, Brothers from Another and Gabriel Teodros, among others. He recently performed in Seattle Theatre Group’s More Music @ The Moore and headlined the John Coltrane Jazz festival in Senegal where he also spent time teaching at the University of Dakar’s School of Music. Otieno is the winner of EMP Museum’s 13th annual Sound Off! competition. He is involved with Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR) and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC).

 

Shontina Vernon

IMG_1023
Photo: LaRae Lobdell

 “Youth, given the tools and the opportunity, will surprise us all with their clear observations and creative solutions to what is wrong in the world. We only have to know that their perspective is as valuable and insightful as any other.” – Shontina Vernon

Shontina is a writer, musician, performer, and teaching artist. Her passion is making interdisciplinary performance pieces that fuse live music, poetic narrative, and multi-media to tell the diverse stories of underrepresented communities. She has written numerous plays, including WANTED – a coming of age tale about forgery, fear, and juvenile justice. Her 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. She is a National Performance Network touring artist, and a nominated playwright on the 2014 Kilroy’s List. Her work as a teaching artist has been featured in the award winning documentary film STAGES. A believer in the transformative power of personal narrative storytelling, she also teaches the BLOOM workshop series, using theatre, creative writing and music to help women and youth tap into the power of their own voices.

 

4Culture will be closed Tuesday in honor of Veterans Day

Vets Restore video still, produced by Ethan Steinman, Daltonic Films LLC © 2013 4Culture
Vets Restore video still, produced by Ethan Steinman, Daltonic Films LLC © 2013 4Culture
Vets Restore video still, produced by Ethan Steinman, Daltonic Films LLC © 2013 4Culture

You know when you feel so strongly about something, that you can’t talk or write about it without choking up? That’s how I feel, when I write or talk about veterans. I’m not sure why. I’m a hippy kid. My friends often tease me about my lengthy stories about living in a Volkswagen van. I was however, raised to serve others, advance community. That’s our mission at 4Culture, which I guess makes us pretty similar to those who serve in the military.

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Vets Restore video still, produced by Ethan Steinman, Daltonic Films LLC © 2013 4Culture
Vets Restore video still, produced by Ethan Steinman, Daltonic Films LLC © 2013 4Culture

You know when you feel so strongly about something, that you can’t talk or write about it without choking up? That’s how I feel, when I write or talk about veterans. I’m not sure why. I’m a hippy kid. My friends often tease me about my lengthy stories about living in a Volkswagen van. I was however, raised to serve others, advance community. That’s our mission at 4Culture, which I guess makes us pretty similar to those who serve in the military.

4Culture works quietly with veterans each day, as I’m sure many of you do. Veterans are artists, historians and educators. They work in historic preservation and public art. They run cultural organizations. There are more than 600,000 veterans in Washington State and quite a few of those, call King County home. Many veterans seek to continue to serve others by strengthening community, and that is one of the reasons we started our program, Vets Restore.

Join 4Culture in getting a little choked up this Veterans Day. We are especially grateful to our Vets Restore participants: Kevin Bottini, Easton Branam, Zoe Gillespie, Dwight Jones, Gabriel Jones, Brandon Reddell, Scott Carlson and Sergio Cruz.

BlackPast.org Preserving King County’s African American History

Coal mining crew in South King County ca. 1905
Coal mining crew in South King County ca. 1905

Coal mining crew in South King County ca. 1905

News from a Heritage Projects Recipient

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Coal mining crew in South King County ca. 1905
Coal mining crew in South King County ca. 1905

News from a Heritage Projects Recipient

BlackPast.org, a national nonprofit organization based in Seattle, was awarded funding through 4Culture’s Heritage Projects Program in 2013 to develop a new section on their website that focuses on African American Heritage in King County.

Mr. Quintard Taylor, President of BlackPast.org, recently shared the new webpage with us and provided some great details about what it contains…

I am pleased to let you know that we at BlackPast.org have finally completed the Preserving Martin Luther King County’s African American History! The page offers historical essays; a U.S. Census-based table of the black population of King county from 1860 to 2010; timeline of African American history in the county from 1858 to 2014; 114 entries on historically significant individuals in King County since 1858; thirty entries on local organizations and institutions that offer resources about African American history in King County; places of historical significance; and a photo gallery of images collected by the Black Heritage Society of Washington & some to soon be added from MOHAI.

Almost all of these categories are dynamic. Weeks, months, and even years into the future we will add more entries, books, and photos to this page.

This project is the result of the efforts of numerous volunteers (and a few paid staff). The articles are all based on original research, written by dozens of volunteer contributors, and are exclusive to BlackPast.org. The Preserving King County’s African American History page is a unique project; it is to our knowledge, the only one of its kind in the United States that gathers together such diverse information about African American history in a single county and situates it on one page.

This is the largest and most difficult project BlackPast.org has ever done. We are pleased it is finally complete and proud of what has been accomplished.

Thank you, 4Culture, for making this project possible with your grant to BlackPast.org!

A Tale of Two Conference Cities

© 2014 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas
© 2014 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas, Photo by 4Culture

Culturally, St. Paul, Minnesota and Las Vegas, Nevada are miles apart. But this fall, each played host to cultural conferences that I attended. The American Association for State & Local History (AASLH) held its annual meeting in St. Paul where keynote speaker Garrison Keiller, whose Prairie Home Companion has entertained public radio listeners for four decades, talked of his strong connection to local history through his family roots.

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© 2014 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas
© 2014 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas, Photo by 4Culture

Culturally, St. Paul, Minnesota and Las Vegas, Nevada are miles apart. But this fall, each played host to cultural conferences that I attended. The American Association for State & Local History (AASLH) held its annual meeting in St. Paul where keynote speaker Garrison Keiller, whose Prairie Home Companion has entertained public radio listeners for four decades, talked of his strong connection to local history through his family roots.

At the Western Museums Association (WMA) Conference in Las Vegas, keynoter Mark Hall-Patton, a 35-year museum veteran and visiting expert on History Channel’s Pawn Stars, described the perils of his new celebrity status, and the need to adhere to one’s integrity despite the glare of reality TV. His remarks had special resonance in a city that has recreated its casinos and hotels as faux world landmarks.

St. Paul’s much quieter downtown offered its brand of authentic architectural marvels with the Cathedral of Saint Paul in proximity to the mansions of timber baron Frederick Weyerhaeuser, and railroad tycoon James J. Hill, two giants of industry whose impact on the Pacific Northwest still resounds today.

Although AASLH focused on the history field and WMA on museums in general, the content of the two conferences differed less than their locales. Both offered local tours, sessions on relevant topics, and social events at standout venues. But for me, the opportunities to connect with colleagues from around the country and region were, and always have been, the most rewarding moments. To be able to share common interests, issues, and concerns with peers has often sparked the ideas that have influenced my work as Heritage Lead at 4Culture.

A Maritime Heritage Area for King County

Fisherman's Terminal © 2004 4Culture
Fisherman's Terminal © 2004 4Culture
Fisherman’s Terminal © 2004 4Culture

Celebrating our ties to the sea

This week the King County Council unanimously designated the publicly accessible saltwater shoreline, the Ship Canal, and Lake Union as a “County Maritime Heritage Area.” What is a heritage area, anyway?

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Fisherman's Terminal © 2004 4Culture
Fisherman’s Terminal © 2004 4Culture

Celebrating our ties to the sea

This week the King County Council unanimously designated the publicly accessible saltwater shoreline, the Ship Canal, and Lake Union as a “County Maritime Heritage Area.” What is a heritage area, anyway?

The concept is borrowed from the “National Heritage Areas” Program, through which nationally significant landscapes are recognized by Congress. These are NOT national parks, but rather regions that have a living cultural heritage, shaped by distinctive geography. There are 49 of these special places around the country, but so far none in the Pacific Northwest.

Over the last decade, 4Culture has been part of a vocal grass roots effort – stretching from Aberdeen to Gig Harbor to Bellingham – to recognize our maritime culture in this way. After all, we’re known for scenic waterways, bustling waterfronts, dry docks and boat yards, commercial fisheries, centuries-old lighthouses, iconic historic vessels, and a huge fleet of private watercraft, from Native American canoes to corporate yachts.

But so far, the effort to gain recognition at the federal and state level hasn’t been successful. Some people fear that the designation brings regulation, but that’s not the case. Heritage areas are solely for purposes of promoting tourism, preserving a sense of place, and supporting economic development – there is no regulatory angle.

As King County Councilmember Larry Phillips so rightly observes, “We are defined by our waters and shorelines and our interaction with them over time, and that story should be highlighted and celebrated.” Kudos to Councilmember Phillips for putting King County out in front by sponsoring this legislation at the local level!

For more information on the County Maritime Heritage Area, contact the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Meet the Vets Restore Recruits

Vets Restore participants tour Rafn Company renovation project at Plymouth Church, Seattle © 2014 4Culture
Vets Restore participants tour Rafn Company renovation project at Plymouth Church, Seattle © 2014 4Culture
Vets Restore participants tour Rafn Company renovation project at Plymouth Church, Seattle © 2014 4Culture

4Culture is pleased to welcome five participants to the second session of VETS RESTORE, a program connecting veterans to the historic preservation trades. This year we enrolled two women and three men from diverse military and construction backgrounds – ALL with a dedicated interest in preserving old buildings. Welcome Kevin Bottini, Easton Branam, Zoe Gillespie, Dwight Jones, and Gabriel Jones!

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Vets Restore participants tour Rafn Company renovation project at Plymouth Church, Seattle © 2014 4Culture
Vets Restore participants tour Rafn Company renovation project at Plymouth Church, Seattle © 2014 4Culture

4Culture is pleased to welcome five participants to the second session of VETS RESTORE, a program connecting veterans to the historic preservation trades. This year we enrolled two women and three men from diverse military and construction backgrounds – ALL with a dedicated interest in preserving old buildings. Welcome Kevin Bottini, Easton Branam, Zoe Gillespie, Dwight Jones, and Gabriel Jones!

Kevin Bottini is a veteran of the U.S. Army with a background in construction, having worked on both residential and commercial remodel, and new construction. Zoe Gillespie served in the Army post 9/11. She enjoys woodworking and may be interested in pursuing that craft in the maritime field, restoring old boats. Dwight Jones is a Navy veteran, and has a keen interest in working for a construction firm with a solid portfolio of restoration and renovation projects. Easton Branam served in the Army post 9/11, and is a trained landscape architect. She is interested in the materials, artistry, and social history of older buildings and landscapes. Gabriel Jones also served in the Navy and, after active duty, joined the Naval Reserves Construction Battalion. He enrolled in Vets Restore because he appreciates the real craftsmanship, time, and pride put into historic buildings, and wants to be part of their preservation.

During their first week, the recruits were introduced to Washington Hall, which will be their classroom for the next three weeks. Already the group has been investigating some of the Hall’s unique architectural features, and will be learning from its ongoing restoration work as the training continues.

Last week the recruits were treated to a special job site visit at Plymouth Church in Seattle, where Scott Jones, Rafn Company General Superintendent, gave the group a fascinating tour of their current interior renovation. This week another Vets Restore affiliate J.A.S. will be leading a job site tour at a private property in Ravenna. The site visits meet Vets Restore’s objective of introducing the recruits to current restoration/renovation work by leading preservation-oriented companies, in order to learn from and support the good work of the field.

For potential employers interested in finding out more about each Vets Restore participant, we will be adding individual profile pages to the Vets Restore website. Please check back often, and stay tuned for updates to the blog and social media as we continue to chronicle our participants’ progress.

Conductive Garboil Grant 2014: Congrats Jeppa K Hall!

Monster Jerry. Photo: Russell Daniels
Monster Jerry. Photo: Russell Daniels

Prolific performance artist/comedian, vocalist, musician and songwriter, Jeppa K Hall has been awarded the 2014 Conductive Garboil Grant.

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Prolific performance artist/comedian, vocalist, musician and songwriter, Jeppa K Hall has been awarded the 2014 Conductive Garboil Grant.

Jeppa challenges the limits of creative discourse, connects community, facilitates excitement, and generally shakes things up. Her creative practice is a life practice and her ecstatic gestures deliver on the promise of art’s ability to conduct and disturb. She is just the kind of person Su Job envisioned when she created and endowed this award for Seattle artists with a connection to Pioneer Square.

Monster Jerry. Photo: Russell Daniels
Monster Jerry. Photo: Russell Daniels

Jeppa’s hybridized practice is difficult to describe or even categorize. Rooted in the healing power of laughter and ritual, she challenges consumerist propaganda and institutionalized power structures. Pop culture iconography, imagery of women in mass media, and objects associated with male dominance help her expose political, corporate and media abuses and their direct relationship to gender inequality, self-hatred, denatured food, and more. Her unusual storytelling, layered metaphors, and amalgamation of the collective American consciousness with the unknown and cosmic, results in engaging psychedelic performances that encourage dialogue and expand perceptions of time and space.

Through her alter ego QUEEN SHMOOQUAN, an everyday hero within whom lies a super-real modern day oracle, Jeppa tests the limits of contemporary performance art as well as political and social satire.

Her other solo and collaborative projects include the 21st century story ballads of GOATGIRL, the acoustic doom metal duo FINGER with Julie Baldridge, the performance duo PIP-N-TOP, SEATTLE HARMONIC VOICES under the direction of Stephen Fandrich, and the guerilla street art team, THE GALLBLADDERS.

Join us for music, food, drinks, and a special performance as we celebrate Jeppa and the Conductive Garboil Grant on first Thursday, October 2nd from 6:00-8:00pm in the TK Lofts’ Vandenbrink Community Room. Award presentation begins at 7:00pm.

 

2014 Vets Restore Begins in September!

Vets Restore video still © 4Culture
Vets Restore video still © 4Culture

Announcing the 2014 VR Program, New Students & Industry Affiliates

Learning to restore wood windows at Washington Hall, Vets Restore program © 2013 Brandee Beau Photography

4Culture is happy to announce that Vets Restore 2014 will begin mid-September. Welcome to a great new group of trainees. Our cadre of recruits includes both men and women, Army and Navy veterans, bringing a wide skill base and varied carpentry experience. 4Culture staff will be posting updates on this group through the Vets Restore blog. We’ll introduce them at the start of training, and follow them through their progress over the 12 week program.

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Announcing the 2014 VR Program, New Students & Industry Affiliates

Learning to restore wood windows at Washington Hall, Vets Restore program © 2013 Brandee Beau Photography
Learning to restore wood windows at Washington Hall, Vets Restore program © 2013 Brandee Beau Photography

4Culture is happy to announce that Vets Restore 2014 will begin mid-September. Welcome to a great new group of trainees. Our cadre of recruits includes both men and women, Army and Navy veterans, bringing a wide skill base and varied carpentry experience. 4Culture staff will be posting updates on this group through the Vets Restore blog. We’ll introduce them at the start of training, and follow them through their progress over the 12 week program.

Training begins September 15th at Washington Hall in Seattle, owned and operated by Vets Restore partner Historic Seattle. The vintage Washington Hall will be home base for our preservation carpentry training. Instructor Rick Sever, Residential Construction, will first provide participants with an overview of preservation principles and current industry techniques, and lead site visits to restoration projects around the city. Next comes several weeks of hands-on work restoring the hall’s original wood windows under the professional direction of Bear Wood Windows.

After training, each of our participants will enter into a five week, paid internship with one of our five construction industry affiliates, courtesy of our partner the King County Veterans’ Program. New industry affiliates Susan Black & Associates and Abacus Fine Carpentry, bring a very focused approach to historic preservation, through landscape architecture and high-end custom woodworking. For more information about these affiliates, or our other wonderful construction team partners (Bear Wood Windows, JAS Design/Build, and the Rafn Company) visit the Vets Restore website.

Looking forward to many great things this fall from the Vets Restore class of 2014!

 

StEPs 4Culture: Avoiding Zombie Projects

StEPs Planning session, Issaquah Depot © 2014 4Culture staff
StEPs Planning session, Issaquah Depot © 2014 4Culture staff
StEPs Planning session, Issaquah Depot © 2014 4Culture staff

Heritage 4Culture has launched a capacity-building initiative for the local heritage community called StEPs 4Culture. Based on the American Association for State and Local History’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations, StEPs 4Culture is a series of convenings and roundtables addressing standards through mentor and peer support. Lissa Kramer of the Issaquah History Museums recounts here experience at the Planning Roundtable on August 12.

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StEPs Planning session, Issaquah Depot © 2014 4Culture staff
StEPs Planning session, Issaquah Depot © 2014 4Culture staff

Heritage 4Culture has launched a capacity-building initiative for the local heritage community called StEPs 4Culture. Based on the American Association for State and Local History’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations, StEPs 4Culture is a series of convenings and roundtables addressing standards through mentor and peer support. Lissa Kramer of the Issaquah History Museums recounts here experience at the Planning Roundtable on August 12.

I recently participated in the second of a series of round tables for the AASLH StEPs program, hosted by 4Culture at the Issaquah History Museums.

The topic of the day was “Planning”, facilitated by Eric Taylor of 4Culture, and Brandon Claycomb, a board member for IHM who is also a strategic planning consultant. More than 20 King County heritage organizations participated, with both staff and board members from organizations present.

Brandon started the ball rolling by emphasizing that planning doesn’t always have to be as complex as an elaborate strategic plan; that depending on what level an organization is operating, sometimes it’s first necessary to enact smaller plans to create success. He said basic pieces of this smaller planning include not losing the big picture in the details, being mindful of “opportunity costs”, and recognizing “zombie projects” that never go anywhere and won’t die.

One metaphor he used compared organizational planning with public transportation, noting that well-funded public transportation is cheaper and faster than driving but that “half of a transportation system is not half as good” and could in fact be worse than no transportation system at all.

I took this to mean basically that organizations should commit fully to a narrow focus instead of trying to accomplish everything all at once while not having enough resources to complete any of it. I also thought about how often organizations are tempted to jump into a program or project that has not been fully vetted; my experience is that these are often doomed to wind up as anemic versions of what they could’ve been- if not failure outright.

Other colorful illustrations helped participants understand basic management principles such as “opportunity costs”. Brandon shared a story wherein his young twin daughters were able to identify that their plan for filling a pool with Jell-O was about the same cost as a coveted American Girl ® doll, thus represented a lost opportunity and altering their strong desire for swimming in Jell-O. While I can’t promise that no one at the round table won’t consider Jell-O swimming as a humorous fundraising event, it did make a clear point that decision makers need to think strategically about whether an opportunity that presents itself that might reduce an organization’s ability to use their limited capacity to pursue other more fruitful or mission-targeted opportunities.

The workshop was punctuated by several small group assignments, ending with one that called for participants to focus on the strengths of their organization and what they could do “more of”. It was applied positive thinking, accelerated by group support. We ended the day by identifying an action that we committed to taking the following day for a project we considered stalled; whether it was to move forward or to lay that “zombie decently to ground”.

Thanks, Brandon and Eric, for a great workshop and for everyone’s full participation!

Lissa Kramer is the Programs Coordinator for the Issaquah History Museums and volunteers with the Washington Museum Association. She’s been working in museums for fifteen years and consults for museums in Minnesota, Alaska, and Washington. Lissa completed graduate study in Museology and Nonprofit Management at the University of Washington.

StEPs 4Culture: Getting Unstuck

Issaquah Depot © 2014, 4Culture staff
Issaquah Depot © 2014, 4Culture staff
Issaquah Depot © 2014, 4Culture staff

Heritage 4Culture has launched a capacity-building initiative for the local heritage community called StEPs 4Culture. Based on the American Association for State and Local History’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations, StEPs 4Culture is a series of convenings and roundtables addressing standards through mentor and peer support. Ruth Pickering from the Fall City Historical Society recounts here experience at the Planning Roundtable on August 12.

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Issaquah Depot © 2014, 4Culture staff
Issaquah Depot © 2014, 4Culture staff

Heritage 4Culture has launched a capacity-building initiative for the local heritage community called StEPs 4Culture. Based on the American Association for State and Local History’s Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations, StEPs 4Culture is a series of convenings and roundtables addressing standards through mentor and peer support. Ruth Pickering from the Fall City Historical Society recounts here experience at the Planning Roundtable on August 12.

4Culture is providing a very useful “way in” to the somewhat overwhelming StEPs Manual with these Roundtable meetings on various topics.

As a founding member of Fall City Historical Society, started in 2007 in our unincorporated, rural town, I found it illuminating as well as very enjoyable to meet with folks from a wide variety of historical groups on the topic of Planning.

We were asked to bring to the table a project on which we were feeling “stuck.” For us, the top of that list is “board development”… an ongoing issue for many small organizations. I did get some good ideas in that area. But the most important insight perhaps was that visibility of not just history but of the organization is basic and vital not just to board development but to volunteer recruiting and fundraising as well. This insight came especially in the exercise on Appreciative Inquiry…focusing on what we have done well, what could be learned from those things, and how we can do more with those strengths. Our first undertaking was a Memory Book Project, with the publication in 2010 of the 350-page book, Preserving the Stories of Fall City. That got us off to a wonderful start in the community, involving a wide variety of people in contributing memories and helping with the funding of the publication. During that period we also received large numbers of donations to our collections. (I highly recommend the Memory Book process and would be glad to share what we learned with anyone interested.)

StEPs Planning Roundtable participants © 2014, 4Culture staff
StEPs Planning Roundtable participants © 2014, 4Culture staff

When we were first starting out, we were especially grateful to Issaquah Historical Society and Erica Maniez for encouragement, enthusiasm, and answers to so many “How do you…?” questions. This gave us a vision of a mature and effective organization. In the Roundtable, it was a treat to hear from groups of many sizes and situations… to hear inventive ideas they have come up with and their very different ways of operating. I was struck, for instance, by how busy we are “getting it done” and how little time we take to have fun together! And several groups shared the importance of working with students in schools… and in the process involving their parents! Others shared how vital it has been to have a few paid staff positions and how much that has increased what they are able to accomplish. This is a goal we need to pursue. I’m especially eager to find out more about Kirkland’s “Founders in February” program, where they post photos and basic history of important early settlers in local businesses during that month.

Special thanks also to Brandon Claycomb, whose introductory presentation on planning really helped! The dreaded Strategic Planning approach is one choice, but it was a relief to hear that planning can happen in so many other small and important ways. And the Appreciative Inquiry presentation gave us a tool which helps focus on the positive… rather than getting bogged down in the things not getting done or going well. Thanks to everyone who came and shared their successes and frustrations as learning for all of us.

Aaron Counts will lead Creative Alternatives pilot

© Aaron Counts, Photo by Robin Force Counts
© Aaron Counts, Photo by Robin Force Counts
© Aaron Counts, Photo by Robin Force Counts

4Culture, in partnership with King County’s Juvenile Court and Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, is developing arts-based alternatives to incarceration for court involved youth.

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© Aaron Counts, Photo by Robin Force Counts
© Aaron Counts, Photo by Robin Force Counts

4Culture, in partnership with King County’s Juvenile Court and Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention, is developing arts-based alternatives to incarceration for court involved youth.

Creative Alternatives is an innovative program in which regional artists will collaborate with young people and their families to consider the root causes of youth incarceration (as they intersect with racism, classism and other oppressions) and focus on the positive role youth voice can have in creating social transformation.

Seattle-based writer, educator and counselor, Aaron Counts has been selected serve as Lead Engagement Artist. He will act as program coordinator and liaison to mentor artists and the Court, facilitating partnerships and assisting in the development and implementation of the year-long pilot.

Aaron understands the transformative power of art. He has written and read with professors, prisoners, dropouts, and scholars. He is an artist-in-residence with the Writers-in-the-Schools program, co-author of the non-fiction text Reclaiming Black Manhood, and a long-time lecturer on the subject of race and social justice. His writing has recently appeared in Specter MagazineBestiary, Aldebaran Review and Rufous City Review, though his first publication was on an old Kenmore refrigerator on 7th Street in Yakima. Aaron holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia.

Praise Song for Good Hair
Aaron Counts

praise the smoky voice
of the diva curling through the
thick air of the salon.
praise the comfortable song that settles
on your shoulders like a lazy cat. praise the lack
of bass in the room. praise the treble, the strong
spine of the women, and their patience.

praise patience. praise nimble fingers
twisting locks into the head of a young
boy, sleepy from a long day at school.
praise dozing under the hot dryer, and rest
when you can get it. praise the womb
here in this room, and its softness.
whenever possible, you must praise softness.

praise the magic brown hands conjure.
the care, the intimate whisper in your boy’s ear.
praise the song and the singing along.

praise the griot, the stories told
by benevolent queens. praise the holding
court, the not-caring. praise the checking
of brothers, here and elsewhere.
praise the mmm-hmmms and okaaays,
and the men that know not to try it.
praise royalty and those that recognize it.
praise the smiles, the clowning.
praise the jokes black women tell
only to each other, praise eavesdropping,
and lessons learned. praise laughing,
praise the laugh.

praise first loves and intimacy,
the fingers that cradle
your scalp. praise good hair,
because it’s all good hair.
praise the almost-white light-skinned boy
learning what it means
to be black.