Springing into Radical Recommitment, in honor of May 1st

20150501_153042Spring is always known as a time of rebirth and rejuvenation, as winter thaws and flowers begin unfurl from the ground. This season of rejuvenation offers a ripe moment for collective recommitment to building a more just world. This abundance is always palpable on the first day of May, a long celebrated annual day of public protest. May 1st, also known as May Day, is International Worker’s Day. Originally chosen to commemorate the Haymarket affair, an 1886 labor demonstration by Chicago workers, who were striking for an eight-hour workday and against the killing of workers by police when the peaceful turned violent with a dynamite bomb. This moment in labor history is honored each year as May 1st, where people march to continue a legacy of workers’ resistance. In more recent years, May Day has also been designated as a day to lift up immigrants’ struggles and movements towards ending deportations and creating justice for undocumented folks.

Each year in Seattle, there is a huge march by El Comité and the May 1st Action Coalition. This inspirational day of public protest is not just a one-off day of action. It represents dedicated and transformative long haul organizing around multiple and intersecting issues, led by communities of color. As apart of the Seattle Youth Coalition, Youth Speaks Seattle seeks to be apart of the ongoing movement along with other youth-driven organizations. It is essential that young folks are in leadership in these liberatory struggles. Youth Speaks Seattle leaders marched with other young artists and activists. The diverse demands chanted by crowds represented the power of May Day to bring together multiple and intersecting issues of economic, climate and racial justice. In the crowd, a #BlackLivesMatter contingent carried a huge sign that read “Stop Fucking Killing Us”. They moved with dignity and power through the streets, followed by organizers from the Model Minority Mutiny Contingent, Youth and Student Coalition, Womxn of Color and Families Contingent and many more. Signs boldly connected climate justice, indigenous sovereignty, API solidarity with BlackLivesMatter, the #Not1More deportation movement, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, ending Israeli apartheid and more. The streets spoke to the power of frontline leadership and allies joining together to agitate, mourn, rejoice and vision onwards.

20150501_152150As a way to continue the education, transformation and mobilization of May Day, Youth Speaks hosted our second-ever Liberation Open Mic. This special edition of our monthly open mic is an opportunity to lift up the revolutionary potential of art to shift culture. Shifting culture can mean so many different things. Our open mics provide fertile ground to change hearts & minds, to gather energy in community and speak truth to power. The Liberation Open Mic offered youth and adult allies space to share and create with another. In the warm Spring air, we held the open mic outside where poets, rappers and musicians shared truth and showcased their work. We had a feature from three cultural workers and comrades at Anakbayan Seattle (a Youth and Student org working towards national democracy & liberation in the Philippines), Nikki Caintic, Richard Arcelo and Enrico Abadesco. As the full moon rose above Beacon Hill, we cyphered and laughed and sung together. The night ended with a joyful and spontaneous musical collaboration between Anakbayan and YSS artists. From the march to the mic, the radical legacy of May 1st continued with the voices of youth at the forefront. May we continue our collective work towards a more just world, with the budding Spring energy at our backs!



Resources for Recommitment 20150428_173920

Some organizations to learn about & support

El Comité: https://www.facebook.com/pages/El-Comité/

Anakbayan Seattle: https://www.facebook.com/anakbayan.seattle

Women of Color for Systemic Change: https://www.facebook.com/WOCFSC

Got Green?: http://gotgreenseattle.org/


- Shelby

Teen Artist Program Coordinator


We’re hiring teaching artists for Highline Creative Schools Initiative!

We’re excited to begin the hiring process for CSI Highline teaching artists!


  • Teaching artists of color are strongly encouraged to apply
  • We are especially seeking teaching artists who have ties to South King County and who are bilingual in English and Spanish
  • We are looking to hire four teaching artists- two visual artists and two theatre artists
  • It’s a 20-26 hour/week position for duration of the three year project
  • Teaching artists will be doing collaborative integration work in two Highline Elementary schools, working in 5th and 6th grade

Job description at the link below. The deadline is 5/17/15 so don’t delay!

Creative Schools Highline TA Job Description 2015


Learn more about the Creative Schools initiative, currently taking place at two Seattle middle school, Orca K-8 and Madrona K-8


Youth Speaks Seattle: Spokes Leaders Spotlight

For Youth Speaks Seattle and the Arts Corps Teen Artist Program, spring can be our busiest season. I am so in awe of the amazing group of young leaders that are at the helm. This year’s Spokes Leadership cohort is brilliant, ambitious, creative, hilarious and joyful group of youth. These fourteen young leaders have been building community, sharpening skills and supporting the organizing of the Teen Artist Program since October.

The year kicked off with the Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute (ALLI), where we sparked important social justice discussions, delved into some hands-on organizing skills and built the foundation for a fierce community of artists. Since the beginning, this year’s Spokes cohort has been so dedicated and imaginative in coming to the hard work of organizing Open Mics, Poetry Slams and Writing Circles. Together, we have wrote, danced, acted, hosted, learned and laughed until we cried. These tight bonds are essential for the kind of amazing artistry and organizing we hope to create together as we wrap up the year with the epic Grand Slam stage this April.

Within this amazing collective, each of the Spokes is a poet, artists and activist in their own right. At last week’s Spokes meeting, we took some time to reflect to exactly that: their own amazing gifts, identities and accomplishments. We did this by asking the Spokes to write their own artist biographies. These short snippets couldn’t possibly capture their brilliance but as young artists and organizers, it’s extremely important that they begin to cultivate skills around articulating their strengths and the nature of their work. Every Spokes member is so dynamic and multi-faceted. These artist bios show their diversity in passions, skills and dreams. I’ve included most of their bios below, to let the next generation speak for themselves.


W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.5Connor Will Brown is a Seattle-born playwright, photographer, poet, filmmaker, traveller, blogger, visual artist, musician and achievement-embellisher. A student of the Center School, he has developed a craft known for its deadpan, earnest and ambitious quality, and has previously published several of these works. As a member of Youth Speaks Seattle, art collectives, SYVPI, Arts Corps and others, Connor has spread boundless egocentrism and/or creativity across the Greater Seattle area. His new novel, Death on a Frontier, is in consistent limbo. His blog is available at woodensailsforpaperships.tumblr.com.


W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.8Ivan Cruz was born in Nogales, Mexico in February 16, 1998. He has been associated with many different types of art, some include film production, music production and painting. Ivan’s current favorite artist is Clean Bandit and his favorite director is Quintin Tarentino. Youth Speaks has been a very unique and interesting experience for him.




W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.9Hey y’all, my name is Tai Donte Jordan and my hobbies include eating, sleeping and loving those who love me and even those who don’t! I have been with Youth Speaks for the past school year and have had an amazing experience! I look forward to maintaining my connection to poetry and all other forms of art when I am in college and hopefully being apart of the college slam team at Cornell or to create one. Youth Speaks was one of the many things I did this year, along with football and Teen Council. I’ve been busy in social justice activism since I’ve been able to acknowledge the injustices in this world and this year I’ve been able to achieve progress through poetry. Youth of today are the truth of tomorrow and with places like Youth Speaks Seattle, that message will be able to reach far into hears and beyond the soul into the very chemical make up that makes youth powerful and say because you exist, you are amazing!


W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.11Jenny Loo (aka Catalina) is a dreamer who spits out the guts of the never ending dream called her life. She likes to believe she likes long walks on the beach but her alias Catalina won’t let her. Born and raised in the unknown between Seattle and Renton, making her an open minded, hardworking yet lazy coordinated volunteer in the greater Renton area with Seattle Incubator and the Renton History Museum for Fashion and History. As well as a semi-poet slash artists slash wannabe K-POP Star, who is immersed with her school’s poetry club as well as being a part of the Youth Speaks Seattle community that plans events for the youth.



Carlynn Newhouse is a writer, poet, actress, performer and regular human being. She writes about love, loss, relationships, bullying, race and the life experiences that made her who she is today. She loves being a Youth Speaks Seattle Spokes, helping other s find themselves and causing laughter. A survivor of bullying and discrimination, she fights for equality and acceptance in all aspects of life.





W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.1Christina Nguyen is an Aries/ Pisces Cusp, an aspiring poet, and artist with passions and dreams to accomplish. Grown up and raised around fierce activists and advocates from the Seattle community since the age of fifteen, Christina is empowered to search and find her own voice with the resilient tools and new ideas she learns every day from her family in Youth Speaks Seattle. She hopes to channel her energy to others to help find and use their own power in the voices they were born with through the magic of assisting poetry classes, carrying debatable yet enlightening conversation, and truly believing in others. She organizes with programs such as YouthCan through the Wing Luke Museum and mentor with Youth Speaks Seattle. On her spare time, you can usually find Christina sipping on peppermint tea whilst simultaneously sketching with a sharpie in hand.



W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.7Isaiah Nihipali is an artist of singing, dancing, poetry and photography. he is from the Islands of Hawaii traveling all over the country with 22 states under his belt and counting, at only the age of 18. Future plans are to spread love and positive change through the world with art, music and poetry.




W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.3Samone Thomas (Samoney- Rapper name) is a poet, hopeless romantic, fashionista, lover, stand up comedian and cupcake master. Samone loves to watch romantic comedies in her free time and putting herself in any leading ladies place. This boss-ass beauty will bring you to your knees in the best ways. With the awkward tension she has coming in, she will leave you with a smile. So fall in love cause she is single and ready to mingle.  So put her on your speed dial. But know the baes will be coming . Give it up for the Seattle star, Samoney.



W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.6Eric Thongdee is an Asian American poet from Seattle. He is also a member of the Youth Speaks Seattle family. Eric enjoys meditation, poetry slams and open mics. You can catch him hosting or performing at the next open mic for Youth Speaks!




W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.10Jillian Vu is a final draft in the process. She writes about the lost reasons and found causes. Physically based in Seattle but her mind is based in a more just world. Jillian is proud to claim herself as a Spokes leader. Bringing those causes to wherever she goes, Jillian is bringing her final draftness into the world.





W15_Handler_YT_Spokes_delena.2jpgAna Walker is a queer multiracial woman of color. She is a highschool student at the northwest school. She writes poetry and short stories. She also enjoys black and white photography and learning and exploring different genres of art. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make change through art and discussion.

Teaching Artists of the Month: Vicky and Pak!

Arts CorpsVicky Edmonds and Daniel Pak have been selected as our April Teaching Artists of the month! The Program Team at Arts Corps felt that Vicky and Pak best demonstrated the following criteria:PakFesta
  • Are skilled and dedicated,
  • Foster youth leadership,
  • Produce a successful learning environment, and
  • Communicate directly with Arts Corps Program staff if issues arise and seek support, when needed

Faculty Development Manager Eduardo Mendonca sat down with Vicky and Pak to hear more about their teaching artist journeys and what they said left us all feeling inspired. Watch the video below to learn more about their experiences!


Meet Arts Corps’ Newest Staff Members!

Arts Corps just got bigger! We recently hired two amazing and talented people to join our team. We’re excited to introduce:

Angela_TulipsAngela Brown, Creative Schools Evaluation & Documentation Coordinator

Angela Brown has been working in development, multimedia and data management systems for 15 years. She has facilitated communications on behalf of federal agencies and served as essential personnel during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. She is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and has worked with nonprofits and small businesses in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. She earned her graduate degree in Media and Cinema Studies from DePaul University and, after a brief time in television research, was inspired to join Arts Corps to support youth in cultivating their voices through the creative arts. She is passionate about media literacy, photography, and filmmaking and is the caretaker of an adorable cocker spaniel.


“I’m so excited to join the Arts Corps team and work on the Creative Schools Initiative. As a youth I found it challenging to develop the discipline to focus my creative efforts. I dreamed of becoming an artist but could never quite find the agency, medium or voice to express my feelings, thoughts and imagination. I appreciate that having teaching artists in the classroom supports youth in developing creative habits of mind. I am enthusiastic about joining an organization that works hard to showcase just how integrated art is and can be in your life. I look forward to documenting and evaluating this important work and hopeful that the role revitalizes my own creative habits.”



ChristaChrista Mazzone Palmberg, Grant Writer


Growing up, Christa studied voice and theatre with hopes of someday becoming a professional performer.  Volunteer experiences during her college years in Chicago, however, led her away from music and toward a career in community organizing. Christa worked for several years as the National Field Organizer for Sojourners, a progressive Christian social justice organization. Following her time in DC, Christa completed a Masters of Divinity from Duke Divinity School in Durham, NC. After moving to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, Christa worked as an organizer with Sound Alliance, a coalition of religious, labor and community organizations working for the common good. Christa is delighted to come full circle at Arts Corps, a place that integrates art and social justice with impressive amounts of creativity and joy.


Join us in welcoming Angela and Christa to the Arts Corps family!

City building at Mount View Elementary

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

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

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

IMG_8082  unnamed-1

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


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


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


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

21st Century Arts Learning & Arts Assessment Project

In this project, under the collaborative leadership of Arts Corps staff Elizabeth Whitford and Tina LaPadula, district arts manager Gail Sehlhorst, music coach Pam Ivezic and consultant Dennie Palmer Wolf, arts writing teams that include SPS arts specialists and Arts Corps teaching artists are creating and refining baseline and cornerstone arts assessments for Seattle Public Schools arts instruction. The goal of these new assessments is to inform teaching and students learning and track student growth in arts and 21st Century Skills including creativity,  communication, critical thinking, growth mindset and collaboration.


Seattle Public Schools / Arts Corps – 21st Century Arts Learning & Assessment Project, February 27-28


2015 Youth Speaks Seattle Grand Slam // ft. Mary Lambert, Hosted by Hollis Wong-Wear


YSS_Grand Slam Poster_FINALimage


Arts Corps presents
Youth Speaks Seattle GRAND SLAM 2015

Friday, April 10th
Doors at 6:30pm / Show at 7:00pm
@ Town Hall Seattle (First Hill)
1119 8th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Hosted by Hollis Wong-Wear, of the Flavr Blue
Featuring: Mary Lambert

Sacrificial Poet: Hamda Yusuf
Voice of God: Donte Johnson

10$ youth / 20$ adults
// Homie discount for groups of 5+ youth = 7$ per ticket
BUY TICKETS: yss2015.brownpapertickets.com

12 finalists grace the Grand Slam stage for 1 transformative night of poetry. Witness stories of love, loss, resistance and survival, told through the raw medium of spoken word. The truth will change you.

The top 5 poets will be named the 2015 Youth Speaks Seattle Slam Team and will rep Seattle at the 2014 International Brave New Voices Festival in Atlanta, this July.

The Grand Slam is Youth Speaks Seattle’s biggest annual fundraiser. In order to continue providing incredible youth-led programs such as our writing circles, open mics, poetry slams and paid internships, we need you to support us!

This event is ADA wheelchair accessible.
This is not a scent free event.
To request ASL interpretation, email slam@artscorps.org by March 25th.
Nearby bus routes (many of these stop in downtown, near Town Hall): 2, 3, 4, 12, 64, 7, 120, 125

For more info:
contact shelby handler at

Free Writes and the Work of Magic

If I had to estimate, I’d say that I’ve yelled “Youth Speaks Seattle” in over a hundred middle and high school classrooms all over the greater Seattle area. In my year and a half of YSS outreach, I couldn’t approximate how many lunchroom spiels I’ve attempted or how many times I’ve performed my poems in LA classes or how many posters I’ve stapled to hallway bulletin boards. Throughout my journeys, I’m  honored to get to facilitate workshops with many rooms of brilliant young folks. To open up a creative and supportive writing space, I usually ground the room in a shared definition of a “free write”. I ask the room to shout out their ideas: write what you feel like!, whatever is in your brain!, write freely!

Building off the concepts already in the room, I usually add some key guidelines, like: Don’t judge yourself as you write. Let whatever is in your brain hit the page and don’t worry about it sounding good or poetic or cool or whatever! No pressure. This is just a place to experiment, play, get some ideas out in the air. I always share Youth Speaks Seattle’s only free write “rule” which is: keep your pen/pencil/writing utensil moving for the enPaperstripstire free write time. Even if you’re just writing, “I hate this” over and over, you never know where your pen might take you. I believe that free writes give us the potential to surprise ourselves with ourselves.

With a collective definition of free write to draw from, we then move into constructing some constraints, prompts or guidelines to get a free write sparked. Write whatever you feel like! is exciting but also the scariest freedom possible. A blank page with no starting point is intimidating to even the most prolific poet. While it’s important to push ourselves to write without self-judgment, a container can be helpful for stream of consciousness to take shape in. That in mind, I design curriculum with many variations on constraints. My challenges to students often include starting lines or required images or words.

As I develop curriculum, I always return to the idea that writing is the work of magic. To cultivate that magic, a workshop must serve as a powerful ritual. Ritual involves trusting the unknown and making space for it in our writing practice. In the classroom, this manifests as having each group of students generate unique constraints for our workshop. For example, I’ve asked students to write a specific shade or color in the corner of their paper. Once the room is filled with lime greens, ripe watermelon reds, indigos and eggshells, I ask each student to rip the color out and pass it to their neighbor. I encourage everyone to believe that this is the color that they are meant to write with today. The randomness of receiving a color is a form of magic, all part of our shared ritual. And once students share, it feels that magic led them to create the exact free write they were meant to, bursting with color and inspiration.

Similarly, I’ve asked students to write 5 words on slips of paper that describe their identity, before we throw them all into the center of the room and draw back out 5 words, randomized in a flurry of paper. These identity words go on to spark complex and courageous free writes. In another workshop, I challenge students to write a letter to a person or thing in their life. To determine who or what we need to write to most in this particular moment, we often do a ritual spinning of our notebook and random pointing on a brainstormed list of important items or people.

Through these acts of divination, I’ve witnessed youth read authentic, fiery and heartbreaking poems. I’m continually in awe of how free writes give way to such raw vulnerability. They make a place for all of us to trust the magic inside of us and dive head first into the unknown. Constraints, like ritual, give us a shape to land in. Once we go there, the piece may even seem to write itself. When I witness the power of young poets speaking truth, it’s a collective discovery of what they needed to say all along.


- Shelby

Teen Artist Program Co-Coordinator


Help Fund Massive Break Challenge!

Massive Break Challenge

Invest in Massive Break Challenge, Seattle’s largest regional break dance battle for middle & high school youth!  This dynamic event is a partnership between Arts Corps, Northwest Folklife and Extraordinary Futures, a nonprofit affiliate of the Massive Monkees break dancing crew.

Donor Benefits:

Every dollar donated is matched – doubling your impact!

Gifts of $10 or more: We’ll give you a shout-out on Facebook and Twitter!

Gifts of $25 or more: We’ll give you a shout-out online AND in person—the MBC host will specifically recognize your gift to kick off the event!

Gifts of $50 or more: All of the above PLUS you’ll receive a signed photo/postcard with a note from Jeromeskee, of Massive Monkees!

Gifts of $100 or more: All of the above PLUS we’ll invite you back-stage during the MBC event, where you’ll meet the youth performers and professional break dancers. (Limit 30–first come, first served)

Gifts of $150 or more: All of the above PLUS you’ll be invited to watch the event from the stage! (Limit 10–first come, first served)

Gifts of $250 or more: All of the above PLUS you’re invited to hang with the DJ during the event! [Limit 4--first come, first served]

Donate Here!

Massive Break Challenge supports over 70 youth from nearly 20 schools around Washington state to compete in mini-battles, leading up to the ultimate championship at the Bagley Wright Theater during the Folklife Festival on Saturday, May 23rd, from 3-5pm.  Hundreds of people show up every year to witness the B-Boy and B-Girl break dancing students participate in this high-energy competition as they build community and challenge each other’s skills in front of a live audience. Both the mini-battles and the main event are free of charge for performers and audience members.

Mini battles start in February 2014, and once a month break crews from Seattle Public Schools match skills at The Beacon Studio in Seattle’s International District.

By supporting the Massive Break Challenge you will help us cover the venues cost, feature performances, supplies and transportation for youths from across the city to be able to attend & compete in the event! Special thanks to Northwest Folklife for offering free performance space for Massive Break Challenge during the Folklife Festival!