Meet James Miles.

Arts Corps is excited to welcome James Miles as our next executive director. James brings extensive experience in arts education, most recently as the Director of Education at Urban Arts Partnership in New York City. James has led workshops for multiple celebrated theater programs and taught theater and education as an adjunct professor at NYU. He serves on the board of directors for the Association of Teaching Artists and the Teaching Artist Journal. A graduate of Morehouse College and Brandeis University, James has presented on arts, technology and education and provided teacher professional development around the world.

James Miles and his (potential) family band album cover

“When I first read about Arts Corps, I knew I had to find a way to work here. It is such a dynamic organization, rooted in artistic exploration and dedicated to social justice,” says James. “I am thrilled and overwhelmingly grateful to be asked to join Arts Corps as Executive Director. I look forward to collaborating with staff, youth, board, and Arts Corps supporters, so that we can build on the already impressive accomplishments of this wonderful organization.” 

James was selected after a rigorous search that drew more than 60 highly qualified applicants through an inclusive process that involved Arts Corps board members, staff, teaching artists, and youth. “We set out to find someone who would both respect the incredible work that Arts Corps is already doing AND bring new passion for our next chapter,” says Sara Lawson, Arts Corps’ board president. “We were looking for a leader with a lived commitment to racial and social justice, a passion for youth empowerment, and the resourcefulness to work for change within. And we really wanted someone who would embrace—and grow with—our passionate community of risk-takers, artists, teachers, and young leaders. James is an extraordinary match for what we envisioned. He brings tremendous experience along with deep curiosity, humility, and a strong collaborative spirit. We’re excited about what’s next, and we’re approaching this transition with a renewed appreciation for the strength of the Arts Corps community and the power of this work.”

James will join the Arts Corps team starting Monday, January 30th. Outgoing executive director Elizabeth Whitford will be on hand though mid-March to ensure a smooth transition. “I’m so happy to be handing the reigns to James Miles, someone I admire tremendously,” adds Elizabeth. “James’ deep understanding of arts education best practice, his racial and social justice leadership, and his national connections will serve Arts Corps well. And he’s a really funny, kind, and dynamic person to boot!”

Please join us in welcoming James to the Arts Corps team, and plan to join us at La Festa del Arte on March 17th at Fremont Studios to meet James in person!

Thoughts on asking for donations in a post-election world

From Elizabeth Whitford, Executive Director

“Now more than ever.” How many times have we heard that in this season’s end of year appeals? I confess I even put it in our appeal letter, and yet it has not sat comfortably with me. It is not that it is not true—it is true—it’s just that while some organizations must make big shifts to respond to the challenges ahead, I woke up to a Trump presidency with the unwavering clarity that what Arts Corps needs to do is to stay the course. From long before that day, Arts Corps has been doing the work it needs to do—growing the creativity, resiliency and leadership of low-income youth of color.

Arts Corps’ work is deeply rooted in our commitment to racial and social justice. 4 out of 5 of our students are from low-income families, and 77% are youth of color. Many of our youth are also Muslim, immigrants and/or identify as LGBTQ. These youth have the least systemic access to an arts education and have also long been targets of both systemic oppression and acts of hate. This harmful environment has only heightened, and the landscape of educational funding and priorities that will impact our youth under the Trump administration is of great concern.

Arts Corps programs create a buffer from this oppressive environment—bringing joy, cultural expression and belonging into schools and after school programs—which is essential to the resiliency and development of our youth. Arts Corps programs also foster the creative and critical thinking skills that we know will be needed to address the complex and growing challenges we face now and long into the future.

These are the leaders we need. Witness the power of our youth at Arts Corps’ 2016 Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute through this short documentary made by Arts Corps alumna and Communications Lead, Amy Piñon.

Arts Corps is investing in the creative leadership of today: in young people doing cultural work to create spaces for healing and resistance for themselves and their communities, and in the courageous young people who are at the front lines in our social justice movements, giving us hope for a more just, inclusive and culturally-vibrant future.

I say all of this in the midst of the year-end giving frenzy. There is a lot of noise this year, and I feel unsure about entering it. But I fear that an ironic added impact from Trump’s election is that our annual giving will slump amid all the pressing needs. So I say this: We need your support today. We need it as much as we always have. Please make a year-end gift to Arts Corps, so that we can keep investing in the resiliency and creativity of our current and future young leaders.

What’s next will be amazing


In our NEXT annual report, we hear stories from members of the Arts Corps family who are helping to shape what’s next for Arts Corps.

You’ll hear from one of our Creative Schools Initiative teaching artists, Jéhan Òsanyìn, and one of the 5th/6th grade teaching artists she’s has been working with, Ms. Wunderlich, as well as her student Briza.

Robert Eyerman talks about his early experiences as an Arts Corps break dance student and his current endeavors as a professional break dancer, teaching artist, and our newest board member.

Monica Elenes, who’s been a leader within Youth Speaks Seattle and the Hip Hop Artist Residency, is now one of our newest classroom assistants and our Youth Speaks Seattle bookings request coordinator.



Click the NEXT cover above to read all of the stories in our annual report.



ArtsCorps_Logo_Horz_CMYK_redYou may have noticed that we have a new logo. You’ll see more updates to our brand look over the next few months, including anew website design coming soon. Arts Corps is evolving and growing as an organization and we hope you like our new look.






We’re seeking a badass leader

2016 Hip Hop Artist Residency

Arts Corps is seeking a badass leader with a lived commitment to social justice and creative youth development. Arts Corps’ next Executive Director will bring passion, authenticity and a radical vision to our work of unlocking the creative power of youth through arts education and community collaboration.

Since 2000, Arts Corps addresses a critical opportunity gap in a region where race is the greatest determining factor in access to arts education. As we deepen our work, we seek a leader that brings grounded urgency to providing creative space for youth voice while working to transform oppressive systems and shift culture. This is an exciting time for the organization, ripe for a new leader to have a hand in extending our strengths as we aim to grow our sustainable funding base, push ahead with creative strategies, and create new opportunities for young people and people of color to lead within this organization.

Priority Application Deadline: October 15, 2016
Please read the full job description for more information.

2016 Hip Hop Artist Residency
Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute mural
Arts Liberation and Leadership Institute mural


Photos by Amy L. Piñon

Announcement from our executive director and board president

Dear Arts Corps community,


speaking head shot
It is with a full heart and grounded optimism that I announce that I will be passing the baton to a new executive director in early 2017. At Arts Corps, we embrace and value personal and organizational change, just as we seek to inspire transformative change in the lives of low-income youth of color and in educational and youth-serving systems. After eight years as the director of this organization, and over ten as a member of this beautiful community, I am so excited for what will come next for Arts Corps, as well as for myself as I seek my next opportunity to create change.
While this has been a very hard decision, I know that the timing for this transition is right. Arts Corps is healthy, our strategic direction is clear, and our model proven. I have full confidence in our board of directors to hold our values and guide the organization through this transition, just as I trust our incredible youth, teaching artists, staff and community of supporters to carry forward the tremendous breakthroughs we have achieved while embracing new possibilities ahead.
Serving as a leader and member of the Arts Corps community has been the greatest professional experience of my life. I believe passionately in the mission and intention of this organization. In fact, I am not actually going far, just switching roles to that of devout donor and champion of this great work.

This of course means that we are hiring! Check out the job posting here.


With deep gratitude,





A message from Board President, Sara Lawson:


Dear everybody:


This is an exciting time for Arts Corps.Sara3

We are so grateful to Elizabeth for her leadership, insight, and unwavering commitment. She is a thoughtful strategist, an effective bridge builder, and a courageous advocate for the creative power of young people. She and an amazing team of staff, teaching artists, and collaborators have guided Arts Corps through a decade of innovation, expansion, and growing national recognition. Their efforts are firmly rooted in a deep commitment to equity and social justice, and they have fostered a strong culture of learning across the organization.
Elizabeth’s considered approach to this transition has given us the gift of a generous timeline. We have prepared behind the scenes, interviewing dozens of staff, teaching artists, board members, and passionate stakeholders from across our community. We’ve had the opportunity for deep thinking and expansive conversations about where Arts Corps has come from, where we are, and where we’re going. We’ve convened a Search Committee of staff, board, youth leaders, and teaching artists to guide us.
Over the coming months, we look forward to more thought-provoking conversations with people who share our passion for this work and have a vision for how they’d contribute to Arts Corps’ next chapter. And we have full confidence that our process involving diverse voices and perspectives will lead us to the next, just right executive director for Arts Corps.

Please take a look at the job posting, and please help us spread the word.


Thank you!


Warm regards,



Sara Lawson

Board President, Search Committee Chair


We’re Hiring Creative Schools Teaching Artists

Arts Corps is hiring two teaching artists, one specializing in music and one specializing in theatre or performance, who will develop and teach project-based curriculum that integrates their art form with core curriculum in order to enhance student learning, classroom engagement and creative thinking skills. Each teaching artist will be placed in an elementary school where they will teach 3-4 classes per day, 2-3 days a week, primarily focusing on Kindergarten through third grade. The Creative Schools Teaching Artists are also responsible for the planning and coordination of performances to celebrate and showcase student work. In addition, they support professional development for classroom teachers, program evaluation and some administration as it pertains to their school sites.

Arts Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer. This position has a social justice component that will allow for critical thinking around how external systems impact our work through the lens of racism and intersections with poverty. As an equal opportunity employer, we highly encourage people of color to apply.

See the Job Description

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Hillary Moore at: Deadline for applications is 8/1/16

Meet our Hip Hop Artist Residency Teaching Artists!

Arts Corps, EMP Museum, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are hosting year 2 of the Hip Hop Artist Residency, which will serve up to 40 emerging youth artists through two tracks: the Vocal Track, which will  foster self-expression through lyricism, rhyme structure, and delivery and the Production Track, which will emphasize media literacy, beat-making, and song construction. Participants will feature their work at a culminating event at the end of the residency.

Meet our cohort of incredible teaching artists who will be leading the program this year!



Madeleine Clifford


Maddy “MADlines” Clifford is a rapper, writer and educator from Seattle. She’s taught hundreds of literary arts workshops throughout the Bay Area, where she currently resides. Maddy also holds an MFA from Mills College, has independently released three musical projects, and performed widely, including opening for Souls of Mischief. In 2015, she served as a Hip-Hop Ambassador to Uganda through the Next Level Program, a project of the US Department of State. She’s also spent the last three years facilitating poetry workshops with incarcerated youth in San Francisco. Her range–from stage, to panel, to urban classroom, to academic setting–is extensive. Maddy’s ultimate goal is to leave an indelible footprint in a shifting cultural landscape, one in which young people’s dreams for peace can take root!



Olisa Enrico-Johnson


Olisa “Spyc-E Enrico has been rockin’ the mic for over 20 years. Born into a life of music Olisa began exploring theatre in 2003. She has a BFA in performance and an MFA in Theater Pedagogy. Olisa believes that artists and art are vital to the state of culture and society and hopes to share her soul through performance and teaching. Olisa is a board member of (TCP) (501c3) whose mission is “…to promote through active and challenging dramatic works, open and honest dialogue about racism in America in order to repair its damaging legacy”. Olisa teaches students of all ages and stages. Her teaching, of any subject, incorporates principles of community and shared responsibility.



Jamal Farr


Jamal Farr a.k.a. Jace is a Seattle hip-hop fixture. He’s been involved with the Seattle hip-hop scene since the mid-1980s and has done work with such organizations as National Black United Front, Impact Management/K Records, and Loose Groove/Sony, as well as rapped on many independent releases.

As a hip-hop performer, Jace participates in the broader arts scene, beyond just the hip-hop scene, and uses his time to help young people in his creative writing classes to navigate their lives with words. Jace is currently a member of the hip-hop/soul-inspired group Black Stax. He prides himself of the work they do with other artists internationally as well as within the Seattle community.




Erica Merritt


Erica Merritt began singing and performing at the age of five. In middle school she was featured in a band called Starlighters, which consisted of three student vocalists and a few members of the faculty. At 14, she joined theatre and music performance groups at Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center. She studied voice and music in college, and began teaching choir through Northwest Folklife in 1998. Over the course of the last 15 years she has taught voice, songwriting, and choir through various art organizations. Merritt has also worked in the field of social and human services for over 18 years, and has enjoyed the amazing opportunity to combine her passions of social well-being and music through the art of teaching.




Tyrone Miller


Winner of Vocalo Radio’s “Quest For The Best DJ” battle, Tyrone “DJ Bizzon” Miller’s creative turntablism skills, original production and hands-on style has made him one of the Midwest’s most sought- after DJs. He’s opened for or performed with artists including Kendrick Lamar, Baauer, Mac Miller, ?uestlove, Just Blaze, Naughty By Nature, People Under The Stairs and DJ Abilities. From the songs you’ve heard to bangers you haven’t, Tyrone prides himself on rocking the party without compromising artistic music selection. The same work ethic and originality that make him a standout on the turntables carry through to his other roles in music – radio host, music columnist, event organizer and youth work professional.


In addition to DJing, Tyrone co-hosts Those Hip Hop Guys Radio on WMSE 91.7FM, Milwaukee’s only all underground and old school hip-hop radio show. He’s a member of Vocalo Radio’s DJ collective, which broadcasts on Chicago’s 91.1FM and Indiana’s 89.5FM. He created and writes for JSOnline’s Those Hip Hop Guys Blog, the only column in a major Wisconsin publication focused on hip-hop culture. He is also a youth work professional with experience in teaching music classes, directing youth programming, creating curriculum, leading workshops, writing grants and organizing fundraising events and concerts. All of these projects are inspired by his mission to put musical diversity and real choice back into people’s hands, rather than letting mainstream media dictate what defines good music.



Otieno Terry


Born and raised in the Central District, Otieno Terry is a singer-songwriter and producer sure to take you on a journey with his eclectic and passionate style. With roots in soul, hip-hop, and jazz, Terry blends a vast array of genres for a truly unique sound through which he delivers powerful messages. As a former participant in Seattle Theatre Group’s More Music @ The Moore program, and winner of EMP Museum’s Sound Off! competition in 2014, Otieno continues to gain recognition for his collaborations with Seattle-based artists, in addition to his own music. Furthermore, he is a teaching artist and mentor with Creative Justice Program.


ArtsCorps_logo_white_LRG copy

We’re hiring a Creative Schools Teaching Artist!

Students perform historical fiction stories about migration at Gregory Heights Elementary as part of Highline CSI. Photo by Tove Tupper

In the fall of 2015, the Creative Schools Initiative entered into a three-year project in the Highline School District funded by the U.S. Department of Education.The Creative Schools Teaching Artist will collaborate with 5th and 6th grade teachers in Highline Public Schools to deliver project-based arts integrated units.

Arts Corps is hiring a visual teaching artist (the project has two visual artists and two theater artists) who will teach units that integrate visual art with language arts in order to enhance student learning, classroom engagement and feelings of belonging. Each teaching artist will split their time between two elementary schools, where they will contribute to an arts rich environment by co-teaching in the classroom, supporting students’ online portfolios and guiding exhibits/performances with students. Creative Schools Teaching Artists will also be responsible for the support of professional development for classroom teachers, program evaluation and some administration as it pertains to their school sites.

Creative Schools TA Job Description 2016

Highline Public Schools is one of the highest poverty, most diverse and lowest performing school districts in its region. This district serves nearly 19,000 Washington students Kindergarten through Grade 12 in South King County, an area characterized by the availability of inexpensive housing and the presence of diverse populations of low-income families, including many different immigrant and refugee populations. Because of these factors, Arts Corps is especially seeking applicants who have some connection to the communities of South King County, and who are bilingual in English and Spanish. People of color are strongly encouraged to apply.


To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Nate Herth at:

Priority Deadline for applications is 6/8/16


Learn more about the work of Highline Creative Schools Initiative this past school year: Drawing Out the Artist



Arts Corps’ Response to the National Association for Music Education

Many in the arts and arts education have been following this story: Why We Must Have Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity in the Arts: A Response to the National Association for Music Education,  and engaging in serious conversations locally and nationally about the critical issues it raises.  In response, a massive letter writing campaign unfolded across the country seeking accountability from NAfME.  Arts Corps shares the letter our white staff affinity group penned to the Board of Directors.  We hope it serves as a challenge to the new leadership, in spite of Mr. Butera’s departure.

Read our letter below:

Dear Board of Directors of NAfME,

We have been closely following the online conversation regarding the comments made by Michael Butera at the April 28th convening around diversity hosted by the National Endowment of the Arts, as shared by Keryl McCord of AlternateRoots, and we wish to add ours to the growing chorus of voices calling for true commitment and action towards racial equity by the National Association for Music Education. We are a group of white staff from Arts Corps, who meet intentionally as part of our organizational practice of racial caucusing.

While we do not know Michael Butera or Keryl McCord personally, Ms. McCord’s account immediately rang true for us. Even if Mr. Butera’s words were heard in a way that did not match his intentions, it is clear that he became deeply defensive, shut down a critical conversation and left the room. This defensiveness feels familiar, and it alone speaks volumes. As white people, we have been socialized to respond in anger and defensiveness when people of color ask us to grapple with our complicity in racist systems. These responses are harmful and keep the status quo in place. To not challenge ourselves to overcome our defensive responses in the work against racism is a disservice to our collective work towards access to arts for all.

Over the past several years, Arts Corps has helped lead conversations around organizational transformations toward racial justice for arts education leaders at the National Guild for Community Education annual conference. We have seen this kind of defensiveness show up in big and little ways. We have heard racist statements, many subtle, some almost as blatant as those attributed to Mr. Butera, from our colleagues across the sector.

Also telling is the response of NAfME and Mr. Butera himself to the incident. A mission statement and written values are meaningless without actions that make them real, and the responses have been absent any such evidence. Mr. Butera is right that systemic inequity does make NAfME’s desire for diversity harder to achieve. But that is exactly why working to do so must take precedence.

The truth is that many in the arts express similar hopes that all people should have access to high quality arts and music education, while still believing in and spreading the dominant racist narrative, which upholds white dominance and blames people of color for their lack of “skill.” If we actually believe that all people should have access our first step must be a self assessment of our personal beliefs and biases, and only then can we begin addressing the deep structural barriers to arts education that exist for youth of color (and educators of color).

Reckoning with structural barriers will not happen easily. It requires the leadership and perspectives of people of color. It requires new ways of operating and organizing our work. It requires reshaping the cultures of our institutions with a critical lens toward dismantling the effects of outdated ideologies that perpetuate white privilege. But if we do not do this, we are in fact perpetuating the systemic oppression that will ultimately prevent us from meeting our missions, missions aimed at ensuring arts education access for all.

This is not easy work. And it poses added challenges for those of us who are white. As leaders and as white people, we have been socialized to believe we should be competent, knowledgeable experts. How can we lead around something that we have been taught not to see, or to change systems that we have benefitted from? Are we willing to transform the ways we operate and the culture of our organizations in order to welcome and actually share power with leaders of color in our work?

This honest work is where the rubber meets the road, where our value, quality and sustainability actually lives or perishes. Fortunately there are many arts education organizations actively seeking answers to these questions. Our own organization, Arts Corps, is still on this journey. As an organization focused on bridging the gap in access to arts education, we had few board members or staff of color for many years. But as we have worked to truly live our mission and values in all aspects of our work, the leadership of youth and people of color has grown in our organization, and people of color now make up the majority of our staff, board and teaching artist faculty.

This was not accomplished through a recruitment effort, nor because there was suddenly an influx of people of color into arts education leadership in our region. This happened through collective education around racism and other oppression, and by a deliberate, and sometimes painful, look at the ways our organizational culture, processes, compensation, fundraising, board and staff recruitment align with our values. This work has involved making space for staff of color to meet, support each other, and give collective feedback to the organization and help drive our racial justice work. It has also involved making space for white staff to meet, support each other in our own growth and commitments to racial justice, and to listen and receive feedback. And this is still an ongoing change process for our organization. This work involves constant discipline as our organization seeks to undo the impacts of systemic racism while continuing to work in deeply inequitable and racist systems.

We realize that Arts Corps is a very different organization, and that NAfME may be less nimble and capable of quick change. But we know that change is possible. We know it is necessary. Deeply unjust inequities persist in the arts and arts education. To rectify this we will need NAfME, and other field leaders to truly live their values of equity and inclusion, and to work with pointed courage.


NAfME Letter 5-12-16



We’re hiring a Development Director!

Join our team!


The development director will work closely with the executive director and board to build on our current base of support and implement a strategic development plan that generates a diverse base of support from individuals, corporations, foundations and public agencies. They will play a key organizational leadership role to mobilize effective development and communications teams that include the executive director, grants manager, communications lead, board members, program staff and volunteers.

For more information, see the Job Description and to apply, send resume and cover letter to and write “Development Director Application” in the subject line.


Arts Corps is an Equal Opportunity Employer. This position has a social justice component that will allow for critical thinking around how external systems impact our work through the lens of racism and intersections with other oppressions. As an equal opportunity employer, we highly encourage people of color to apply.