On friendship bracelets and liberation

(From Michael Brix, our Executive Director)

What you need to know is I grew up going to an overnight camp in the beautiful hills of Northwestern New Jersey (yes, that’s a thing.) After I was too old to be a camper, I joined the staff. This camp was my summer job, and more: my home away from home. I think summer camp is such an important part of a child’s life, because it was such an important part of my life. You could say I come by this passion honestly.

Bracelet on hand
Showing off my 20 year old friendship bracelet!

You also need to know that I am currently renovating my basement bathroom. You only need to know this because part of the renovation was rediscovering some letters I had squirreled away in a storage box. These letters were all from campers of that old camp, written in flowery script, at a time when stamps cost 32¢. Among the letters was one with a braided thread bracelet tucked neatly between the folds of the letter. You know the type, it’s one of those friendship bracelets that everyone makes at one point or another in their adolescence.

I put on the bracelet and read the letter – it was just updates on their life, worries about the upcoming school year, and notes about a crush they had at camp. As I was reading the note, I remembered how I felt when I received the letter, all those years ago. More than mere nostalgia, the feelings of love, and acceptance, and belonging were palatable. I want to be clear: these were my strong, positive feelings.

Here at Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, we set out to make a difference in kids’ lives. We work hard to create meaningful, life-affirming relationships between staff and camper, and among the campers as well. We love to see (and to write about) the changes we see in our young people – and we do see these changes. However, we also cannot discount the positive impact that this program has on us as adult artists and educators.

It might seem a little selfish, but also entirely true, that we get to play and interact, and even learn from the kids who show up day after day to camp. Whether they come up with the most imaginative storyline we couldn’t have created ourselves, or they scramble to be next to us during warm-ups, or they share a snack from their lunch, we are often on the receiving end of their love and generosity, their play and their imaginations.

My camper’s once forgotten gift to me resurrected all these amazing feelings and reminded me how much I receive from doing this work. We are in this together – I am both benefactor and beneficiary in this scenario. It reminds me of the quote created by Aboriginal activists groups in Queensland, Australia in the 1970s, “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your  time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

I have this woven bracelet now to remind me that it is our common liberation I should be seeking. At Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, we are about creating positive change. We should not forget that many times those that change the most are ourselves.

Theatre Camp session 1: A Dollar Tree Jam!

A Dollar Tree Jam, when an unexpected run-in at the local dollar store ended up being a journey to a magical kingdom in the midst of a royal family dispute.

(From Debbie, our Theatre Camp Director)

What I love about Theatre Camp is knowing that I could not possibly fathom what our show will end up being and our first Theatre Camp session was no exception!

Our first session theme, Discover, Explore, Encounter, turned into an exploration of different worlds using drum circles, movement, and the environment.

The two tribes fell into their own lands, Sugar Sweetened and Dollar Tree, and began to think of how each person’s character ended up in the world. From the outside, it looks like the students are simply playing a game of imagination, but they are also learning different ways people interact with different members of the community by inventing new ones.

What was super interesting about this session was that each tribe chose a different way they came together. One, more focused on the the tribe as a whole, started as a community–a kingdom–and discovered individuals within it. The other focused on each individual and found a way to make them come together–an unexpected meeting in a store.

While the scene, characters, and plot line are all creations of our students, it is the direction of our amazing staff that guides the two stories together to create a final script for our show. Sometimes all you need is one key character to tie the two lands together, for us it was a Jelly Jam Ghost and a Bugatti that could travel to another dimension.Video

Video shot and edited by by Aidan Kaye.

An Important Board Update

Dear Friends and Supporters of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts,

First, we thank you so much for your continued support of our wonderful organization. We really appreciate your involvement in so many ways — financial, physical and emotional — ways which have made it possible for our organization to continue to serve children as we have done so for 21 years.

We write on behalf of the board to provide some important news. It is with very mixed feelings that we share with you that Michael Brix will be stepping down from his position as Executive Director of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts. Along with being one of our founders, Michael has served as Executive Director for nearly 8 years. During that time period, Yes! And… Collaborative Arts progressed from a small organization serving children through summer theater camp and after school programs to our incorporation as a 501(c)(3) organization. Michael is largely responsible, along with our staff and the founders, for the growth and success of our summer programs, Winter (and Summer!) Sort of Thing performances, Studio Classes, our After-School Program and Shadow, our teen program.

Michael has really taken our organization to new heights through his devotion, hard work, expertise and unflagging optimism. He is now ready for a new challenge. For now, Michael is continuing to look for – as he put it – “his next adventure”, and will continue to lead Yes! And… Collaborative Arts during his search. At the same time, the board has begun the search process for a new executive director and we will keep you updated on our progress. Michael has promised us that he will remain involved in other ways, even after he has moved on, by sharing his experience and insight to help guide Yes! And… Collaborative Arts to the next stage.

We look forward to our future and also will have more opportunity to look back and celebrate Michael’s amazing contributions to our organization. In the meantime, we are very excited for our excellent camp programs to begin this week and hope to see many of you at our events and celebrations!

Fondly,
D’vorah Horn-Greenberg and Claudia Huot
Yes! And… Collaborative Arts Board Co-Chairs

Saturdays with Shadow

Program report: Shadow Company
(From Artistic Director, Brooke Sexton)

Every Saturday morning our High School students get a work out.  For the first hour and a half it is a work out of their acting muscles.  Led by actor, director, teacher (and all around gift to these kids), Gavin Whitt.  Gavin sets the bar high and then insists that they clear it. They do for him and for themselves.  Gavin’s attention to the smallest gesture, his insistence that each actor dig deeper and give more is teaching these young artists not just to entertain, but how to inspire; how to share truth with an audience. Every week, watching them work, it’s the best part of my week. I wish everyone could see it because these young people’s hunger to improve, paired with Gavin’s generous passion and wisdom is a reason to get out of bed and fight the good fight.  

After they are warmed up and pushed to their edges, Natalie, Geo and I dive in with them for a couple of hours working on their piece for this year’s Fringe Festival.  We play a lot. Mess around with words, ideas, pictures and movement. We ask big questions about the world they are growing into and look for the human stories that can express that struggle.  The kids are so generous with each other, they trust each other and themselves. They trust us (which feels like the highest of honors). We just have fun.

Everyone should be having this much fun.  

(If you’d like more information about how your teen can join this dynamic program this summer, please click here.)

Walking Through the 2017 Annual Report

It is typical for non-profits to produce an annual report for their supporters. Two years ago, we decided it was time for our still-young selves to put on our big-person-pants and create one too. In researching types of annual reports, we landed on one that seemed to be exactly our style: a short, two-page, colorful celebration of our year.

(You can download 2016 & 2017 Annual Reports at this link.)

First of all, our 2017 Annual Report is a letter of thanks and love, dedicated to those donors, families, organizations and more, who made our year great.

Like most of you if you were asked to boil down your year into 4 numbers, we bristle at the thought. However, these four numbers are ones we are proud of. This summer alone, which doesn’t include scholarships to our Sort of Thing, Studio, Shadow, and After School Group, we were able to do $100,000 worth of scholarships. This number does not equal the amount of scholarships we raised from donations and grants, but we are hopeful that we are able to cover these costs better as we grow!

Our program report highlights some of the activities and opportunities we were proud to have done this year. This includes our teens winning 2nd place at the inaugural Philly Youth Theatre Fest, our first ever summer camp visual arts intensive (which premiered our first ever public art installation). Download the whole report to learn even more. This is the work – this is where – your support goes. 

There are other items on the Annual Report, so please download it for yourself, but I wanted to take a couple of moments to talk through the Financial Report.

Thanks to your generosity, we were able to end 2017 with a surplus. It’s hard to see in the bar graphs, which represent our last 5 years of financial data, but 2017 was the first time in the last 3 years where we operated with an ending surplus. Most of this surplus went into paying ourselves back from those losses. As you can see from our income, we rely on our tuition payments for a bulk of our revenue. This is something we are looking to change as we grow and move forward. Our work will reach more youth if we gain more individual and foundation support. If you look at the expense side, we spend most of our money on the programs we run, directly impacting the youth and families we serve. We also know that having a robust infrastructure means that we will have a quality program, so we invest in the people who administer the organization as well. We operate on slim margins, but we are hopeful that the trends we are seeing will mean continued healthy growth for years to come.

Thanks to all who have been a part of this growth and who continue to invest in our good work!

 

After School Group presents: The Fancy Parrot

You are cordially invited to the Grand Opening of Germantown’s hottest new restaurant, The Fancy Parrot!

When: May 4th 5:00pm-7:30pm
Where: 21 W Washington Lane
Price: $10 per person, includes a 3 course meal and drink. (Menu below)

The Fancy Parrot is a high end restaurant created and run by the famed chefs of Yes! And… After School Group. Inspired by the luxury of the tropics, our chefs have created a diverse menu of classic and innovative dishes alike.

Please email us by Wednesday May 2nd to reserve a table. Please include the number of people in your party and the time you will be arriving.

Formal attire is recommended, but not required.

Hope to see you there!

Facebook invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/488345351562442/

 

The Fancy Parrot

Menu

Your entry fee covers all 3 courses and a drink. You may choose one of each category from the menu.

Appetizers

Caesar Salad

A fresh, savory awesome starter made by your local gardner. Crunchy nutritious lettuce topped with homemade croutons and our creamy house caesar dressing.

Roast Sweet Potatoes

A perfect blend of spicy and sweet. These potatoes will make you joyfully tweet. Sweet potatoes oven-roasted to perfection with a blend of brown sugar and spices.

Fruit Salad

A colorful blend of tropical fruit. A vibrant and healthy treat to eat! Our signature fruit salad of kiwi, mango, banana, and strawberries.

Entrees

Baked Ziti

A warm and comforting dish that is cheesy and delish. Everyone’s favorite pasta dish with ground beef, parmesan, ricotta, and a smooth tomato sauce.

Shrimp Tacos

A rich blend of crunchy and tangy flavors. These shrimp tacos will be the envy of your neighbors. Crunchy fried shrimp rolled in a house-made fish fry, combined on a flour tortilla with avocado, mango, and a hint of lime. A recipe invented by our talented chefs.

Meatball Subs

These saucy subs are so juicy and delicious, you’ll take one bite and be suspicious. Our own recipe for homemade meatballs cooked in a sweet tomato sauce and served on fresh garlic bread.

Desserts

Water Ice

This Philly favorite is a smooth refreshing treat to make your feel like you’re special and sweet.

Cake

A moist and decadent dessert ready to make your sweet tooth hurt. Red velvet cake covered in a rich homemade cream cheese frosting.

Drinks

Alcohol Free Margaritas

This icy drink is sweet and lime-y, your friends will always want to try me.  Our very own margaritas made with lemon and lime zest soaked in citrus juice, orange seltzer, and just a hint of sugar.

Iced Tea

This is the best kind of tea, you see? Iced green tea with lemon and honey.