A Fond Farewell

Picture of an artist teacher with two campers
Michael hanging out with two campers in 1999

(From Michael Brix, our outgoing Executive Director)

It was the summer of 1999 when I first stepped nervously onto the stage at Eastern College, which would serve as my classroom for the next four weeks. I was expecting 12 middle schoolers to walk through the door in just a few moments, waiting for me to teach them everything I knew about acting. I was prepared, but terrified. It would be a lie to say that I remember what I taught that day, but I remember reading to them from a picture book called Amazing Grace, and then starting instruction with neutral acting bodies.

In the coming years, I would continue to teach acting, direct the summer shows, and become part of a dynamic young team of artist-educators who wanted to change the world through our work with these kids. Brooke, Jake, Sarah, Joanna, and I would dream and plan for hours, often at the foot of Mark Hallen, our mentor, co-conspirator, and (as time went on) our friend. Except for one year when I was on a sabbatical trip, I have been a part of every year since I joined in 1999. When our team agreed to trust me with leadership as our Executive Director, I was so very honored. I was determined to not let them down and we built an amazing, vibrant, youth-focused program that I am extremely proud of.

Cast picture of Shadow Company
Shadow Company, circa 2010

Some of my favorite parts of my time here included: creating and shaping our teen program (Shadow Company), their first show in the Fringe Festival-a flash mob we performed on South Street, dropping off my kids for their first summer camp experience, getting our 501(c)3 letter in the mail, the first time our summer camps had to start a wait-list, our kickball tournaments, auction parties, and VIP receptions, as well as having the chance to meet the Phillies! Of course, there were hard times and moments I’d rather forget as well, such is the way of every job.

As I turn the page on this chapter of my life, I want to encourage all of you to step forward to make sure that this life-giving organization continues on into the future. Please take a minute to click and pledge today – perhaps a monthly gift to sustain this work – or maybe a one-time gift that will help us mark this transition time.

I’ve spent this week tying up loose ends and trying to find moments to reflect, remember, and enjoy this period of my life. In all of the whirlwind of last-minute things as I prepare to leave the office for the final time as the Executive Director, I must remember back to my first lesson to my theatre campers and find that “neutral” again. I can’t wait to see all of the good that Yes! And… Collaborative Arts will continue to do and I look forward to supporting it with you all!

Thank you all, for everything.

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.)

Executive Committee Meeting 10/17/18

EC Meeting – YACA
Present: D’vorah, Chris, Tracy, Claudia, Robin

Called to order: 6:52

  • Check-in with Chris:
    • Going well- just figuring things out
    • Michael has been coming in to help
    • Debbie has started
  • Chris and Deborah met
    • Up to speed on grants
    • We need to update our Strategic Plan- we need to follow something, but perhaps the one we have is too massive
    • Hard to develop a budget if we don’t know what we’re reaching for
    • Should we hire a grant writer for a short amount of time?
    • Can Chris and Debbie handle it, with Meg and Julie’s help? Tracy said she would help too….
  • Working on Fall Appeal letter- get that out in next week or so
    • It would be helpful to have a “map” to follow to ask individual donors
    • Perhaps a phone bank with Shadow kids to contact
    • Maintaining what we have for the next year will be crucial
  • ED Search Task Force is meeting on 10/24 at GMC
    • Most people said they could come
    • Possible that we might have to rethink the job description
  • Marketing and Media – Adam has said he would work on it
    • Debbie is good for doing social media
  • Grant cycle report – Michael prepared one, but Board has asked to see it
    • Chris will send it out before the Board meeting
  • Regulatory Agency work:
    • Claudia will be speaking with Michael about this
    • Renewing lease at GMC
    • Insurance is usually in February
    • Tax returns are in, need to be signed and filed
    • Tax- Exempt status, etc….
    • Contracts?
  • Update Board Portal
    • Website
  • New members:
    • Allison (already working!)
    • Mindy
    • Marie (maybe)
  • Financial status:
    • Chris presented proposed 2019 budget
    • We need to pay staff for training – even minimum wage
    • We need to pull back on our enrollment for Imagination Camp
    • D’vorah suggested that we prepare 3 different budgets, playing out different scenarios
    • This is going to be a more complex year
  • Ask Michael about VIP Match Donor
  • YACA Board Meeting
    11/27/18
  • AGENDA:
  • Committee Reports:
    • ED Report (Chris)
      • Annual Appeal
    • Executive Committee (D’vorah/Claudia)
    • Resource and Development Committee (Pat)
    • Auction Task Force Report (Pat)
    • Finance Committee:
      • 2019 Budget – presented and voted on
    • Nominating Committee (Meredith)
      • Update on Potential Members
      • Board Slate for 2019:
        • Co-Chairs/Secretary: D’vorah and Tracy
        • Treasurer: Jeff
        • Resource and Development Committee: TBA
        • Nominating (Meredith):
      • Strategic Plan:
      • Building/Space Issues
      • Task Force Called:
        • Strategic Plan
        • Task Force Reports
        • WSOT Task Force
      • VIP Event
      • Board Match
      • Tuition Task Force
      • Goodbye to Julie, Pat, Adam and Robin
      • Set 2019 Meeting Dates – dinner signup?
        January 15th
        March 16th (3rd SATURDAY- BOARD RETREAT – SAVE THE DATE!)
        May 14th
        July 16th
        September 17
        November 19th
        Next Meeting: January 15th, 2019
  • Next EC Committee Meeting:
December 18th, Location TBA
    W/ Executive Committee, New Board Members and Committee Chairs

Board Meeting 9/25/18

Yes And Board Meeting 9/25/18

MINUTES

In Attendance: D’vorah, Tracy, Marie, Meredith, Meg, Pat, Julie, Adam, Mindy, Allison, Michael, Chris, Jeff, Deborah (via phone)

 

– Icebreaker

– Approved minutes from last meeting

– Approval of meeting agenda

– Intro of 3 potential board members

– Allison – Yes And alum, WSOT at Eastern, Intern at Yes And, in not for profit accounting.

– Mindy – two kids who attend summer camp at Yes And, lives in community, background in education, Social Work – Macro/Community Org and Policy, currently in staff development – Leadership for National Equity

Marie – lives in community, Health Educator, President of Pomona Cherokee Civic Council – supporting SSOT/green space, Founder and Director of Living Well theater group, affiliated with Just Act.

 

–  ED report (Michael) – read letter to the board; Michael’s final board meeting as Executive Director.

– Programming (Chris) – end of summer report. 27 weeks of programming between the 4 programs. 232 kids total, 33 staff, 12 junior staff. This summer was the largest group of kids returning for multiple sessions. Most common ways families find our camp – word of mouth and returning campers.

 

Evaluation system – difficult and time consuming to administer and compile data; more feedback needed from parents.

Staff Evals – positive feedback; more training needed; staff does not reflect the diversity of the campers; staff tribe not cohesive; Atonement space poor.

Lack of A/C in spaces remains a barrier.

Theatre Camp going well; Imagination Camp in need of rework.

Will need to evaluate spaces moving forward; Difficult for Imagination Camp, SSOT and Shadow to coexist – space too small.

Only 5 staffers of 33 had worked 3yrs or more at summer camp; difficult to maintain culture.

Chris requested small stipend for training – (training currently unpaid). Targeted Grant?

Will need to increase training time with staff.

Will have leadership core again this year.

Came in only $5,000 over budget for the summer, stayed within budget for camperships.

 

 

 

 

 

Add to November Agenda – Building/space concerns – (Jeff may have suggestions/solutions)

 

Add to November Agenda – Recall Tuition Task Force

 

Resource and Development –

Fringe – we will break even; down to ½ of audience we had in previous years, expenses were a bit higher, 240 total audience over 6 shows – down from 400+ total audience in past years.

Program Book – should meet budget numbers, many return folks buying ads annually.

Annual Giving Campaign – is steady and slow; may need to do end of year campaign in addition to auction.

Auction – (Pat) – date of auction December 8th; now soliciting for donations; will have vacation homes again and EAGLES tickets for game in D.C. Both electronic and hard copy letters available for donation requests. Reminder – all board members are given two tickets to auction to invite two new people to attend; babysitting available. Passed auction sign-up sheet for board members participation in running event. Goal to raise $20,000 (raised 25k last year).

 

WSOT Task Force – primary task is to run VIP event on March 2nd; WSOT dates Feb 28th, March 1st, 2Nd AND 3RD. VIP event to be held at Bourbon Blue at 5pm – goal to raise 10k-15k, board members asked to bring guests for hard ask.

Board Challenge or not this year? Michael will investigate further.

 

Add to November Agenda – Convene WSOT Task Force in Dec/Jan

 

Parent Group Report – (Tracy) – popsicle events after Fri afternoon performances, handed out flyers at evening performances – low response rate. Coffee morning for parents successful; lots of positive feedback re: programming; increased sense of community/networking.

 

Nominating committee – Discussion with potential board members; fielded their questions –

What skillsets are we looking for?; How do we communicate our mission of social change?; How does the budget serve us/how do we make financial decisions?

Confirmed new board members for January.

 

Add to November Agenda – Need date for December Executive Committee Meeting

 

Board members addendum – (stay up to a year longer) – Jake, Meg, Claudia and Meredith will remain on board for transition. Board will re-evaluate in 6 months. Evaluate at May board meeting whether or not Michael will join board at this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finance Update – (Jeff) – Numbers remain consistent with previous years; looking for strategies to increase structure around what we need to raise in a more specific manner.

Estimated need to raise $85k this year.

 

Executive Committee –  Chris will take on role of Interim Director; Tracy will co-chair with D’vorah in Jan; D’vorah and Tracy will hold Secretary role until January.

Proposed to hire temp admin at $17/hr, 12.5 hrs per week for 6 months. (Motion Passed)

Proposed salary increase for Chris while in role of Interim Director – increase by $2,300; pool of money available for additional hrs as needed for the 6 months in the role. (Motion Passed).

ED search update – overall we do not have the funds to pay quality of life salary for F/T ED position. Will need to re-evaluate the hrs/tasks of the position. Plan to repost with salary of 30k; explore restructuring of position – ED, Admin, Development (all P/T).

 

Duties to be assigned during Interim ED –

– Creating marketing for programs, events and performances, social media, WSOT. (Adam)

(Admin to assist with social media)

–  Government funding/Research new grant possibilities. (Julie)

– Donor Relations (on hold)

–  Annual Appeal – letter/mailer, maintaining mailing list (discuss with Deborah, Claudia and

D’vorah)

 

Add to November Agenda – revisit Annual Appeal

 

– Grant reporting (Meg)

– Get descriptions of Government funding, grant apps due in January and send out to board

members (Michael)

– Compile list of due dates for upcoming grant reports (Michael)

– Running budgeting process – (Finance Committee)

– Help develop staff training – (D’vorah)

– Active communication with regulatory agencies, IRS, etc. (Claudia)

– Advertise for internship needs, supervise and train interns (on hold)

– Appeal to new board members in January – someone to chair RDC committee,

member to finance committee, member to nominating committee>

–  Deal with behavior modification as necessary (in programs); support and consult with

Chris. (Tracy)

– Next board meeting set for November 13th but proposed to be November 27th.

– Farewell to Michael