Kicking off our Annual Campaign!

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

On behalf of the board of directors, happy spring! We are in the midst of another wonderful year at YACA, having completed our 12th year of Winter Sort of Thing performances. Our students put on a spirited, beautiful performance, and were supported by so many dedicated and caring adults who helped make the show a success. We hope that many of you had the opportunity to attend one of the performances. We thank you for your ongoing support of our programs, which allows us to continue the work of our mission with the commitment that every student is able to attend no matter their financial situation.

As usual, this a very busy time of year for our staff as we gear up for another year of summer camp. We are excited to announce our collaboration with Summit Children’s Program in West Mt. Airy, where we will hold our Imagination Camp this summer. Our traditional Theatre Camp will be held at the Germantown Mennonite Church (GMC) location, and we look forward to continued work with our partners at GMC. We are also happy to be bringing back experienced staff as well as hiring new, enthusiastic, and talented individuals as teachers and travelers. Registrations are rolling in and there are just a few spots left, so if you have children from kindergarten through 12th grade, please enroll them soon!

We also want to take this opportunity to highlight the irrepressible Chris Herrman, our Interim Executive Director, who has been leading YACA since October last year. Chris has served as our Program Director for years and without her hard work, organization, creativity, and vision, our camps would not have had the success that they have long enjoyed. Chris has a rich background of experience as a dancer/choreographer and teacher in addition to her strong skills in administration, all of which are so important to this organization. Presently, Chris has taken on the added responsibilities of Executive Director, in addition to continuing to perform many of her existing duties, always with a smile and positive outlook. We are so grateful to have her as our leader at this time.

We want to continue to give the children of Germantown, our neighboring communities and beyond the wonderful experience of summer camp but cannot do that without your continued support. We are on track to again give $100,000 in camperships to families who need them because we are an organization that does not turn a child away because of their inability to pay. We want to continue to be a place where kids from all different backgrounds come together to understand each other, to learn and to grow. This cannot happen without your help!

Join us today as we aim to raise $60,000 this year in our Annual Giving Campaign. Your donation will fund the basic needs of our programming including art supplies, salaries of our Artist Teachers and camperships for the children that need tuition assistance.

We cannot express our gratitude often enough for your continued support of our organization! Please know that you are always welcome to attend our summer camp shows and other productions to experience the magic of our collaboration firsthand.

D’vorah Horn-Greenberg, Board Chair

Board of Directors: Meg Williams, Jake Miller, Meredith Sexton, Claudia Huot, Jeff Linneman, D’vorah Horn-Greenberg, Tracy Weant, Allison Cox, Marie Marthol, Mindy Fernandez-Sheinbaum

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!

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.)