We are not “child care”

By: Michael Brix, Executive Director 

2017 Theatre Campers
2017 Theatre Campers

Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting with a group of our key staff members. Our key staff members are, by and large, young artists with a passion for young people. They are seasonal and part-time, but 10 of them came out to make our company better. We were led by 2 board members, one of which a founding member of Yes! And… Collaborative Arts and the other a founding board member. Together we talked for 3 hours about our work, our commitment to diversity and how to describe that commitment, as well as ways to make our programs stronger for both staff and kids.

In the middle of their discussion, I thought back to a conversation I had with a Summer Camp parent a few weeks ago at the Mt. Airy Village Fair. Her child had been a part of Imagination Camp in the past, and this year was due to move up to our middle school Theatre Camp. She wound up not registering and sending her child because their friend couldn’t sign up for a multi-week program and the child wanted to attend with their friend.

Sidenote: If you’re not familiar with our programs, our K-4th grade Imagination Camp is offered in week-long sessions. Our middle school Theatre Camp is 2 or 3 week-long sessions.

Like many parents, she inquired as to why we require multi-week sessions for middle schoolers and I gave a quick answer: Well, we’re not child care.

I don’t have anything against good quality child care and I typically don’t like defining us by what we are not, but I like how clear and unequivocal the statement is. We have worked for close to 20 years on developing a pedagogy and praxis for using the arts to empower children and youth. (We even named it: “Tribe Centered Learning.”)

Through this pedagogy, we program our day, our week, and our multi-week sessions to be age-appropriate, challenging, arts-driven explorations of community, imagination, and equality. This is not simply child care.

We work, not only to give these youth a voice, but to train them to use their voice, tell their stories, and find their power. We work so that young people who come to us for a few weeks in the summer will grow together, learn about how they fit into community, and have agency to change the world around them.

Shadow Company folk
Some high school Shadow Company members

We hope, that by requiring them to join us for multiple weeks in the summer, they will leave hungry to continue with us year-round; that the relationships they build with each other and our amazing staff compels them to join Winter Sort of Thing, or After School Group, and (eventually) Shadow Company. We are seeking life-long connections and so we are not just child care.

We make sure no child is left behind because they can’t afford it. This summer, it was to the tune of $100,000 in “camperships.” It’s also why we ask families who can afford it, to help us in our mission by pitching in financially so we can keep our population economically diverse.

I am making an open invitation to you, no matter if you got here because you are an internet browser, or Facebook story clicker, or blog junkie: JOIN US! Join us by making a contribution today. Our program model needs your assistance to make it work for all youth. A gift of $315 can give one child a week of programming. Can you help us continue in our mission today?

Click here to give now!

And when someone asks why you donated to the kids at Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, you can say it’s because “they are more than just child care.”

Thanks so much!

Meet Will: After School Group Director

We are getting excited about our second year of After School Group. Last year, these middle schoolers made a stop motion video, grew a garden, hosted a costume party/haunted house, and much more. This year, we are excited to be in a new home with our partners at the Reformed Episcopal Church of the Atonement (on Greene St). This new space gives us a chance to have our own rooms, projects that can last more than one week, and comfy bean bag chairs! We also have a new ASG director, Will Abbot. Summer Camp families will recognize Will as he was all over Imagination and Summer Theatre Camp this year. We wanted you to know a few more things about him, so we asked him a couple of questions.

ASG Director Will showing a young camper some filming techniques.

Where do you say you are from?

What would you define as “your art” or art that you do?
Theater, Improv

What drew you to work at YACA?
Two of my favorite things are working with kids and spontaneous artistic collaboration. I also saw in YACA an emphasis on fun and silliness and a care and attention to programming and staff support.

How did you engage with the arts growing up?
I was in a few elementary school plays, but my biggest early practice was with the violin. In high school I got more into writing and then acting and improv. In college, I continued acting, but also became interested in photography and film.

How has your work in the arts impacted your life so far?
Theater/Improv especially helped me to come out of my shell and embrace my innate silliness and theatricality. And theater communities have welcomed me in all my weirdness and peculiarity, which has helped me let go of tension and unhappiness I felt as a kid.

You worked with us this summer in a number of ways (traveler, artist-teacher, etc) can you tell about a breakthrough or moment of growth or realization you experienced with a kid at camp?
A new camper was very quiet and nervous to start camp, though she did start to warm up. However, after missing the first Wednesday, she was disoriented and disinterested by new tribe developments. But I took her aside, asked her about her day off, what she learned on her journey we could tell the tribe, and then worked out an addendum/pose for the two of us for our tribe chant. Afterward, she was great!

Favorite color? Favorite food?
Uh, red and pasta bolognese

Anything else we should know, Will?
If you are in 4th – 8th grade, or know someone who is, please sign up today for our After School Group! I promise we will have so much fun this year. Use this link to get to the signup form.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Joining WIll this year on staff are Summer Camp director Emily and Winter/Summer Sort of Thing alum Krista. Please join us!