Update on 2018 After School Group

On Mondays and Fridays I have the opportunity to work with the kids in our After School Group. They come every day at three, to work in a different area of personal development through creation. On Mondays they work on acting skills, and on Fridays they cook a meal to share together. Fridays are my favorite, because I get to see the kids I have gotten to know collaborate in the kitchen and eventually come around the table to share the food they made together, which I think is a calming and empowering way to end the week with the group. Nutrition, cooking, and sanitation aside, the real lesson being taught on “Foodie Fridays,” in my opinion is one of my favorites: how to enjoy feeding each other. How to put a meal on the table with, and for others. How to collaboratively make a family moment happen.

This past week I had the pleasure of seeing the kids almost every day. One day they worked with one of our board members, D’vorah, to make flower bouquets for the elderly patients she serves through her non profit, Mending Spirit. Continuing on the flowers-for-others theme, they made paper flowers for the cast members of our yearly Winter Sort of Thing, before they went to see the show. They even got to act out the first scene of the musical together, learn how to block a scene, and acclimate themselves to the joys of theater production.

The best part is getting to watch them get going. While they arrive hungry and frustrated after a day at school, bickering with each other on the way through the door, reluctant to go through more instruction, once they get into their project for the day, they each really take off in their own way. Whether the less talkative few become more agreeably social, or the more rambunctious ones become hyper-organized and take charge of making things run smoothly, you can tell they really enjoy being here. Wednesday through Friday, I got to spend enough consecutive time with them to realize that I’ve really gotten to know them over the past two months, and that I love watching them learn to do well in both artistic expression and willful kindness.

Their big upcoming project idea is to make a YouTube Channel, and to have another public event like their popular “mystery dinner theatre” that they did in the fall, so keep your eyes and ears open for some assuredly fun videos and events from our talented After School Group!

From Office Admin. Intern, Cassidy. (Meet Cassidy in this blog post.)


Winter Sort of Thing Review

From Office Admin. Intern Cassidy. (Meet Cassidy in this blog post.)

The end of February saw our annual Winter Sort of Thing put on at Venice Island Performing Arts center, and in case you missed it, I’m here to tell you what I thought.

The kids in Winter Sort of Thing put on the most surreal musical I’ve ever personally seen. I instantly thought that there were so many dynamic layers to the concept of the musical which, coupled with the simply designed set and costumes made for a feeling of ease and yet a lot to think about. This was my first Sort of Thing and I was blown away.

The story about Colliwomple, a town repressed through a disallowance of music, singing, dancing and general thought-stimulating fun, was made a working piece of art not only through the kids’ fresh and excited acting, but also through the detail-oriented and well thought-out songs. Every musical piece was timed and performed with only necessity to the story in mind. Sandwiched between two main numbers were a lot of smaller pieces centered around one word or sound at a time. The most interesting aspect of the musical was the purposeful integration of music and rhythm into the regular dialogue, and interruption of scenes by the smaller musical asides, showing that even in a repressed society, hope naturally seeps into communication.

My personal favorite part is the opening after intermission when the kids see what is on the other side of their town. The set is made up simply, but lit beautifully and decorated with ethereal elements that show perfectly the surrealist quality I found so interesting, as well as the boundless creativity of the Winter Sort of Thing kids.

Having helped with technical and monetary necessities in weeks leading up to opening night, I was pleased to see it go on so well, and excited to finally witness a show put on by Yes! And… kids. The final show of Saturday night even faced a completely full, almost overflowing theater, which made us truly proud.

Many thanks to everyone who came out to see the performance and supported our kids!

Meet Cassidy, New Office Intern

From Cassidy Kapps-Gibson, new Office Admin. Intern

I’d like to introduce myself as a new intern here at Yes! And…Collaborative Arts. I am doing my internship, from September to late March, via Drexel University, where I am a sophomore English major. I am focusing on nonprofit office administration. If you call into YACA during the fall or winter seasons there is a good chance I will answer your call. Besides that, I am carrying out day-to-day office tasks, as well as working on the YACA website and blog. I am really excited to learn more about nonprofit organization, as well as Yes! And… as a whole.

Almost all aspects of Yes! And… drew me to work here. I’ve been around arts and social justice-based nonprofits all my life, so the atmosphere is familiar to me. To this end, art is one of the most important things in my life. Having been raised by two phenomenal visual and performance artists, I myself am a collage artist and photographer and am interested in art therapy, as well as the arts as a form of education.

Hailing from West Philadelphia, I attended a grade school that valued community arts initiatives and worked closely with small arts organizations around West Philly. I also attended a creative and performing arts high school as a creative writing major.

I haven’t gotten the chance to be around the campers at YACA as of yet, but I am excited to attend events and learn more about the benefits of art in education and development.

The Power of the Arts for ‘Tweens

From Michael Brix, our Executive Director

Making friends in Summer Theatre Camp

I am going to share something that may be unpopular: I love middle schoolers! (Full disclosure, I currently have two middle schoolers, but my love for this age group started way before those two yahoos found their way into my life.) I find that kids who are in that special pre-teen age are some of the most interesting, fun, and weirdly loveable kids around. Long before popular culture started calling them “tweens,” I  knew there was something different about them.

Physically this so true! First of all, we know that anywhere in this age range kids can start going through puberty. It is not uncommon for there to be huge gaps in size and strength from one to the other. Their brains show the same kind of disparity. Inside each of them is the child who loved to play with their toys and the teen who would be devastated if their friends ever found that out.

While working on staff at Summer Theatre Camp (so many moons ago) I was with a middle school tribe who kept having trouble with one dynamic young man. In some school settings, he’d be labeled as a trouble-maker. His peers wavered between distraction, frustration, and tolerating him. To make our tribe work, I needed his peers to trust him. Over the course of two weeks, he and I pushed and pulled and then he found a stick. Like, a huge stick. He called it his staff and immediately I was worried that it was going to be a problem (one of the first lessons in my undergrad education program was “don’t let them have sticks.”) I am sure everyone was surprised when we decided to not only let him keep this half-a-tree, but also made it a central part of our tribe’s story! This staff became the way that the tribe interacted with each other. As each middle schooler surrendered to their imagination, a potential distraction or even dangerous object was turned into a positive experience for all.

Middle schoolers are always goofing around! And we wouldn’t want it any other way!

I learned how to trust these not-quite-children, not-yet-teens through the years. Every time, I was rewarded. Heather Wolpert-Gawron, author and educator of middle schoolers says:

Anything you can do to help a ‘tween feel more secure in their abilities and possibilities will potentially improve their achievement… Anything you can do to make a ‘tween feel more in control becomes a powerful tool for you and for them. (Check out the rest of her article on middle school brains here.)

We need to learn to trust these amazing kids. At Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, our programming began 20 years ago with Summer Theatre Camp for 5th-8th grades. For almost 8 years, we exclusively served this age group because we looked around at programming in our neighborhoods and found a lack of engaging, empowering, and uplifting activities for them. We needed a place where it was ok to imagine, to pretend to be adults, to remember their childhood playtimes.

Through the arts, we can give them the opportunity to try and succeed, to learn through collaboration, and to apply their imagination to real world problems and difficulties. In acting, they play a character that is their creation and they learn to use their voice for power. In visual arts they learn that there are no mistakes (just “happy accidents.”) In dance and movement class they learn how to move that ever-changing body and develop a relationship with it even when it fails them. Through storytelling they hold on to their wildly imaginative impulses and have them validated on stage in front of an audience.

At a time when it is easier to let middle schoolers stay home, watch their younger siblings, or play on a screen, we encourage families to instead think about providing them a place where they can be engaged with their peers, with professional artists, and with their imagination. Join us today and allow us the opportunity to speak into your ‘tween’s life. They can even bring their younger siblings along.*

At Yes! And… Collaborative Arts, making art with ‘tweens is our passion, our work, and our legacy.

Check out all of our programming for ‘tweens – Summer Theatre Camp | After School Group | Studio Classes | Sort of Thing

*In the summer, younger siblings can join Imagination Camp and older siblings can join us our Shadow Company!

Program report: After School Group

Editor’s note: This entry was written by Heather McBride, our ASG Director. To inquire about next year’s program, please visit the website and sign up for info!

Our first year of After School Group is coming to an end, so I wanted to share with you a little bit about what this past year has been like. There have been some ups and downs, but all around we definitely had fun. One of our coolest visual arts projects we made, was a stop motion video based off of a story we created as a group. The kids really loved seeing their work come to life on the screen, but we may have had a little too much fun adding in the sound effects. (You can watch the full video here.)

Another project that we are really proud of is our garden. We partnered with the community garden at the Holman field behind Germantown Mennonite Church. Right now we are growing tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, peppers, broccoli, corn and basil. It was really difficult to narrow down our choices, so we just planted a little bit of everything. We have loved watching our garden grow, some of them from tiny seeds and others from pre-started plants. On our final Foodie Friday™ we are going to have a farm to table meal with the fruits of our garden. We will most likely have to wait for some of the plants to grow a little bit more, but luckily lots of our ASG kids are coming to Summer camp, so they can keep up with the garden.

This past year has been a lot of fun, we learned a lot, told tons of riddles, and ate so much food. We are so excited for all of the cool things we will get to make, learn about, and of course eat, at ASG next year.