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!

 

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!

Gearing up for WSOT 2018: The Song of Silence

One of the most popular questions we have about our Winter Sort of Thing shows is how we pick the themes and topics we’ll explore in this year’s production. While our Artistic Director Brooke Sexton is mostly to credit, we all get to mine and explore and enjoy (as artists) the themes she thinks up.

For me, the theme of The Song of Silence is in direct relationship to the times we are living in. It takes the concept of a “wall” and then teases it out to its natural conclusion. One of the things that makes old Colliwomple a “great” town is how much activity it has. The town is situated at a popular crossroads and everyone loves coming in and out, staying for a while, and moving on. When some of the town’s young people begin to leave, seek their fame and fortune outside of Colliwomple’s borders, some of the town feared a mass migration. This fear led to the wall. For a time the safety of the isolation was welcome by the older residents. Then it became “just the way it is” until a group of kids started asking “why.”

For us, working with kids, we realize that they are the best at asking “why.” Why are things the way they are? De we have to keep doing it that way? Kids are natural dreamers and, if we listen to their dreams, we can find inspiration. For those of us in this work, these kids inspire us every day.

All of our shows are told through the lens of these young people. We think that, while many of the stories we tell with them have universal themes, there is a particular gift the audience receives from seeing the world through their eyes. This story would not be the same if it were a bunch of older people, stuck in their ways, full of fear themselves. We definitely trade on the passion, and unearned confidence of these youth to see that a better world is possible – in Colliwomple – and here too. This isn’t a group of actors pretending to be young, this experience is watching young people, giving them agency, and watching them succeed with a huge story. As a program, we are so proud of the ways in which they take risks, go big, and learn new skills. As a performance, we think that a wide audience will enjoy watching a story well told, and relevant for the times we live in.

Check out this new video from one of our teen Shadow cast members:

Meet Cayla, New Marketing Intern

I am excited to introduce myself as a marketing intern for Yes! And… Collaborative Arts! I am completing my internship through Drexel University, where I am a sophomore Communication major. Any promotional material for YACA that you see throughout the fall and winter seasons may have been designed by me. I am also working to help make sure that events run smoothly and successfully.

Not only am I interested in marketing and PR for nonprofits, but I also have a long history of involvement in the arts that drew me right to YACA and its message. When I was young, I spent my time jumping between theatre, vocal performance and dance. In the past few years, I have picked up cosplay and costume design as a way to keep myself connected to other creators as well as my own creativity. I can attest to how just important the arts are to a developing child, and how collaborating with other artists can help them cultivate relationships that build into the future.

I am also a strong advocate for social justice, which makes YACA something that I am proud to be a part of. Growing up in Houston, I have lived around and experienced incredibly diverse communities with beautiful and unique ways of expressing themselves through the arts, and I feel that this is a wonderful away of contributing.

Hopefully I will get to witness the hard work of the YACA campers for myself soon. In the meantime, I am eager to learn all that I can about marketing for nonprofits as well as more about the positive impact that the arts have on young lives.