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.

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 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.

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!

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!