Written by Erin Naomi Burrows, Seattle University MFA in Arts Leadership practicum student.
The Creative Careers Cohort, launched in March, 2019, wrapped up three-sessions of sharing best practices (i.e. secret sauce). Through these in-person learning gatherings, the Cohort surfaced core themes, strategies and questions on how best to serve Seattle youth in career-connected learning. Six participating organizations presented their programmatic components, integral skills cultivated and offered each other feedback via “notice, wonder, challenge” Post-it notes.
During the second session a number of resonating issue areas connected the three presenting organizations. Reel Grrls teaching artist staff shared their new pilot program for Big Picture High School students, Learning Immersive Technology (LIT), a partnership with Arts Corps and Totem Star, that connects teens to emerging virtual and augmented reality, 360 filmmaking and video game design art forms. By exposing young people to these cutting edge forms of media making, Reel Grrls emphasized their role in co-creating the future. Youth participants are connected with industry professionals and encouraged to dream big and allow room for the importance of failure, flexibility and perseverance.
MoPop’s The Residency, an intensive summer hip hop production and performance program backed by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, shared their belief that creativity is not a form of enrichment but a clear pathway to career development. By focusing on building up both technical and interpersonal skills, youth quickly gain the confidence to record and perform with mentorship from former program alumni.
One organization with deep roots in Seattle’s hip hop history, Massive Monkees, shared their vision of the philosophy “each one, teach one” in their youth program, Extraordinary Futures, which supports students becoming teaching artists. Youth gather after school in their International District studio space, The Beacon, and focus on dance and “adulting” sessions ranging from cooking for yourself to financial planning.
The final session of the Creative Career Cohort in May focused on dialogue between the Cohort members and brainstorming across six themes that emerged from the first two meetings:
- Aging Out / Alumni Engagement
- Assessment, and Sustainability
One observation across all six presentations is the resounding love that all teaching artists and staff have for youth participants. In many presentations, the work of building long-term relationships and structures for alumni to return as mentors, and furthermore, as colleagues, was emphasized as a primary way to build a culture both of belonging and accountability. The most substantial brainstorm of the final session was on how to make programs even more accessible to participants via travel support, augmenting programs for youth with disabilities including scent-free policies or sections at events and translating flyers and program information for families.
The balance of current strategies and questions raised for continual improvement and inclusivity demonstrates that even at our best, we all have room for learning and growth.
The Secret Sauce of Creative Career Connected Learning
Combine ingredients with love and 2-10 hours weekly of high quality, fresh arts programming with as many dedicated teaching artists as possible.
Serves hundreds of Seattle youth via six incredible arts organizations with plenty to share.
1 cup creativity
1 cup collaboration
1 cup growth mindset
1 cup resilience
1 cup critical thinking
Mix in youth-led events, storytelling, radio, music, hiphop, dance, spoken word, VR/XR films and other art forms.