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Kick-Off the 2023-24 School Year with Creativity

The Creative Advantage Summer Institute returns to the Seattle Art Museum on Thursday, August 24, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This day of professional learning in and through the arts is the creative kick-off to the 2023-24 school year and serves as a time for teachers, artists, community arts partners, arts administrators, and education leaders to reconvene, get inspired, and explore new collaborations.

The event features Creative Advantage partners and guest educators. The format includes panels, workshops, networking, performances, lunch, and clock hours.

This opportunity is FREE, but registration is required. Please reserve your spot here:

Questions? Contact Arts Education Project Manager for the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Tina LaPadula, at or 206-518-4205.

This year the event features:

  • An opening invocation from the new Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Mateo Acuña
  • Updates from local and state leaders on the last decade of The Creative Advantage and hopes for the next 10 years of arts education
  • A lunch time set from 206 Zulu celebrating Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary
  • An “Everybody Dance” session with Jeffie Lou Jackson Thorn
  • Ground Zero Radio documenting and interviewing throughout the day
  • 4 concurrent workshop sessions (attendees can choose and participate in 2)

Meet the Presenters

Mateo Acuña has dark hair, curly, slightly longer on top.

Mateo Acuña (he/they) is a Peruvian-American transgender poet, writer and artist studying at Pacific Lutheran University. He enjoys walking in nature, petting his cats, and making art that reflects the world around him. He splits his time between Auburn and Seattle, WA. The Youth Poetry Fellowship (YPF) program from Seattle Arts & Lectures, is made up of a group of teen writers and leaders committed to poetry, performance, civic and community engagement, education, and equity across the Puget Sound region.

The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, along with the Youth Poetry Fellows, has numerous opportunities and platforms to share their powerful voices, their leadership, and love of Seattle at regional events throughout the course of the year. The Youth Poet Laureate also publishes a poetry collection, released in May by Poetry NW Editions. Over the course of the school year, Fellows meet for workshops, collaborate print projects, and perform at public readings.

WORKSHOP 1: Improv for Wellness – Teague M. Parker

Teague M. Parker has short dark hair.

With a focus on building connections to ourselves and others, Improv for Wellness centers a holistic, beginner friendly, and accessible approach to self-care & community building all through Improv activities! Learn to welcome your creativity without judgment, practice & develop tools for self-empowerment, and embrace your authentic identity while connecting with others as we embody the tenets of Improv in a non-performative setting – no performance or improv experience necessary.

Teague M. Parker (he/him) is an actor, playwright, improviser, producer, and Arts Wellness Facilitator. He founded  Come Up Productions, where he shares his original wellness and performance technique, Improv for Wellness, which utilizes Improvisation as a foundation to help people uncover their creativity, cultivate self-worth, and embrace their unique identity. Teague has performed around the country and internationally in plays such as Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks for the Teatro UNAM Festival in Mexico City, won the KCACTF Region VII Award for best full-length play, ranked within the top three Improv teams at the College Improv Tournament national competition in Chicago, and has served as an educator and workshop facilitator for Seattle Rep, Seattle Theatre Group, Seattle Children’s Theatre, MoPOP, Cornish College of the Arts, and collegiate programs throughout the country. Striving to make the lessons of Improv and Theatre more accessible, Teague curates self-care as a communal experience.

WORKSHOP 2: Bringing Arts Integration to Life with Since Time Immemorial Tribal Sovereignty in WA State Curriculum – Carina A. del Rosario

Carina A. del Rosario sits with her legs pulled up, arms around the knees. Behind her is a shrub with yellow flowers.

Learn about the Since Time Immemorial STI Tribal Sovereignty in WA State curriculum and experience one way to integrate visual art with one of the units. Participants in this workshop will focus on one of the STI elementary sections, learn about artist Joe Feddersen (member of the Colville Confederated Tribes) and his artistic process. Participants will then experiment creatively with Feddersen’s process in a stencil-making project.

Carina A. del Rosario (she/her) is a cultural worker who uses visual art, writing and teaching to build community. Her art has been exhibited at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, ArtXchange Gallery, M. Rosetta Hunter Gallery, City of Seattle’s ARTS at King Street Station and Anne Foecke Galleries, and Seattle Art Museum Community Gallery. Her work has been installed as permanent and temporary public art at various locations in King County and supported with grants from Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, 4Culture, and Puffin Foundation. In addition to her own creative projects, she teaches youth to explore new subject matter, and connect with their own interests, experiences and communities through art. She serves on Seattle Public School’s Antiracist Arts Education Team, Washington Teaching Artist Training Lab and Arts Corps faculty. She has presented at numerous national and international education conferences, and produced a series of arts-based STEM lessons, with support from Sound Transit. She has been awarded residencies to Hermitage Artist Retreat and Vashon Artist Residency, and presented with the KCTS’ Golden Apple Award for Innovation in Education in 2020, and the International Examiner’s Individual Community Voice Award in 2013.

WORKSHOP 3: Integrating Happiness into the Curriculum – Leah Mann + Betty Peralta

Challenging behaviors are a communication of unmet needs. Join us to learn how to respond to behaviors that impede the learning experience by addressing the three human drives toward happiness: connection, autonomy, and competence. In this interactive workshop, we’ll employ kinesthetic learning, improvisational play, and the NeuroRelational Framework to offer simple and fun ways to co-regulate for connection and to problem-solve in order to honor autonomy and promote competence.

Leah Mann's long brown hair is gathered up. She's in a garden with lots of sunshine.

Leah Mann (she/they) is a dancer, choreographer, somatic practitioner, and arts educator, focusing on embodied social justice. They are Co-Director of Lelavision, a performance and production company based on Vashon Island, WA, that combines kinetic sculpture, dance and music. Leah is Artistic Director Emeritus of Moving in the Spirit, a youth mentorship, urban outreach program, utilizing the praxis of dance to develop life skills (Atlanta, GA). Through their kinetic learning style, they work to cultivate community through the common denominators of the human experience. Most recently they have been facilitating movement, music, and play with medically fragile youth, Muslim immigrants, and pregnant people in recovery. They are in an ongoing science-art collaboration with Morehouse College / Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership focusing on wellness and healthy ecosystems micro to macro.

Bett Peralta has long, curly black hair and orange glasses.

Betty Peralta MIT, MS-MHC, IMH-E(III) (she/her) is the founder and director of Alta: Alternative Learning and Therapeutic Avenues. She is an adult-child interaction specialist working with parents, teachers, and therapists to give children relationships that set them up for their best lives. Betty is a native Seattleite, educator, and healer who attended Evergreen State College for a BA with a concentration in Social Justice. After volunteering for AmeriCorps at People of Color Against AIDS Network and the Peace Corps in The Dominican Republic, she attended Seattle University for a Masters In Teaching. Betty taught in K-12 schools for 14 years before becoming a therapist and subsequently, a trainer-consultant on the Networking Framework.

WORKSHOP 4: Processing Emotion Through Song: Teaching Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness through Singing and Music

In opera and music theater, performers sing to express big emotions like love, anger, sorrow, excitement, etc. This session explores the ways that we can physically and vocally express our emotions and how we can utilize the fundamentals of singing to build strategies for mindfulness as well as regulating and identifying emotions.

Sara Litchfield stands inside a well-lit space. She has long blonde hair and glasses.

Sara Litchfield (she/her) has been involved in opera education in multiple capacities for the past 13 years. Her journey began as a touring performer with Opera for the Young’s school opera tour with whom she performed in their productions of Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast. Then she became a teaching artist with both Chicago Opera Theater and Lyric Opera of Chicago where she led upwards of 30 in-school residency programs for grades 2nd through 12th. Sara first joined the Seattle Opera team in 2018 as Youth Programs Manager and currently serves as Associate Director of Youth Programs. She oversees all youth education programming including the School Opera Tour.

Gemma Balinbin rests her chin in her fist and smiles. She has long, black hair.

Gemma Balinbin (she/her) is a Seattle-based performer and arts educator. She has worked nationally and internationally and actively performs throughout the Pacific Northwest as a classical-crossover artist. She specializes in early education and has taught both in the classroom and as a private instructor. As the Youth Programs Manager at Seattle Opera, Gemma administrates youth programs onsite at The Opera Center, and serves as a teaching artist for Youth Camps and Teen Vocal Studio and as Music Director for the Youth Opera Project.

Everybody Dance Session with Jeffie Lou Jackson Thorn

Jeffie Lou Jackson Thorn (she/her) has taught Hip-hop, Lyrical and Jazz dance in many Seattle/Metro area studios. Her Past Dance Teams Allure, JAMS and Smooth Elements have performed at Sonics games, Summer Jam, etc. She studied with many renowned studios including Dupree Dance Company and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and went to school at the New York School of the Arts then finished her degree in Communications/Education with a minor in Dance/Theater at Washington State University. She has taught Dance Grooves and SYTYCD at West Seattle Health Club where she had taught for 18 years. She has also been with Stage Struck in West Seattle as a lead teacher and choreographer for 15 years.

Jeffie Lou Jackson Thorn has long, curly brown hair and wears gold hoops.

Jeffie Lou has been a certified teacher and taught in a number of different schools as a classroom teacher and a performing arts teacher. Also, as a teaching artist with Powerful Schools/YMCA for 10 years. This work uses the process of going to different schools during the school day and working with teachers to bring dance and movement to their individual curriculum.

Most recently, she’s now working with The Creative Advantage as a teaching artist and taught at four area schools in 2023. She is the Director and choreographer for D&G Dance Company, a nonprofit dance studio in South Seattle. She is the Director of UnClassified Dance Squad that performs at many Seattle festivals and events such as Bumbershoot, The Harlem Globetrotters, Seattle Storm games and Breathe Deep Seattle. “Dance will always be part of my life. I am always excited to share, teach, dance, learn and groove with ALL Dancers no matter age or ability. In this, we learn the essential importance of moving, learning and seeking the passion of DANCE and human connection.”

Ground Zero Radio

A group of youth and their adult staff member mug for a selfie in front of a mural wall.

Ground Zero Radio (GZ Radio) at the Vera Project is youth-driven, builds community relationships, and offers career-connected learning programs that empower youth (15-25) to take ownership of their futures. GZ Radio youth create original content from podcasts, original show series for YT, documentaries, live-in studio recording sessions, in-studio interviews, event planning, and event coverage with content rooted in their community. GZ Radio also consists of a youth-led newsroom that allows for journalism and in-field reporting for both written and visual formats. GZ Radio supports and uplifts youth voices in media to empower young folx while fostering future writers and content creators.