Activate! Art! Bushwick!
Once upon a time, two people met on the dance floor. Anya was an acrobat and theater producer at House of Yes and RJ was an English teacher at a Middle School in Bushwick Brooklyn. Anya had been looking for a way to plug into a local school and Rj happened to be a public school teacher looking for a little extra magic to add to his lesson plan. A few months later they ran a 3 week program, working with RJ’s english class which consisted of 9 students with learning disabilities. Collaborating with local bushwick artists, the students produced a circus show based on the stories they wrote.
What started out as a 3 week program quickly snowballed into something beyond anyone’s expectations. Once art was involved, the story telling capacity of these “learning disabled” kids skyrocketed. Kids that were previously uninterested and disengaged, blossomed into talented costume designers, music producers, and theater directors in front of our eyes. The word spread and the 4 volunteers from House of Yes multiplied into 25+. The final show, originally to be performed for an audience of 9, drew the entire student body, close to 400. Even the tough-as-nails principal, teared up when she saw the explosive creativity, enthusiasm and talent that poured out of her students and into the Auditorium. Activate! Art! Bushwick! was born.
We had an epiphany: Art creates connection, Art opens doors to opportunity, and Theater is what brings it all together. Once you have a realization like this, you have no choice but to do more. At the House of Yes, we constantly see the power of community coming together. Our community is abundant in creativity and resources. This year we are expanding the program to the whole school and hopefully beyond.
Why House of Yes?
House of yes is a collective of working professionals in the arts, so who better to introduce these kids to the arts and all the opportunities that come with it? House of Yes has always been about participatory culture, so our audience and resident artists alike jump at any opportunity to give back to a neighborhood we live in, work in and love.
Running a performance art spaces requires every genre of art there is. We are costume designers, sound engineers, dancers, marketing and social media geniuses, graphic design pros, lighting designers, builders, directors, choreographers, film producers, arts administrators and performers of all types. We are excited to offer up all of this and more to the the students, and then see it all come together through creating theater.
Why Art is important for everyone.
1. Art creates connection. Expose kids to new ways of self- expression and the magic inside of them immediately bubbles up to the top. Armed with the right tools, the students immediately started to engage and connect with their teachers, each other, and the world around them. Anxiety was replaced with confidence, detachment was overtaken by laughter and enthusiasm.
2. Art creates opportunity. The local arts industry is growing rapidly. What if these kids were exposed to every single type of applied art there was, these kids, without even realizing it, are living in the arts capital of the world. Their neighborhood is teeming with studios of all types, venues of all kinds, fabrication facilities and everything in between. With exposure, and access to skills in applied arts, kids now have a gateway into an amazing future full of options.
3. Theater encompasses ALL art forms. Every applied art is crucial in creating performance art. Theater creates camaraderie among performers and artists, encourages diversity, as well as a deep connection between the artists and the audience that witness it.
What Activate! Art! Bushwick! Has in store for the 2017-2018 year.
Integrating arts into existing classes
Teachers will be able to request artists to supplement their existing lesson plans. Not only will this make the classes more engaging, but it will broaden students’ horizons of all the ways art can be used in the world.
After School Program
At the beginning of the year, teachers will poll the students on the different types of applied arts they’re drawn to. Based on interest levels, we’ll be launching an after school program, where relevant artists are brought in to explore those types of arts in depth.
Upgrading the Auditorium and Bi-Annual student show!
To tie all of the above together, we'll be turning the school auditorium into a state of the art theater. All of the skills learned during the semester will be put to use and culminate into bi-annual, student run, created and produced theater shows. The students will not only collaborate with each other, but also with professional artists from their neighborhood.
We're raising money the project directly from our community. We believe that we can pull all of this off without relying on meager and slow government grants. The DEO is spread thin as it is, while the nightlife industry is booming.
With funds raised, we will be purchasing a lighting and sound package for the auditorium. We will need a lot of fabric for costumes, building materials for sets and props. And of course a generous allowance for GLITTER!!!!
Risks and challenges
We are confident we will be able to raise the funds needed to get Activate! Art! Bushwick! up and running. The real challenge will of course be running the program itself. This is a massive project, with a lot of moving parts. It is almost like building a mini house of yes. On top of this, the project is very innovative. Most things that are on the ground braking side tend to feel a little scary to bureaucratic administrations like the NYC department of Education. . Fitting this under the DOE parameters is definitely a challenge we anticipate.
What keeps us fearlessly moving forward is all of you guys. Our community is so so so incredibly rich with talented and ambitious people from all backgrounds and professions. We know as many lawyers and we do circus freaks, so we know we'll always have a hand navigating through the challenges ahead.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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