It’s important to track Campus MLK’s progress so we can continue to learn and strenthen. This post chronicles our activities and ideas.
Fab-5, The Warehouse, Post Defiance, Write@253, and the DASH Center for the Arts began working collaboratively to uncover a strategy to connect with the youth of Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Our collective goal was to find a way for kids to use their neighborhood as a college student would an academic campus, exploring their local opportunities and enjoying the best of local culture. We named our project and our collaboration Campus MLK, inspired not only by the concept of a campus, but also by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and the street that runs through Hilltop that bears his name.
Two strategic directions began to develop for Campus MLK. We would:
1: collect information and make connections to populate the Course Catalogue, to be produced as soon as possible (dependent on when our funding became available), and
2: work with local events, either by enhancing them with an interactive presence, or by hosting them ourselves, all as a way to engage and celebrate the neighborhood and its young residents.
The DASH Center for the Arts hosts a popular free festival in Hilltop’s Peoples Park every year: Hip Hop in the Park. For 2012, Campus MLK decided to develop an interactive activity to help participants express themselves and be creative while enjoying Hip Hop in the Park.
We worked with our Youth Advisory Board (William, Jayce, Kiayah, Libby, and Shiann) and decided to create portable murals for everyone to draw and paint on. Write@253 suggested specific prompts to encourage participants to share on the murals, and Fab-5 and the Youth Advisory Board worked on creating the framing design for the murals.
Hip Hop in the Park was held on August 11, 2012. The festival turned out very well with more than 200 neighbors enjoying the beautiful and fun event. People came out to play, enjoy music and dance, eat food and relax in the sun, AND interact with our mobile murals. At the event, the Campus MLK partners shared large mobile murals and sidewalk chalk, inviting Hip Hop in the Park guests of all ages to interact, share their thoughts, draw pictures, and play. We asked them to share, in words and pictures, what prompts their creativity, and what in their neighborhood inspires them.
September – October 2012
The Campus MLK partners worked through these two months to make more connections in the neighborhoods, attending local meetings, emailing and calling other organizations. Additionally, we began planning for December 31, when Campus MLK would host a performance stage at the local Tacoma downtown all-ages New Year’s Festival, First Night.
On November 20, Campus MLK hosted a Neighborhood Forum, bringing together representatives from more than a dozen different local organizations. We used this opportunity for everyone to learn about each other, share upcoming activities, and get introduced to the 15-question survey that will populate the Course Catalogue. We also made a final list of organizations that we hope to cover in the Catalogue.
On November 30, Campus MLK neighbor Fulcrum Gallery hosted an exhibition opening for the local street art project Beautiful Angle. Featuring the original work for their Mystery/Myth Folio, Beautiful Angle also hosted their very popular annual poster sale. This year, all the proceeds from the poster sale went to Campus MLK. Write@253 and Fab-5 held open houses so those who needed a break from the crowds could come in, enjoy some refreshments and learn about arts programming in Hilltop.
December 31: Campus MLK at First Night
In its 19th year, First Night Tacoma is Pierce County’s annual family friendly New Years celebration. Each December 31, the streets of downtown Tacoma and many of its local businesses, theaters, and restaurants become venues for all manner of performing arts. This year, friends and families explored more than 20 venues through seven downtown blocks, and anchoring the northern end, Campus MLK kept the chill away with an explosive line-up of incredible performers in the Graffiti Garages.
Many Campus MLK partners were represented, as well as some new friends. Everyone came together to enjoy the vibrant space, experience some amazing music and dance, and articulate intentions and plans for the new year. Write @253 hosted a lounge area, served hot chocolate, tea, and treats, and displayed writer’s prompts, encouraging spectators to write stories and poems. Fab-5 worked with friends from The Graffiti Truck to show kids and families some graffiti and stenciling techniques. DJ SaveOne spun hits for b-boys and girls of all ages all night, as well as ran sound for all the performing artists. Savi Suazi and Whikid Matticuless, a local rap duo known as The Koomaniacs, kicked off the night with a funky, raucous set. Write@253 shared songs and poetry from Harrison and Maria. MLKBallet instructors Lorraine Constantine and Joel Myers activated nearly the entire garage, dancing a stunning duet in the round. Q-Dot warmed up the crowd with his unique style, incorporating contemplative piano with energetic, impassioned hip hop. DASH Center for the Arts kicked the fun to an even higher level, presenting a pitch perfect pop routine featuring their talented Reality Check Dance Team. Last, Rockwell Powers closed out the evening with a very personal set sharing his love for Tacoma and hip hop through an inspired performance.
It was a powerful night, a true realization of the vision behind Campus MLK, and a real opportunity for friends new and old to celebrate hip hop culture, Tacoma, Hilltop, and 2013. All of us at Campus MLK can’t wait to see where the new year takes all of us.
December 30 – January 2013: Following Up and Gathering Information
“While it’s great to meet people from partner organizations, it would also be great to see their physical space. Maybe we could hold an “open house” tour where people could see the organizations in action?”
“I think regular neighborhood forums — maybe twice a year — would be very helpful. Informal gatherings, maybe something like ‘Friends of the Hilltop’ could happen monthly.”
“I think it would be great to see everyone at all the big Hilltop events, and to have a clearinghouse where we can share everything from dance performances to block parties.”
“I see new collaborative efforts spring up every day. McCarver Peacemakers, the Hilltop Garden Explorers, and the City of Tacoma are working with local artists to envision new public art opportunities; The Warehouse collaborated with Write@253 and found dozens of volunteers through their network to help out at First Night; KBTC and Metro Parks Tacoma connected through Campus MLK to explore additional ways to use the Mobile Tech Lab; Beautiful Angle, Fulcrum Gallery, and Write@253 worked together to promote and deliver the Beautiful Angle exhibition and annual poster sale – the event turning in to an open house for the 13th block of MLK. Campus MLK representatives now attend Neighborhood Council meetings, Hilltop Network of Positive Steps, and other local meetings to share information and learn.”
“Campus MLK is an inspiring idea with the potential to help coordinate and shape the work of many great organizations. Establishing a Campus MLK leadership team and youth advisory board could be a logical next step.”
“I wish I could spend more time on Campus MLK because the response has been very positive. I think this effort deserves to capitalize on the momentum and it would be powerful to see this strategy work as a model for other neighborhoods. I think it’s entirely possible to map out walkable opportunities throughout an urban neighborhood and share them with local youth. Through the experience of investigating and uncovering all a community has to offer, connections naturally come forth. The keys for success seem to be:
1. having a committed administrator who can convene but doesn’t own the project.
2. Sharing information both through word of mouth and through social media; and documenting successes and challenges.
3. Identifying and engaging like-minded individuals from the community and from the organizations who are open to and interested in collaboration.
4. Creating regular opportunities to come together and update neighbors.”
January – March 2013
We are working to include the following organizations in Campus MLK:
- 2nd Cycle
- Al Davies Boys & Girls Club
- Centro Latino
- DASH Center for the Arts
- Evergreen Tacoma
- Fulcrum Gallery
- Hilltop Artists
- Hilltop Garden Explorers
- KBTC Public Television
- Live Paint
- McCarver Peacemakers
- Peoples Community Center
- Multicare/Tacoma General
- Northwest Leadership Foundation
- Palmer Scholars
- Peace Community Center
- Tacoma Children’s Museum
- Tacoma Community House
- Tacoma Public Library
- The Warehouse
- Trinity Presbyterian Church
- W.W. Seymour Conservatory
- Tacoma Youth Theater
Mary from Write@253, Candi from the DASH Center for the Arts, and Katy from Post Defiance shared their experience with Campus MLK at the two Washington State Arts Commission forums, including the March 19 event “Stirring Up Arts Participation: Thirteen Projects”
June – November 2013
Campus MLK is in an evaluation stage, examining our successes and challenges will continue to guide our innovation. Here’s what we know now:
Hilltop is a hotbed of creativity just waiting to be celebrated,
people respond to a simple, resonant vision communicated as an invitation,
leaders and neighbors appreciate facilitated opportunities to connect and share,
Campus MLK has to be an example: we, as local leaders have to respect and trust one another before we can lay down safe pathways to creativity for our youth.
All the Campus MLK partners are inspired by the foundation this Innovation investment has granted us. Our next steps for Campus MLK are inspired by support and respect: we love all the new connections we’ve built and now we accept the responsibility to competently care for them.
In investigating and uncovering all our community has to offer, connections continue to form. So far, lots of new information has been flowing, lots of smart ideas have been shared. And this collaboration has connected with kids too.
Seventh grader Isaiah works on his homework every week with Write@253 and now, thanks to the relationship between Campus MLK partners, Isaiah gets to visit Fab-5’s Fabitat space if he finishes his homework in time. He adores Fab-5 so is really motivated to complete his work. When we take him down the block to Fabitat, he always tells us to stall his mom so he can have more time there. Isaiah’s mom has shared that his school effort has been improving since he’s been involved with Write@253 and Fab-5.
That’s where Campus MLK left off nearly six months ago. In that six months, organizations have continued to grow and evolve and our relationships have remained strong, but the next steps must be systemic, and we need to uncover the best ways to further explore a partnership with private and public entities.
Campus MLK leaders have been studying models like the Providence Rhode Island AfterZone initiative, another Wallace Foundation-funded project, which worked to create a city-wide system to support and sustain quality after school programs. This alliance between after school service providers has some similarities to Campus MLK, but for us, our campus had a distinct emphasis on the arts and creativity, areas where demand and interest is already high, and kids are excited to engage.
The core leaders with Campus MLK – representatives from DASH Center for the Arts, Write@253, Fab-5, and their supporters and new organizational partners, are thinking about what it would mean to systematize our successes, continue to identify abnd then implement the tools youth need to find and access all the opportunities available for them, and to consider sustainable funding.
The work of Campus MLK has proven to meet a need, but its future relies on continued trust and dedicated time from its leaders. This element is the most difficult to achieve with sustainability.
The future: Campus MLK Orientation
The Campus MLK team looks forward to our Orientation Day when our goal will be to share the showcase all our partners in the neighborhood. Groups of youth, families, representative from organizations, and volunteers will connect door to door in Hilltop and invite neighbors to visit the nearby organizations. Additional activities, including open houses and more will also occur. Stay tuned!