Community Spotlight Series – Coyote: Creativity in Action
September 2nd, 2020
Coyote youth share their collage self-portraits at an end-of-term showcase.
Coyote is a Seattle area non-profit whose mission is to spark creativity in young people, putting tools in their hands to build skills and forge their futures. Each year, Coyote’s two sites, Coyote Central and Coyote North, provide hands-on educational opportunities for over 1,600 teenagers in a variety of disciplines ranging from fashion design to electronic music. Coyote believes that coupling independent problem-solving with sophisticated skills builds adolescents’ confidence and expands their sense of personal possibility. By providing a space to help youth channel their agency through creative expression, Coyote creates a welcoming environment where everyone can thrive.
In July of 2019, Claudia Stelle (pictured right), Executive Director of Coyote, met with a group of 24 visitors from around the world who were participating in the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The visitors’ program, “Promoting Social Change Through the Arts,” focused on exploring different ways to leverage the arts to spark conversations around civic discourse and resilience. This diverse IVLP group was composed of visitors representing 24 countries with a variety of professional backgrounds in the fields of museum curation, visual arts, theater and acting, fashion design, film festival coordinations, and more. Prior to their arrival in Seattle, the visitors traveled together to Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and Santa Fe, and separately in four subgroups to Dallas, Milwaukee, Iowa City, and Kansas City, MO to engage with arts leaders across the country. In Seattle, in addition to their meeting with Coyote, the visitors also participated in meaningful conversations with the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Cornish College of the Arts, Path with Art, and the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. A key theme the visitors explored throughout their three-week IVLP was the power of innovative arts programming in uplifting diverse voices and promoting cross-cultural understanding. A visitor commented that, “This trip has definitely inspired and motivated me to confront individual and social memory through the arts, and how art can be used as a tool for alternative narratives and as a prompt for positive dialogue.”
During their time at Coyote Central, Claudia and Coyote faculty provided a guided tour of their main facility; offering an inside-look into the classrooms and the student-teacher dynamic when it comes to learning and teaching traditional and non-traditional curriculum. Claudia shared with the IVLP visitors how the non-profit engages young adolescents of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds to build skills, creative thinking, self-awareness, and social awareness through hands-on projects led by creative professionals, highlighting equity as a cornerstone of Coyote’s mission. Some of the non-profit’s key initiatives have included adjusting the registration process to reserve spots for harder-to-reach populations and establishing an Equity & Inclusion Task Force made up of students, parents, teaching artists, board members, and staff. Claudia connected this spirit of creating a more equitable world in her discussion with the IVLP participants:
“Building bridges between different cultures happens most effectively when people come together over shared work or interests. That premise is at the core of Coyote Central's learning model: young people from radically different races and backgrounds come together over a common interest, whether in fashion design or breakdancing or cartoon animation or furniture making, and build cultural competence as they form new relationships that transcend difference. Countries will only get along with each other if individuals within those countries can form strong bonds across their borders.”
Claudia appreciated the opportunity to connect with these IVLP participants, “Having a chance to talk to international visitors about the work they are doing in creative fields around the globe was inspiring. It's so easy to operate in a vacuum defined by our own local community, and it was fascinating to hear about the creative ideas and organizations doing innovative work in other parts of the world.” On their side of the exchange, the visitors praised their meeting with Claudia and visit to Coyote Central, “I think [the Coyote faculty] does an excellent job to engage youth by engaging them to learn more professional skills that help them in their life beside the school program. As a drama art teacher, it’s a great opportunity for me to learn from their experience.” Another visitor was impressed by how they “got to witness how [Coyote] integrates design thinking methods in all creative disciplines ranging from glass blowing, welding to woodwork to creative writing. [We are] hoping to integrate some of these methods and resources within our organization.”
Students practice improvisation in a Coyote Central acting class.
Coyote is committed to fostering connections, globally and locally. In addition to their partnership with the World Affairs Council, they connect to other world cultures through the immigrant and refugee families that Coyote serves, both in their regular Studio Coyote programs and through their 5-year partnership with the Seattle World School. During the COVID-19 crisis, Coyote is also actively engaged in supporting the local community. They have opened their teaching kitchens at Coyote Central in the Central District and at Coyote North in the Lake City area to assist community members facing food insecurity.
As the World Affairs Council celebrates the 80th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program, we want to thank Coyote for enriching the international visitors’ experience during their time in Seattle. Community partners like Coyote make our work possible, and we are grateful to them for helping us to bring the world closer!
- Learn more about Coyote's virtual initiatives
- Learn more about Coyote's youth programs
- Get involved with Coyote!
New to the Community Spotlight Series? Check out our previous Community Spotlights recognizing our amazing community partners and the lasting impact of exchanges. To learn more about the “Promoting Social Change Through the Arts” IVLP visitors who came to Seattle, read our “Welcoming a Global Delegation of Artists Seeking to Ignite Social Change Through Art” blog post.
By Amodini Khade, International Visitor Program Intern and recent graduate of University of Washington with a B.A. in International Studies & Sean Bowman, Senior Program Officer