Creative Advantage on Seattle Channel


The Creative Advantage initiative continues the hard work of integrating arts education back into Seattle Public Schools. Seattle Channel host Brian Callanan talks to experts about why an arts education is important and how this new initiative is creating the conditions for all young people to be more creative, innovative and imaginative.

Arts Partner Spotlight

ARTS is spotlighting the incredible members of our Community Arts Partner Roster. This month the spotlight is on Totem Star. Housed at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Delridge, Totem Star empowers youth with life skills through music production, performance, and business experience to increase leadership, civic engagement, and community building. Using the model of a record label, youth create and perform music, produce public events, and contribute to their communities as working artists and organizers.

As a community arts partner Totem Star collaborates with teachers to create a customized music curriculum to fit the needs of students at all grade levels, complementing core subject themes in the classroom. K-5 students may enjoy a beginner `ukulele class while 6-8 students write lyrics to a song and record vocals. 9-12 students may be interested in producing beats or starting a band.

Through flexibility in arts and music learning and a commitment to 21st century learning skills, Totem Star strives to engage youth in meaningful projects with a transformative impact on their lives.

On Friday, December 4 from 5-8 p.m. Totem Star presents their 2nd annual Winter Magic youth arts showcase. The event will be held at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and will feature music, dance, poetry and more. The event is free and open to all ages. For more information visit:

About the roster:

The Community Arts Partner Roster is a vetted list of teaching artists and community arts and culture organizations approved to work in Seattle Public Schools through the Creative Advantage.  Schools, community agencies, and other public and private entities are encouraged to access this list when seeking partners to lead creative learning opportunities with their program participants


Image courtesy of Totem Star

Workshops from Seattle Public Schools’ School and Community Partnership department

The Seattle Public Schools’ School and Community Partnership department, which is committed to building the capacity of community based organizations partnership with schools, has launched a Professional Development calendar for Education Partners.

First graders in Christine Patrick’s class at Bailey-Gatzert Elementary School study isopods – the ones known as potato bugs.

Events on the calendar are designed for community-based organization staff and volunteers to help them align their work and authentically partner with Seattle Public Schools.

Please visit for more information, a detailed calendar and registration.

The next upcoming event:

Data Stewardship and Introduction to Analysis Tuesday, October 6, 10 a.m. John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence 2445 3rd Ave S (at Lander St), Seattle, WA 98134

If you weren’t able to attend the September training, fear not – you have another opportunity! This training is for anyone who is planning to or interested in receiving student-level data from SPS. It will cover FERPA regulations, SPS data stewardship best practices and scenarios, and the basics regarding analyzing data

The Creative Advantage Community Arts Partner Roster Highlight

The Creative Advantage Facebook page has been highlighting our amazing roster of Community Arts Partners for Arts Education Week. One of the partners highlighted is Extraordinary Futures.

Founded by members of Seattle’s own world champ breakdance crew Massive Monkees, Extraordinary Futures is an innovative non-profit organization that has “created the nation’s first dance-based leadership program focused on urban youth with limited access to arts education and quality mentorship. Their fun, unique, and engaging arts based programs empower urban youth to lead healthier lifestyles and to realize their full potential as leaders. With nearly a decade of experience mentoring youth as teaching artists, the Extraordinary Futures team brings a unique formula for using art to develop leadership capacity in urban youth.”

About the roster:

The Community Arts Partner Roster is a vetted list of teaching artists and community arts and culture organizations approved to work in Seattle Public Schools through the Creative Advantage. Schools, community agencies, and other public and private entities are encouraged to access this list when seeking partners to lead creative learning opportunities with their program participants

Image courtesy Extraordinary Futures.

Feature Focus: How the Creative Advantage Engages Students at Seattle World School

Seattle World School (SWS) is one of several Seattle Public Schools to launch an arts plan through The Creative Advantage, a city-wide partnership to reinvest in equitable arts education for all students. Funding from these efforts allows SWS and other activated Creative Advantage schools to partner with local arts organizations like Spectrum Dance Theatre and Jack Straw Productions. Located in Capitol Hill, SWS is unique in that it primarily serves immigrant and English Language Learners (ELL) students. With over 20 languages and more than 30 countries represented at the school, students are not only learning subjects like math, science, history, and language arts, but are simultaneously learning English as their second, third, or fourth language.

So we wanted to find out: what role do the arts play in these students’ educational experiences? With the help of SWS music teacher Aimee Mell, we recently had the pleasure of visiting two choir classes and speaking directly to students about what arts programs mean to them.

Walter, an 18-year-old student at SWS, is involved in choir. “I like choir because I learn a lot of words and their pronunciations,” he told us. “It helps with my English, like understanding words in math class or understanding the meaning of a song.”

Walter has many goals for his future. First he wants to go to college, but after, he’s also interested in becoming a doctor, joining the Army, or trying out for the Seattle Sounders. The skills he’s gained from his arts classes, like becoming more fluent in English, may help him achieve those dreams.

And Walter isn’t the only student who feels the arts are benefitting him both in and out of school.

“I really like when I have to work with my hands, like drawing or sewing,” said Shirley, 16. She hopes to one day become an interior designer, and she knows that her arts classes are helping prepare her. “For example, when teachers ask me to do posters, they really appreciate my work and art skills,” she explained.

Music teacher Aimee Mell also believes the arts can help newly-emigrated students, like Walter and Shirley, transition to life in the United States.

“My goal is that when students newly arrive to the U.S. and at the World School, that they will walk into my music room and find something they can relate to, and that they will feel a little piece of home,” she told us. “Learning and living in a new language is daunting, and hopefully music is a place of fun, refuge, community and success.”

In addition to preparing students for success in life, arts classes at SWS provide creative opportunities for students to express themselves. Dona, 16, is involved in choir along with Shirley and Walter. “I really have a good time singing with friends, and even on stage,” he told us.

The arts have helped Dona gain the courage to take risks and try new experiences, like singing John Legend’s “If You’re Out There” at a choir concert or acting two different roles in the The Taming of the Shrew. “I like to try different things,” he said. “I like to sometimes do drama and sometimes music, and even art—though I don’t know how, but I’ll try.”

Arts classes have been an integral part of Dona’s education at SWS. When we asked how he would feel if he lost access to arts programs, he found it difficult to imagine. “I don’t know how I would enjoy my time without singing or acting,” he said.

Shirley feels the same. One of her best memories is from acting in a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “When I did Midsummer Night’s Dream, I was the main character, so my grandma came from my home country, Guatemala,” she said. “I was pretty excited. She saw me in the play and she congratulated my teacher. That was the best play that I could do. And my dress was amazing, I really liked it.”

From sparking students’ creativity to helping them learn English, arts classes are a valuable part of the school day that should be accessible to all SPS students – a belief that The Creative Advantage is working towards making a reality.

Photo by Aimee Mell