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Frye Art Museum/Arts Corps Collaboration Invited to White House
Arts Corps, the largest nonprofit arts educator in the Seattle area, fosters creative habits of mind in young people through a passionate corps of teaching artists. Photo: Laura O'Quinn

SEATTLE, WA.- Eight Arts Corps students and their two teaching artists – the creative force behind the Frye Art Museum’s new exhibition I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me – have been invited to attend the White House historic concert and education event on February 10th entitled “A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement.”

In October 2009 the Frye Art Museum met with Arts Corps to invite a group of students to curate a new exhibition drawing on the Frye’s permanent collection. The students began by working in the stacks of the Frye Art Museum and at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center with Arts Corps teaching artist Roberto Ascalon (poet) and Arts Corps and MusicianCorps teaching artist Amos Miller (musician/producer).

Over the course of several months the students viewed and discussed hundreds of Frye Permanent Collection works of art, working closely with various members of the staff of the Frye including Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Senior Deputy Director Jill Rullkoetter, Collections Manager Donna Kovalenko, Exhibition Designer Shane Montgomery, and teaching artist Laura O’Quin. The number of possible works to be included in the exhibition was narrowed to the final five pieces in the exhibition and the theme and title of the exhibition were determined. Working closely with Roberto Ascalon and Amos Miller the students – many performing and writing music and lyrics for the first time – created powerful personal responses to the artworks in music and lyrics, spoken and written word. The end result is I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me, an exhibition and soundscape offering unique insights into the Frye collection as interpreted by Seattle youth. A highlight of the process was the live performance of the soundscape at the opening of the exhibition on Friday, January 22, 2010.

The students participating in I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me come from a variety of Seattle high schools (both public and private) and backgrounds, with the largest number from SW Interagency Academy, an alternative high school of Seattle Public Schools for students at high risk of not graduating. All of these students are exceptional talents who share a passion for social justice and independent youth voice.

The invitation to attend the White House celebration began when the Grammy Foundation contacted Experience Music Project, who then contacted Kathleen Allen, Community Arts Liaison with Seattle Public Schools. Allen talked to the Grammy Foundation, learned more about the opportunity, and on seeing the performance of I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me at the opening celebration for the exhibition suggested that the student performers be invited to go and enthusiastically encouraged Arts Corps and the Frye to work to make this happen.

With the support of the Board of Trustees of the Frye Art Museum, the funds necessary to support the students’ travel to the White House have been provided equally by the Frye Foundation and an Arts Corps supporter who wishes to remain anonymous.

I Wish I Knew Who I Was Before I Was Me is one of the Frye Art Museum’s three initiatives titled The Seattle Project which also includes the exhibition Public Belongings (with Path with Art) and the collaborative project The Center School Connection. These initiatives are presented through May 31 in conjunction with the exhibition Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: A History.

Arts Corps, the largest nonprofit arts educator in the Seattle area, fosters creative habits of mind in young people through a passionate corps of teaching artists. Active since 2000, Arts Corps brings the lifelong practices of persistence and discipline, critical thinking, courage and risk-taking, reflection and imagining possibilities to the classroom and beyond. MusicianCorps is a program of Music National Service run locally by Seattle’s Arts Corps. MusicianCorps is a prototype for the Artist and MusicianCorps as called for by President Obama and Congress in the Edward Kennedy Serve America Act.

Frye Art Museum | White House | Roberto Ascalon | Amos Miller |

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