Yes! And… Collaborative Arts began as a dream of a few theatre students at Eastern College who wanted to work with kids and the arts in the spring of 1998. They approached their theatre director, Mark Hallen who had been a part of a Pew Foundation notable arts program called MUSE many years earlier. Together they schemed and dreamed and a few months later, Eastern College Summer Theatre Camp was born.
That summer children from UrbanPromise in Camden, Barry School in West Philadelphia, the Simple Way in North Philadelphia and the suburban Main Line all came together for 10 days to play, sing, dance and imagine. The final performance, titled “Moon Dance” was full of the energy and joy that was generated by this truly diverse group of children.
The theatre camp model soon spread to other sites in the city. Mark still oversaw the program from Eastern College, but allowed programming to be delegated to some of the young talent in the team. Camps were happening every summer with the Eastern College Summer Theatre Camp still being the home base. They were able to witness the power of their program as each year it became more of a positive influence in children's lives. Eventually though, the program outgrew it's humble beginnings at Eastern College and became a city-based program.
Summer Theatre Camp was a great program, but to serve more kids and continue to grow, they needed to grow themselves. Yes! And… was started as a way to bring arts education year-round to kids in Philadelphia neighborhoods. Yes! And…, under the umbrella of Resources for Human Development, began an after school literacy program with Public/Private Ventures. Summer camps continued to happen as well as Studio Classes in acting, dance, visual arts, and more. Partnerships developed with Lyric Fest, UrbanPromise, Eastern University and more.
In an effort to follow up with kids year to year, Yes! And… began a program designed to teach higher level artistic skills and at the same time give valuable job experience to the teens who were growing out of the middle school programs they offered. The program was called Shadow Company (as it was meant to operate while other Yes! And… programs were being run). Shadow Company grew into its own company of actors, with the teens themselves contributing to and helping organize the different activites. They have performed in the annual Philadelphia FringeArts Festival and make original theatre pieces several times a year.
Another program that grew out of a desire to continue to reach kids as well as give the artistic staff an opportunity to be creative was the Winter Sort of Thing. Combining kids, teens and adult artists from across their progamming and teaming up once again with Eastern (now University) Theatre, the Winter Sort of Thing was a unique new musical experience. Participants in the program help to build a new musical from the ground up and audiences each year get taken on a fantastic ride of the imagination.
In the spring of 2011, Yes! And… filed with the IRS to become their own 501(c)3 organization. After years under the umbrella of Resources for Human Development, it was time for them to mature and become Yes! And… Collaborative Arts. They moved into the Germantown neighborhood and began to put down roots, sponsoring a little league team, and filling up Summer Camps. Camps grew, a rejuvinated Studio program took off, and the annual Winter Sort of Thing moved into Philadelphia. In the summer of 2016, the Winter Sort of Thing became just the “Sort of Thing” with shows in both the winter and the summer. Another exciting new program was launched in the fall, the After School Group - a program targeting middle school students.
Of course the rest of the story is yet to be written. Our dreams and goals include being able to reach as many children as possible with programs that serve, uplift and change. You can be a part of the future of Yes! And... as well. Be a regular contributer, send a kid to camp, join our intensive trainings, volunteer, or even become part of our wonderful staff or board. Contact us to see how you can be a part of our future!