An Age of Exploration

July 18, 2017

Students learn to sew during a fashion course at Coyote Central.

When two middle school teachers launched Coyote Central in 1986, they operated student programs out of rental spaces around the city. From the art studio to the kitchen, Coyote aimed to challenge adolescents of all backgrounds to build skills, creative thinking, self and social awareness, through hands-on creative projects.

Its mission hasn’t wavered, but the organization has seen extensive development since its initial roster of 90 students. In 2011, the organization opened its own campus, which now enrolls 1,600 students per year. In its Central Seattle space, Coyote brings together middle school-aged students from a wide range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“That’s part of the experience,” Executive Director Claudia Stelle said. “These kids come together because they want to do something like cartoon animation or cooking, and it doesn’t matter their background — that’s what it’s really about.”

And as a beneficiary partner of this year’s Seattle Art Fair, Coyote will receive partial proceeds from the Beneficiary preview event. The organization will use the funds for scholarships, Stelle said. “To have this kind of experience be equitable, and to ensure all kids have the same opportunities, we need resources,” she said. “Being a beneficiary of the art fair means we can go out and recruit every interested kid and we’ll have the resources to support them. We will never close the opportunity gap if we don’t make things available regardless of financial capacity.”
Coyote's summer program offers a wide variety of classes, including metal working.

After 16 years with the organization, Stelle said she views it more as a youth development center than strictly arts education. It provides a space for creative problem-solving, risk-taking and self-awareness through art.

“They have to learn to take risks,” she said. “You have a blank piece of paper — what you put on it is going to come out of you somehow. A big part of this is getting to know what you want to say.”

Often times acquiring this self-awareness and knack for problem-solving comes with exploration. Coyote offers a broad array of courses, reaching from fashion design to culinary arts. About 80 percent of students enroll in multiple classes over the summer, Stelle said. Sometimes five entirely different ones.

“This is such an age of exploration,” she said. “It’s an age that’s appropriate to dabble, and to try all sorts of things. Getting to know who they are and what they like is a big part of it.”

And while some choose to return each year and dip into new interests, Coyote recently introduced a program called CRE-8, which Stelle calls “a more intentional depth of involvement.” It intends to carry a cohort through three years of classes, with the assistance of a mentor, where ultimately students present a project from whichever field they chose to focus their work.

As the demand for Coyote’s programs continues to increase, so does the need for scholarship support. As a beneficiary of Seattle Art Fair, Coyote has the potential to meet growing funding demands and ensure equal opportunities for all young people.

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