Creative action annual report

Creative Action 2016-17 Annual Report

During the 2016-17 school year, we expanded our reach to impact a larger footprint of the community, reaching youth and adults across socioeconomic groups from all parts of our city.

Our Annual Report outlines that impact, providing a deep dive into programming outcomes, including numbers served, and results from our post-participation evaluations.

2016 - 17 annual report

Through our school-based programs, thousands of children built social and emotional skills, while educators gained experience integrating the arts in their classrooms. At our Spark School, Campbell Elementary, we led ongoing professional development for teachers and delivered weekly arts-integrated lessons to each student in and out of school, and 91 percent of teachers say they’ve now learned new arts-based teaching strategies they can use every day.

2016-17 annual reportIn our after school programs, which span across 50+ sites, students created art addressing issues like friendship, media literacy, and gentrification through age-appropriate project-based learning activities. As a result, 99 percent of youth said they can now recognize injustice and use art to express their thoughts and feelings.

Our teen students are also learning the value of art in making a social impact. Ninety-six percent of our teens say they now have the tools and language to respond to social justice issues in their community. They put those tools into practice by creating a mural for the local food bank, a film about the effect of immigration (that played on PBS!), and an original performance about the timely issues of sexual harassment and consent.

2016-17 annual report

Through our community programs we engaged elders, toddlers, and families in year-round events and activities in an effort to build community connections and amplify social issues. Highlights included several free Community Art Sundays, seeing the elders in Continuing Creativity share their life stories, and cheering on our adults on the autism spectrum as they developed social skills while making digital media and theatre projects.2016-17 annual report

We also made impactful strides building our core business practices and company culture to best enact racial equity and inclusion, which launched a refinement of our core values: create community, dream big, stand up, and strive for excellence, as well as an institutionalized practice of ongoing social justice learning for all staff.

To view the full report, visit Our Financials page.

Felting DIY

Summer Camp DIY: Felting

Our summer camps are packed full of fun activities that teach new art-making mediums to young artists. At our most recent Art Party session, our Corinna Archer Kinsman, our Associate Director of Development, stepped into the role of Teaching Artist to introduce campers to a variety of textile techniques, including weaving and felting. Below, she’s provided step-by-step instructions on tackling felting on your own time, for campers who might have missed this session or who want to try their hand at textiles at home.

To go more in-depth with the felting technique, try using it to create pictures, pulling different colored pieces of roving into shapes until you’ve created a scene. Or experiment with creating bigger pieces of felt!


  • Wool roving
  • Tull or other mesh materials (you can use shelf liner sheets)
  • Water & soap
  • Sponge
  • Sushi mat


STEP ONE: On a piece of paper or mesh materials, begin making one thin layer by pulling small pieces of roving and overlapping them in the same direction until you’ve made a small rectangle.

felting DIY

STEP TWO: Make another layer, this time overlapping in the opposite direction. Continue until you’ve made 3 thin layers on top of each other.

STEP THREE: For your 4th and final layer, you can make whatever image or design on top you want! This is what you’ll see on your felted piece.

STEP FOUR: Using a spray bottle, wet your design with warm, soapy water.

STEP FIVE: Place another piece of tulle/mesh on top of the felt. Using a damp sponge, rub on top in gentle circles to begin agitating the wool.

felting diy

STEP SIX: Removing the top layer of mesh, place the wool onto the sushi mat and roll it all up. Begin rolling back and forth to agitate the felt for about a minute. Unroll, and turn your felt once 90 degrees. Roll up and agitate again. Repeat until you’ve turned all four sides at least once, and your felt has shrunk up! After a few turns, you can remove the mesh piece if your felt is sticking together nicely.

FINAL STEP: Rinse and lay out to dry!

Felting diy

Our Partnership with Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural District

Last summer, we embarked on a journey with Six Square, a neighboring arts and culture nonprofit, to help it continue its mission of engaging the East Austin community with its history and culture.

Named after the six square miles established as the “Negro District” in Austin’s 1928 plan, the nonprofit was founded in 2013 as a way to preserve the district which has undergone rapid change in recent years due to gentrification. The district is bordered to the north by Manor Road, to the south by Seventh Street, to the east by Airport Boulevard, and to the west by Interstate 35. Our current offices sit in the Chestnut neighborhood of Six Square, making the area’s history and revitalization especially important to us.

A map created by Six Square, showing notable places, as well as the district’s boundaries.

The Partnership

We kick started this collaboration with Six Square to help create a sustainable and viable arts culture in the district. After receiving funding from the City of Austin, and the National Endowment for the Arts, we were able to host a fellowship in which creative community members worked to design and implement arts projects to create a strong sense of place in East Austin and to create a more unified community of small businesses, restaurants, bars, and cultural events. The work the eight selected fellows did after the past few months will also help inform the design of wayfinding placemakers, as well as helping to shape the community’s vision of the future for their neighborhoods.

The Projects

Since January, the fellows have come up with unique ways to engage the community in our joint project:

  • Beginning their research process, the fellows hosted and participated in story circles with residents to facilitate the sharing of different lived experiences in the East Austin area.
  • The story circles became a catalyst for a neighborhood postcard project, where the fellows engaged more than 200 community members to write their own experiences of living in East Austin on postcards featuring district landmarks, like the mural on the George Washington Carver branch. The postcards will be used to help inform the eventual design of placemakers in East Austin.
  • Fellows presented the postcards and participated at nine different arts driven community engagement events this year, including events within the Six Square district at venues like Givens Park, Boyd Vance Theater, the African American Cultural Heritage Center, the Alamo Recreation Center, Creative Action, and more.
  • Fellows also helped host historic tours of the Six Square district. Tour participants were asked to share their wishes for the future of the community by sharing “I wish this was. . .” statements about buildings and spaces in the district.  

What’s Next

Before the fellows begin designing wayfinding placemarkers as the next phase of the project, we’re looking for feedback and input from the community at large, as well as neighbors to help us celebrate!

Join us at a community meeting (date TBD) and become a part of this project and its mission of community celebration and preservation. Our goal all along has been to excite the community and the people who live here and to get them involved in this work that impacts them.

Evangeline Photo

Teaching Artist Spotlight: Faustinus Deraet

Unlike many of our Teaching Artists, Faustinus Deraet’s relationship with art did not start at a young age. In fact, it started at the unlikeliest life juncture: while Faustinus was working as a sales executive at IBM.

“I realized that I spent I don’t know how many years of my life without loving what I was doing and with photography, I have this kind of passion for,” says Deraet, who was born in Belgium and grew up in Mexico.

His interest in photography was tripped when a visiting friend mentioned wanting to study the medium.

“I said, you know, that sounds kind of cool. But why photography and then I remembered that a picture is worth 1000 words. I realized it’s not true. It’s worth many thousand feelings.

Starting out, Faustinus used film, cameras, including a Holga, which, along with his point and shoot, he calls toys – perhaps an indication of the joy he gets from shooting.

As film became too expensive a medium to maintain and to travel overseas with, he moved over to a digital format, but tried to maintain the lesson that film taught him about the value of a single shot.

“Now it’s only about making a click,” he says. “Everybody’s just like click, click, click, click, click, click, click.”

At least for me, I shoot for the nice feeling of capturing something and expressing myself and learning a lot about myself.”

He teaches his students that photography can be the same vessel of self-expression for them as it is for him. Like he does in his own practice, he encourages them to worry less about getting the “right photo.”  

“It’s amazing the things that you can see without realizing that you’re shooting,” he says. He tells parents that they can look at their children’s images and understand things about them that they’re unable to articulate at their young age.

This power of photography to express submerged feeling is why he called his most recent exhibit featuring street photography “Chilango* Subconscious.” It is now on view at the Dougherty Arts Center through June 9.

art is power

Art is Power: Teen Rachael Osgood Shares Her Story

Rachael Osgood is a teen in our Color Squad Collective, where she helps design and paint murals that address community issues. On May 19, she appeared with Executive Director Karen LaShelle at the Michael & Susan Dell Community Collaborative for Child Health Summit. Below is the speech she gave to attendees.  

Stories contextualize the past, present, and future. They are an instrument of thought, a tool to connect us to certain moments in time, and by doing so, create the forms of our world. They are as equally a part of who we are as individuals, as they are what brings us together to create a shared community/cultural identity.

In turn, culture is the intersection between arts and beliefs; spiritual and intellectual expression. The art that different societies create endures past the inked-in-dates of history textbooks. Their imprints are on the rock carvings, the cave paintings, the intimate portraits that now hang in museums, and the photographs we see all around us. They allow us to feel the texture of the world as it is mirrored in the stroke of a brush. And my appreciation for such nuanced forms of cultural/artistic expression is the way that I, as an individual, connect to different stories most deeply.

Becoming involved with Creative Action in their visual arts teen program has allowed a bridge between the personal and the professional. The goal of our program is to create public and community artwork about different social justice issues. Working side-by-side with refugee resettlement organizations, food banks, cultural preservation groups, civic leaders and community activists, I have learned not only the value a voice can have, but also its essential nature to successful civic engagement on a wide range of platforms.  My own development, my interest in the power of art, and thus the power of stories, is directly tied to the opportunities Creative Action has provided, and the methods they use for social and emotional learning.

Every year, our program focuses on a different issue. Currently we are working with the concept of immigration but in the past, we have examined a wide range of topics from food insecurity, to gentrification and gender identity. Everyone in the collective is involved in the research, designing, and implementation of the art, and the shared development space aids in the strength of the final product. From art magazines to 800 sq ft murals, it teaches those involved how to deepen their own skills both personally and professionally by working with continuously with others.

Art, creativity and engagement, especially by youth, has the potential to bring about change in a society faster than politics can because of its ability to empower. Artistic expression in any form when used in youth development is a vital tool in enabling the next generation. It allows them, us, to better understand our own story so that we may better understand others. It truly does help us to become collaborators, effective communicators, creative innovators and courageous allies. In short, I believe in the power of art because I believe that art is power.