NeShaune Watson Fountain knew that her son wanted to act. After signing him up for Yes! And…’s Collaborative Art’s summer camp, she discovered a strong community that would plant the seeds of learning to make his dream a reality.
Watson Fountain’s son, Anthony Fountain Jr., 12, says he found a safe place to express himself.
“People don’t feel comfortable expressing their feelings and emotions so they use the arts to process those feelings because sometimes it’s really hard to do that,” said Fountain Jr.
Yes! And… Collaborative Arts has a legacy of providing summer camps and year-round programming for over 15 years,11 of them as an official nonprofit. It started as an incubator program in the theater department at Eastern University, with the goal of making performing arts experiences accessible to everyone.
Summer camps are designed for kindergarteners all the way up to high school students and they have offered camps at a sliding scale every year.
This is how the Fountains were introduced to the organization. “What I found was, when I would pick him up, he was having fun, he was doing improv, acting, just being kids, using their imagination…even though it was only a week, he made friends, and he felt accepted,” said Watson Fountain.
Executive Director of Yes! And…, Chris Herrman, agrees that the arts can open up safe spaces for people to express themselves. A Summer Sort of Thing, their summer musical, allows them to use Germantown’s Holman Field as an outside performance space, and their year round high school programming, Shadow Company, allows them to create even more involved theater and storytelling with older teens.
“The arts are who we are as people, what makes us human,” Herrman said. “It’s how we can connect to the world around us, and have an outlet for all the stuff inside of us.”
Herrman says since Yes! And … has made Germantown a home it really encompasses everything they are trying to do with their overall arts programming. She notes that the neighborhood has a mix of public and private schools, and that Yes! And… hopes to be a bridge that brings those different students together.
“It’s actually prohibiting us from wider change and better stories and better experiences,” said Herrman, about students possibly not interacting with each other because they go to different kinds of schools.
“What we want to bring to the wider community is a place where those barriers can get thrown out the window. Kids are taught to value each other and what they bring, so that through learning and building community with each other that they then can go out into the wider community and look for places that also do that and can cultivate spaces that do that…where they can be the ones who are leading the way and ensuring that we are building a better world for all of us.”
This year they’re a part of the Art-Reach Access program, where Access Card holders can get tickets to live performances for two dollars each. Over 15% of their audience used the Art-Reach Access pass for this past year’s A Winter Sort of Thing, their yearly musical, full of interactive audience participation and creative landscapes and characters.
Herman said they sold more tickets than before the COVID-19 pandemic and even sold out their performances. For Herrman, the increase in attendance was a testament to the power behind making art a fundamental human right, which is a part of Art-Reach Access’ mission.
“This is a great tool to making the arts accessible, especially here in the Northwest, where we don’t have a ton of theaters like in downtown,” Herrman said. “There’s not as many options. To have an option for a family to go do something, to see a performance at a discounted performance, we saw that it was so beneficial.”
“Carving out that little piece of Germantown to do that work and hopefully see it spread, I think is great,” Herrman continued.
To learn more about Yes, And… Collaborative Arts’ programming, including their upcoming summer camps and summer musical, you can check out their website.