The story of PYE begins with the arts-based empowerment projects Charlie Murphy and Peggy Taylor started in the mid 1990s.
Concerned about the state of youth in America, Charlie left his 18-year career as a singer/songwriter to work with teens using art. “I discovered that young people, regardless of their circumstances are highly creative, compassionate, and deep,” he says. “My belief in the power of art to transform lives was confirmed as I saw youth after youth step into more power as they expressed themselves through poetry and music.”
Peggy left a career as a magazine editor covering social change movements and entered a Masters program in Creative Arts in Learning at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. “I became passionate about the role the creative arts can play in reweaving our communities and reminding us of our higher possibilities as human beings,” she says. She was determined to find a way to use the arts for social healing.
Peggy and Charlie joined forces in 1996 to convene an intergenerational gathering of teens and adults at the Chinook Center on Whidbey Island in Washington State. “We wanted to test our theories about how creative practices can be used in a community model to create transformation for everyone involved,” says Charlie. 28 teens from a wide range of cultures came together with 14 youth workers, teaching artists, and social change agents. They spent five days exploring their values, hopes, and dreams, and used the arts to tell their stories. “The results were so electrifying, we knew we were onto something,” says Peggy.
They started an organization called the Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment through the Arts to provide more gatherings for youth. Power of Hope grew in leaps and bounds as youth and adult volunteers heard about the summer programs. The only thing that stood in the way of growing more programs was a shortage of trained social artists—dynamic program leaders who could work with a diverse community of 60-90 youth and adults in a highly creative environment for a week.
Over the years Peggy and Charlie identified and trained a group of skilled program leaders who work magic with youth and adults alike. These program leaders worked sporadically for Power of Hope programs and developed private practices as social artists designing and leading innovative arts empowerment programs in diverse communities in the Northwest. They now form the core of the PYE Facilitation Team.
As Power of Hope solidified its base in the Pacific Northwest, Charlie and Peggy felt called to make the Creative Community Model available in other communities. In 2006, the BeadforLife poverty eradication program in Kampala, Uganda invited Peggy to work with teens living with HIV/AIDS and to train youth workers and service providers in the Creative Community methods. The next year Charlie led further trainings for adults in Kampala and an arts empowerment camp for youth living with HIV/AIDS. The work took root and two years later we have strong partnerships in Kampala and a team of 12 Ugandan youth workers and artists who have formed “The Creative Facilitation Team.” Their goal: to make Creative Community Model methods available to youth serving organizations across East Africa.
In 2007 we worked with a group called LifeBeat in England to develop a youth program based on the Creative Community Model. We trained over 100 youth workers in best practices and in August 2008 LifeBeat ran its first weeklong camp for 41 teens at Stanford Hall in the English Midlands. The camp drew teens and adult volunteers from a wide range of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. LifeBeat is now putting a plan in place to spread this program throughout the UK.
In 2008 we founded PYE to make the principles and practices for leading community-based arts empowerment programs widely available. As PYE began to gather steam, other colleagues jumped on board. Rebekka Goldsmith a musician and the former department director of the King County (Seattle area) Housing Authority joined us as administrative director. Rebekka brings considerable administrative experience as well as skill in group facilitation and arts empowerment.
Charles Terry served as Directory of Philanthropy for the Rockefeller Family Offices and has been a consultant to philanthropists, foundations, and NGO’s for over 30 years. He and his wife Betsy MacGregor MD, an adolescent pediatrician, are starting a PYE demonstration project with the Mlasda Orphanage in Kampala. They are partnering with the orphanage staff to help them advance an arts empowerment program that can serve as a working model for other orphanages.
Ian Watson (www.ianwatson.biz), an entrepreneur from England and Canada joined us as chair of our board. He and his wife Victoria offered PYE Global a generous matching grant for three years to help this initiative take flight. Ian served as board chair of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California for several years and has a unique international perspective born out of his six years serving as chair of the international board of the Hunger Project.
Upon Ian’s invitation, Lynne Twist joined our board. Lynne is an amazing social entrepreneur and fundraiser whose book The Soul of Money reframes fundraising from a necessary evil to a noble occupation. Lynne has co-founded the Pachamama Alliance, an organization working with the Achuar Indians in Equador to preserve the rainforest, and has launched an international education program on world issues called “Awakening the Dreamer.”
Richard Russell, musician, artist and president of the Russell Family Foundation, has been a long-time advisor. He currently is donating his time helping us develop an interactive visual representation of the Creative Community Model.
This is just a taste of the energy that is coalescing around a dream of making a significant contribution to youth internationally. We stand ready to partner with you on behalf of young people.