Partner Spotlight: Developing Youth Outside of School

COF23 group photo

This piece was not featured in the 2019 Community Impact Report.

Hilltop Artists is a youth development program, which uses art as a means of engagement. Our programs are open to youth ages 12 to 20 throughout the area, and we do lots of intentional outreach to students who are marginalized in different ways.

We run three two-week sessions at Jason Lee Middle School in the summer, with three classes a day so that we can serve more students. We also offer two two-week sessions at Wilson High School where students from the after-school programs can move on to Team Production where they are paid for their work.

Students at Jason Lee Middle School are given three different opportunities in glass art:

  • Hot Glass: This is glass blowing and sculpting hot glass to make things like a paperweight, a cup or a vase as they learn different techniques.
  • Lampworking: This is essentially bead making. Students learn to use a torch to melt glass onto a thin rod and create surface designs and patterns, including making their own ‘signature’ bead, and using those to make jewelry.
  • Glass Fusion: Students cut flat glass and turn that into patterns, designs and pictures using colored glass or painting glass.

Access is built into our organization – making this complex art form available to all for free. Last summer, we were pleased to be able to expand from four to six weeks of programming, with help from Graduate Tacoma Access Funds and other support. We work with small groups of students, only nine in each area of each session, which is great for building relationships with the students. Our students engage in a whole range of social and emotional learning skills.

There’s always room for program growth and always more students wanting to participate. I’m especially intrigued by the possibilities of our nascent partnership with University of Washington-Tacoma. We now offer a spring course for UWT students at Jason Lee. In the future, I’d love to have this grow to include scholarship support for our students.


Kim Keith is the Executive Director of Hilltop Artists, which offers the Summer Learning program in glass art.