Collecting Shadows & Lights: Book Launch and Preview!

You’ve been waiting patiently, and now it’s finally here.

The beautiful Book of Explosions Six is in our hands! How do you get one? Come to our Book Launch on Wednesday, May 31 at 5:30 pm at Wealthy Theater. You can purchase a copy there, and listen to the adorable and talented writers share excerpts from the book! It’s free to attend, and it’s open to the public.

The books will also be available for sale on our website following the Book Launch. But that’s no excuse to miss the reading!

We wanted to share some of the book with you ahead of time. Some of the pieces in here are bursting with lyric description:

Alayna, 7th grade

The Pink Wall

In bed, nestled under a huge character-covered blanket, I stared at a pink wall. To be honest, all my walls were pink, but at the time this wall was different. This wall faced a window, often collecting shadows and lights from outside. Every night I would climb into bed and lay down, hoping that pink wall would disappear, hoping a figure or creature wouldn’t be cast on the wall. Each night I turned myself to the side just to sleep without a tree branch looking like a monster. Those times I looked at the wall, it made small things grow. A bird on a branch became a man walking on walls. A leaf became an insect or something that looked to have the ability to bite.

Others are inspiring:

Qyliyah, 8th grade

Black Women are Our Guardians

I am an art lovin’, music singin’,

Hip-hop dancin’, crazy girl.


I am joyful, full of passion,

and will always have an

open heart.


I am a child growing every day

walking home from school to home,

trying to survive, and being



I am my siblings’ guardian.

I will love and protect them.

I cherish them with all

my heart. We don’t get along

very well, but I love them and

I vow that I will protect

even in my darkest fears.

I am a black woman.

Still, others fill the pages with humor:

Arianna, 2nd grade


Once upon a time there lived Air. One day someone put him in a balloon. He felt nothing. He went to space. He got stuck in a black hole. Then, he got really scared and he fell back to earth. After that he rode away on a unicorn and it farted out rainbows. Finally, he went and he got a shot. He lived poppily ever after, and he popped and pooped.

Now you can’t wait for May 31, right?

See you there!

The Story of the Spoken Word & Music Album

The spoken word and music collaboration with Triumph Music Academy has attracted a lot of positive attention from our Grand Rapids community. From an interview with Mariano Avila from WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive to spotlight attention from Dustin Dwyer at Michigan Radio, the CYC looks back on the work of our students this year with pride. We wrote an article for The Rapidian detailing the background of the collaboration, as well as the award-winning success of several of the CYC student poems.

We will hold an album-release celebration with Triumph Music Academy on Monday, May 22 at 7 pm. All are welcome to join us in raising a glass at Brewery Vivant to celebrate an incredible year of programming!

CYC students tour Triumph Music Academy.

To preserve the story of our collaboration, we’re including the content of our article below:

What began as a simple brainstorming session between Creative Youth Center (CYC) Program Manager Brianne Carpenter and owner of Triumph Music Academy James Hughes evolved into a full-blown collaboration, and now a full-length music and spoken word album, created by Grand Rapids youth—and it’s receiving a lot of positive attention.

It started when Triumph students wrote music to accompany poems written by CYC students, using the tone of the poems to inspire and shape their songs. Following the collaboration, the CYC and Triumph held a December performance that packed the Wealthy Theater Annex to capacity, leaving only standing room in the audience.

The success of the performance led to the opportunity to record an album of the music and poems at River City Studios. When Michigan Radio’s Dustin Dwyer caught wind of the collaboration between the CYC and Triumph, he decided to follow the story—which is forthcoming this month.

Though the CYC couldn’t have wished for anything better at this point, the good news kept coming. The work of the CYC and one student poem were featured on WGVU’s Mutually Inclusive, a show hosted by Mariano Avila that focuses on organizations and individuals advancing inclusion and equity in our community. In addition, WYCE’s Electric Poetry featured student work in February.

Three of the poems written for the album collaboration took places in the Elementary Division of the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition, judged by the talented poets Oliver de la Paz and the newest poet laureate of Grand Rapids, Marcel “Fable” Price. Qyliyah’s poem, “Black Women are Our Guardians,” won the second-place prize; Willa’s “I Am” poem took third place; and Ja’Nesha received an Honorable Mention for her poem, “This is Who I Am.”

“We’re immensely proud of these three young women,” Carpenter says, “and of all of the writing CYC students have done this year.”

The winning poems will be published in Voices 2017, the annual publication of Dyer-Ives Poetry, and in Collecting Shadows and Lights: The Book of Explosions VI, the CYC’s forthcoming anthology of student writing that will be launched on Wednesday, May 31 at Wealthy Theatre at 5:00 p.m.

“We’d be remiss not to include a shout-out for one of our weekly program volunteers, Annie Livingston, who also placed in the Dyer-Ives Poetry Competition,” Carpenter adds. “Volunteers like Annie, who are talented writers themselves, are an integral part of what make our programs shine.”

Taking all of the CYC’s success with this collaboration into account, they have decided to celebrate. Along with Triumph, the CYC wishes to extend an open invitation to join them in an Album Release Party at Brewery Vivant on Monday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

“This isn’t just a celebration for the CYC, Triumph Music Academy, and the album,” says Carpenter. “This is a chance for all of Grand Rapids to celebrate beautiful, student-made art.”

Come raise a glass with your fellow Grand Rapidians, and grab your copy of the album (cover art by Reb Roberts of Sanctuary Folk Art) before they sell out.

“Girls Own” their identities in creative nonfiction, screen print collaboration

When it comes to identity, our middle school women own the theme.

At the CYC, we believe the individual’s art joins in conversation with the art around it. In a creative nonfiction project called “Girls Own,” our middle school women allow their identities to interact with one another in both written and visual spaces. In a world where we are so often told how to live and who to be, “Girls Own” shows these young writers taking their identities into their own hands. “Girls Own” is a project including both a written chapbook and a collection of screen prints.

To start, the girls wrote creative nonfiction pieces–personal accounts of their lives and experiences. Spanning a variety of topics, the written pieces encounter both the lighthearted day Ja’Nesha got a new phone and Alanna’s reflection on surviving the death of a loved one. Regardless of subject matter, the CYC students take writing seriously, and the result is rewarding for both writer and reader.

Brett Colley, associate professor of printmaking and drawing at Grand Valley State University, visited the CYC to teach the writers about visualization. Writing is a process of capturing images, after all, so that’s just what the writers did; they drew black and white images to represent an aspect of their personalities conveyed in the writing.

The writers took a field trip to GVSU with Brett Colley to study the screen printing process, and created screen prints of the students’ images. The screen prints are currently on display in Rowster Coffee (the corner of Wealthy and James) until the end of May. Chapbooks, which juxtapose the writing and the images, are available in Rowster for a suggested $5 donation. The screen prints will also be featured in ArtPrize in the fall of 2017.

We’re proud of all the work our artists do at the CYC, and we’re grateful for a community that’s so willing to take part in the discussion our art creates. Please stop by Rowster to check out the display and pick up a chapbook!