In 1986 Coyote began when two middle school teachers, Greg Ewert and Marybeth Satterlee, wanted to expand their teaching philosophy to kids from all over the city. They believed in all things that inspired creativity and they saw the truth in what it is like for kids when they learn through self-discovery, problem solving, and thinking independently. The founders’ secret weapon as teachers was to arouse curiosity. Before diving into a course in physiology, kids spent serious time pondering what does happen to a hamburger after swallowing it. In their self-contained 5th and 6th grade classrooms, they always found ways to pull kids into actively learning and discovering, whether it was math, science, or grammar.
The earliest Coyote years were dedicated to academics. The founders enlisted gifted teachers who relied on projects and problem solving to engage kids in subjects such as physical science, mathematics, physiology, geography, and fiction writing - and the kids came. Where they came was part of the story. Kids went to Marybeth’s family home or to homes of fellow participants. For each course they’d find out who else had a centrally located home attached to an open front door. Bill Nye the Science Guy taught Coyote kids in one of them.
It didn’t take long to expand the offerings to major problem-solving projects, and by the first summer kids signed up to make milk-carton boats and to design and build a tree house. Each year as Coyote discovered how much kids tuned into the pursuit of creativity, they began to seek out professionals in a vast range of creative fields. By now classes were being held with painters in their private studios, animators at 911 Media Arts Center, photographers at Photographic Center Northwest, a computer wizard at Adobe, even an architect who taught kids to build furniture in the atrium of the U.W. School of Architecture.
The venues weren’t all auspicious, though the teachers were excellent. Coyote has been built on the talents of scores of gifted professionals. Chefs built the culinary program in the SCCC preschool classroom with tiny furniture and an electric stove with one broken burner.
In 1992 the founders began Hit the Streets and gathered harder-to-reach kids to create major permanent public art for their communities. This was an opportunity for kids to discover just how much they could accomplish and contribute, which they found out by working with gifted public artists as their mentors and teachers. Hit the Streets kids have created a score of projects in the Central Area, south end, and First Hill. Each summer twenty-four kids, 12 – 14 years old, have created public art that includes park entrances, ceramic murals 200 feet long, viewfinders highlighting urban vantage points, and tall columns along the Jackson Street corridor at Washington Middle School.
Sometime in the late eighties, Coyote’s CityWorks program got its name and definition after being asked to create a 12 X 12 movie screen frame for Entros, a former Seattle supper club. Coyote’s first commission! A prominent artist gathered 8 kids who fabricated a quasi-classical design out of dried noodles and beans. CityWorks! Every year up to three or five commercial, nonprofit or community organizations have commissioned Coyote Cityworks kids to create site specific art. Working with a professional artist, the kids have filled the windows of Barney’s New York, Mario’s, the Bon Marche and Macy’s; welded the Grapple Boys bike rack sculpture that is installed at the Design Center; and hand-cut vinyl artwork that fills the light box in the Pacific Place concourse.
Coyote has grown gracefully from 13 to 45 to 105 and incrementally on up to 800 kids annually before the turning point year of 2011 when Coyote opened its very own campus. Currently more than 1,600 kids enroll each year. No organization could accomplish this without the expertise of countless individuals who have contributed to it becoming the ship-shape organization that it is today. The directors, staff, teachers, board members, community supporters and artists all share an airtight belief in granting all kids from across the city scores of opportunities to open up their minds, discover their intellectual independence, and embrace creativity.
Marybeth Satterlee, Program Director / Co-Founder