In her widely-acclaimed studies on grief, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
How apropos that metaphor is for Kit Evans, the Executive Director of the Hilltop Artists program. She shines with hope, an inner beauty, and a resiliency much like the glass art she sees struggling children create.
A non-profit established in 1994 with the help of Dale Chihuly, the Hilltop Artists program helps youth learn the art of glass blowing, mosaics, fused glass, pottery and beadwork—a rich, involved genre of arts that is deeply rooted in the history and beauty of the City of Tacoma. The program serves a diverse group of youth and is especially effective with those who are searching for ways to connect and belong. Hilltop does targeted outreach in communities that are dealing with high risk factors related to poverty, neglect, homelessness, substance abuse, and violence, serving youth ages 12-20.
“By keeping arts front and center, it reinforces the focus of our program and demonstrates that art is necessary for whole living. It has a use and a function. It also has the ability to transform lives,” says Evans.
Evans’ career in non-profit spans 35 years. “For years, I’ve worked in programs dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, and AIDS.” Now, as Evans runs a program that provides tuition-free classes and instruction for over 500 students each year, her strengths include visioning programs, finding support and building partnerships with donors and community. “And hiring world-class staff!” she is quick to point out.
Evans is especially enthusiastic about the Arts Connect program they offer. In partnership with Pierce County Juvenile Court and collaborating community organizations, they reach out to court-involved girls ages 11–19 living in Pierce County. Their effort responds to the need for a program that supports girls during the challenging time of court-ordered probation by helping them forge lasting, healthy connections to the community. “Currently, the girls are working on a beautiful series of pottery. And this fall, they will be glass-blowing, showing and selling works at Wilson High School.”
Bi-annual holiday and spring student glass show sales events and on-going fundraising are key in keeping Hilltop Artists viable and growing. Donations are crucial too. “The philanthropic community in Tacoma is astonishing,” claims Evans. “Commencement Bank, a Tacoma bank, is a key commercial supporter of our program—they are our biggest corporate sponsor every year and they have never wavered. Even during a recession. We are also very generously supported by Dean Allen Catering, the Gary E. Milgard Family Foundation, The Sequoia Foundation and the Gottfried & Mary Fuchs Foundation. We also receive tons of support and advice from the people who work there. It is an amazing community.”