It’s a hot summer day in Dixon Village, and the air buzzes with energy, laughter, and the sounds of a toy drone, which zips through the air as the neighborhood children and youth watch in delight. The machine is powered by a remote in the hands of Idris Joyce, executive director of Krownless Kings, as he coaches a small group of youth through the functionality of the toy and how to control it themselves. Afterward, he hands the remote to a nearby teenager, who takes up the controls with interest.
Dixon Village, Tacoma
Dixon, a neighborhood served by the Tacoma Housing Authority, is home to today’s Krownless Kings programming, which aims to deliver access to all conceivable forms of art and play for the community. They are dedicated to providing safe spaces and opportunities for children, youth, and adults alike to explore artistic interests and abilities, as well as making these opportunities as accessible as possible. While not every family may have access to a drone, VR headset, or a DJ setup, Krownless Kings ensures that they create an environment where youth can explore any artistic interest that they might have.
Youth at Dixon Village play video games on a wide variety of consoles, from computers to VR headsets.
Inspired by Art and Expression
Idris says that the programming is, in part, inspired by schools that he saw on his travels as a touring artist. In particular, a school in Dallas, Texas, stuck in his mind as one that had a wide variety of art available for the students to learn about and experiment with.
“I was just thinking, if school was like that for me, I would’ve paid more attention,” Idris recalls. “I would’ve excelled and succeeded more, and so would a lot of people, if it was based on what you love.”
Idris returned to Washington and did a show at Foss High, where he attended school, and when he finished performing, asked the crowd what they would like to see in their school that they did not have. The answers that he heard reflected his own: they wanted to learn about music, photography, and other creative outlets.
The Tacoma Housing Authority
This summer, the Tacoma Housing Authority has been inviting providers like Krownless Kings to their neighborhoods in order to keep these spaces vibrant, safe, and prosperous. From Farmer’s Markets to visiting artists, the Housing Authority has been providing many opportunities for children and youth to thrive and prosper in safe, welcoming environments. They’ve worked together with Krownless this summer to find a good balance between what worked well for themselves and what was needed by the community and responding quickly to those needs. Idris says that with the Tacoma Housing Authority’s help, Krownless and the community have been given a safe space to grow and pursue their dreams.
Idris talks about his own experience growing up in Salishan, one of the other neighborhoods that is currently being served by the Tacoma Housing Authority. He says that there was a certain soul to the environment that went missing at some point during the neighborhood’s reconstruction, leading to high crime rates in the community. Idris says that the neighborhood seemed to be missing a safe space where children and youth could spend time learning and doing things that they loved.
“For us to create that — it’s great,” Idris says, full of enthusiasm. “I feel like it’s made the community better, just having somewhere for the kids to go.”
Idris Joyce, artist and executive director of Krownless Kings
On one of Idris’s trips back to Salishan, this time as a mentor, he met a 42-year-old mother who wanted to reinvent herself by building skills in photography, videography, and editing. At first, Idris mulled over how to change up his program to cater to everyone.
“But luckily,” he points out, “art is a language, and it has no barriers. Everyone can speak it.”
The language of artistic expression is a crucial theme of Krownless and one that they seem to be reminded of in nearly every facet of their work. Idris talks about a site that he visited with a population made up primarily of non-English speaking families and the challenges that he faced.
“…but art brought us together. The music, cooking, the pizza…” Idris pauses for a moment to laugh. “Everybody likes pizza! No matter where you’re at, a kid will take a slice of pizza. It’s engaging with the stuff that they like.”
To learn more about Krownless Kings and how to support the work that they do, visit their website at krownlesskings.org.
To learn more about the Tacoma Housing Authority, their mission, and the neighborhoods that they serve, visit tacomahousing.org.