Michele Kotler founded the Community-Poem Project in 1994, which later became the Community-Word project in 1998. The Community-Poem Project began as part of the Nomadic Pictures Documentary "No Time To Be A Child," which was nationally broadcast on PBS in May 1995. This Ford and MacArthur Foundation funded documentary included a collaborative poem generated by a poetry-writing workshop Michele ran for at-risk Chicago youth. After the documentary, Michele moved the project to New York City, her home town, and she began teaching year-long residencies in a few classrooms in New York City public schools. This was a part-time venture.
Due to the fact that her residencies had been so successful, Michele was encouraged to further her vision into a comprehensive program that became Community-Word Project. Believing strongly in the role of the arts and creative expression in facilitating social change and building future community leaders, she set out to create opportunities for young people to develop and share their visions with one another and their communities. She developed unique methods that allowed young people to be heard. From transforming verbal visions into tangible murals that celebrate young people's ideas for social change to introducing the possibilities of higher education to a class of 2nd graders, Community-Word Project has gained the energy and momentum of the over 14,000 children they have reached. Community-Word Project has also gained the support of funders who see our viable work as a valuable contribution to our young people's growth and success.
Community-Word Project is growing strong. From its inception, in which it reached thousands of PBS viewers to its current national mural tour and collaborations with local universities and businesses, Community-Word Project is actively bridging the space between the public school classroom and the larger community in which we all reside.