Find Your Story, Make it Creative!​​

About City of Refuge, Inc.

City of Refuge, Inc. exists to unite local creatives, using this collective to strengthen families/individuals coping with trauma by the example of their creative coping skills.

Our first objective is to build a city of creatives (local artists, musicians, and makers)  who support each other and use their creativity to cope with tough life situations.  We do this through interactive concerts and workshops in Knoxville, TN and the surrounding area.  

Our second objective is using this city of creatives to provide a support system for families/individuals coping with traumatic life situations.  We do this through workshops, support boxes with art and music supplies, and eventually mentorships with local professional creatives.
City of Creatives
Heart of the City
Our City of Creatives
Our city of collectives are a diverse and eclectic group.  This is a list of people, bands, companies, and organizations we have worked with either in the past or currently.  If you would like to be added to this list and sign up to get added to our mailing list, you can also fill out the form to the right and we will get in contact with you.
Our Story

The Founders

Being a teenager is difficult for anyone. For an awkward scrawny teen with too many emotions floating through him, life can be downright depressing.  Kyle Ford, our co-founder, grew up with a lot of thoughts invading his mind.  Thoughts like "I'm worthless", "I'm stupid", and "I'm not worth getting to know" trapped him into a depression that pushed everyone in his life away.  If it wasn't for his bass guitar and a notebook full of poetry/drawings, he would not have lasted through high school.
Epilepsy and other health issues never got Elizabeth Ford, our other co-founder, down.  Even through multiple visits in the hospital, as a child, and being the smallest kid in her class, she used her love of singing and going to the beach to keep a positive attitude and a heart for other people.
After years of working with children and teens with behavioral issues, in the foster care system, and/or at-risk of losing their family, Kyle and Elizabeth were tired of seeing teens with huge potential aging out of the foster care system without a family or the skills that are needed to cope with stress, anger, depression, etc.  In 2016, they did something about it and started City of Refuge, Inc.  They didn't know the specifics of how they were going to help, but they knew they had to do something to help those who don't have the people in their lives to teach them how they can use their creativity to help them cope.

The Start

Kyle and Elizabeth wanted to start by hosting an event for teens in the community using music, painting, and photography.  Musician friends from Michigan were on tour, so they agreed to come and play a show, as a part of the event.  While playing some songs at a storefront in West Town Mall the night before the event, 2 teenage girls came and were very interested in the music.  One mentioned that she played guitar, so they invited her to play with them (which she did very well).  They then came the next day to the event and built confidence in their playing, one with a violin and the other with a cello.  We knew that day how we could help our city.

Trial and Error

With the help of our first Board of Directors (Sarah Ziegler, Josh Kohns, Alicia Lankford, Sascha Smith, and Daje Morris), we incorporated City of Refuge, Inc., wrote our bi-laws, and started to work towards getting our 501(c)3 status.  It was now time to solidify who we were and what we were created to solve.  After working hard to build connections with local creatives, partner with local organizations, and getting some funds together to start some programs, we decided to try starting with mentorships.  Realizing quickly that most creatives don't have the time or experience mentoring teens, we decided to start an after-school program for teens in the foster-care system.  We tried this for about a month, but quickly found out that 3p-5p were very difficult hours for creatives to devote their time.  Fearing burning out, we decided to take a step back and use what we have learned to build something that was simple, but worked.
The Present State of City of Refuge, Inc.
The Programs That Give Us Structure
Place creative coping skills and a support system for families/individuals coping with trauma together and More than a Village is what you get! This program aims to equip those coping with traumatic life situations (foster care, adoption, anger, depression, human trafficking, etc.) with creative tools they can use to find their story, use their story to heal, and de-escalate themselves in the difficult moments.  We offer workshops and mentorships with local professional creatives to build a community of strong, healthy, and mindful families, teens, and young adults.
Just like we need people to assist us in our programs, we also need people who believe in what we do to financially support our programs in whatever way they can.  Wither it is through our home decor products in Maker Story Creative, our Foundational Lecture series, or our BBQ Investor gatherings, our financial supporters invest in our city and allow it to grow!
What does a musician, a watercolor artist, and a metalworker have in common?  They each use creativity and art to express themselves and make sense of the world around them.  COR Collective is our city of creatives gathering together to build community, show each other their creative pursuits, and learn how they can use their creativity and art to help others around them.
The Board of Directors That Help Us Move Forward and Grow

​Heart of the City


 To give a better understanding of why we do what we do, this next section is dedicated to art, poetry, and articles which describe the heart which caused City of Refuge, Inc. to come about.
I’m a Dad... Sort of
I’m a Dad... kind of
I’m a Dad... sort of
 And I’ll hide behind these fathers
Pretending I am one of them

I have never felt as misunderstood as I do right now
Misunderstood even to myself
Am I a dad? I think so, but how?
I have a little one who lives with me
Sometimes I think she calls me daddy
But still I feel like a fraud, like a fake
The Truth is, her father I may not always be
She comes from a place that was once unsafe
She may go back, I’ll never see that face again
And the sad thing is... That’s what I’m praying for

I feel for her mother, trapped by addiction and a lack of support
I feel for her father, a product of the system
Another generation away from their father
But still

Still there is a hope in the back of my heart
A hope that says that she will be my forever daughter
A hope in a room, with a door, that’s locked
I can’t go there
I’m afraid either it will fly away and never come back again
Or I will focus so much on it that I forget she has parents who love her
And it is part of my responsibility to prepare her for home
But for now...

I’m a dad... sort of 
I’m a dad... kind of
And I’ll hide behind these fathers
Pretending I am one of them
A poem about being a Foster Dad by: Kyle Ford