At Youth in Arts, our goal is to build creativity, confidence and compassion in all learners, and we do that with impactful and exciting projects like The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program. Designed as a visual arts residency for kindergarten and first grade students, it builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills while giving children the chance to explore a variety of tools and materials. More importantly, children learn how to make and keep friends when they explore ideas like sharing and empathy.
The program was created in 2013 by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family to celebrate their son Walker’s life and his love for the arts. Walker also knew how to be a good friend. The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program builds important social emotional skills through innovative art lessons. Each class begins with a movement warmup and ends with reflection time so students can practice observing and discussing what they see: they learn how to show us and tell us more about themselves through their pictures.
In her first year teaching the program at Loma Verde, Suzanne Joyal described the process as joyful: “I was delighted by how willing the children were to take a risk and to express themselves in their own way. After lessons, teachers would sometimes express that a child was having difficulty and the only way they could share their emotions was through the artistic process. I couldn’t tell which child it was since they all responded so positively to the art.”
Studies have shown this program helps children succeed academically as they continue to the next grade. We love working with students who have completed the program as it provides an important foundation for Youth in Arts residencies in older grades.
The 12-week residency also includes professional development workshops for teachers, a family art night, a gallery exhibition of student art and a community event celebrating the young artists.
See our blog for stories and photos from past recipient schools!
See our blog for stories and photos from past recipient schools!
Support Kindergarten Arts through the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Program: DONATE NOW and mark your gift is In Honor of Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts.
The kits included a color pencil set, drawing pencils and a sharpener purchased at RileyStreet Art Supply, plus beautiful paper donated by WIGT Printing. Children also received coloring pages made from kindergarten and first grade self portraits from Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael featured in our online show, “Imagining Friendship,” our annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition. There were bilingual art lessons to do at home, too!
Special thanks to Youth in Arts’ Board Member Suzanne Reich Gibson, who helped lead this effort to organize and distribute art kits. Suzanne said that when she heard about the food bank, she offered to fundraise so that Youth in Arts could support Venetia Valley (Venetia Valley Elementary School is one of our partners). Wearing masks and practicing social distancing, she and Youth in Arts Development Associate Morgan Schauffler prepared the kits for distribution. Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal also pitched in by choosing and ordering supplies.
“To me, the great part of this is getting the artwork of Laurel Dell students into the hands of Venetia Valley students and their families,” our board member Suzanne said. “It shows how much we’re all a community and how much art connects us.”
Youth in Arts had set a goal of raising $10,000 for its Covid Relief Fund, with sponsor Troutman Sanders and Youth in Arts board members promising a 100 percent match up to $10,000. We exceeded our goal, and have raised more than $22,000 to sustain our organization and assist us with moving our educational programming online (including the generous $2,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Mission San Rafael). The fund will help teaching artists get more technical support for visual and performing arts residencies this Fall.
Thank you to all of our community partners. We could not do our wonderful, innovative programs without your support. With so many families are homeschooling and sheltering in place, partnerships between nonprofits and local businesses are more important than ever.
So far, more than 500 sanitized art kits have been created. We hope to continue providing them to students in our programs, so please consider supporting Youth in Arts as we continue to bring creativity to students of ALL backgrounds and abilities!
Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper writes about the culmination of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Art Program at Venetia Valley Elementary
As the culmination of a 12-week program, K and TK students at Venetia Valley Elementary integrated their newly acquired techniques as visual artists through the creation of unique and expressive self-portraits. To prepare for this final project, students completed a number of activities exploring line, shape, color and pattern. Then it was time to explore emotion. Students were given mirrors and are asked to draw four quick sketches of their own faces with different emotions: happy, sad, surprised and angry. We discussed how the lines of the mouth, eyes and eyebrows changed with each emotional expression.
Ready to embark upon their final portraits, students began with a pencil drawing using the mirrors and the emotional expression of their choosing. The next step was to trace their lines with oil pastels, then bring their portraits to life using vibrant watercolors. Students were encouraged to use colors to further convey emotions. The final works were astoundingly unique portraits that captured the students’ sense of pride, courage and creative identity.
Learning to identify and communicate emotions is no small task, no matter how old we are. In addition, when it comes to emotions, words often fall short. For children in the early stages of developing an awareness of their emotions and relational skills, creative outlets enable students new ways of understanding and expressing themselves and those around them. We all know that emotions give rise to wonderful art, yet what I learned from the young artists at Venetia Valley, is that the art we create can actually teach us about our emotions.
Thank you to the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund and to our Youth in Arts donors for supporting this program.
On Thursday, April 27, Laurel Dell teachers, students, staff and families came together at Youth in Arts to celebrate artwork on exhibit created by Laurel Dell kindergarteners in the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Art Program.
Created by Youth in Arts and Walker’s family to celebrate Walker’s life and love for the arts, the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program combines visual arts classes led by professional artist and educators with “Family Art Nights” that bring the school community together.
All Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts activities center on a theme of friendship–this is both a celebration of Walker, who was gregarious and loved making new friends, and a perfect developmental link for kindergarteners who are learning to be a part of a school community.
The culmination of the project is the annual “Imagining Friendship” gallery exhibit of student work on view at YIA Gallery in downtown San Rafael through May.
The exhibit also includes work from kindergarteners at Venetia Valley, who will celebrate together this week on May 4, and hands-on art activities for visitors. We are open to the public weekdays 11-4, as well as this weekend May 6-7 from noon to 4 pm for Marin Open Studios and on Friday, May 12 from 5 to 8 pm for 2nd Fridays Art Walk Downtown.
Colorful self-portraits created by the students are displayed alongside artist-created cardboard play spaces that show children you can create “something from nothing”.
Laurel Dell staff, teachers and families created a beautiful tote for Naomi Tamura and Ali Rezaian who started the Creative HeArts Fund to honor their son, Walker, and who helped Youth in Arts design the program to have a lasting impact on children. Naomi has since also become Youth in Arts Board President, leading the organization in reaching more Marin children with our creative programs.
To learn more about Creative HeArts, check out our video below. For more about the gallery exhibit, click here. To donate to support this opportunity for young artists, visit our online donation page.
Youth in Arts thanks the Creative HeArts Fund and the Tamura and Rezaian families for their ongoing support for this program.
This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.
Visit YIA Gallery to explore a world inspired by kids’ creativity! Experience a wild cardboard jungle brought to life, with drawings, paintings and sculptures from the 2016-17 Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program at Laurel Dell and Venetia Valley schools in San Rafael. Find out how these young artists explored ideas about friendship and emotion through the visual arts. Led by mentor artists Suzanne Joyal & Sophie Cooper
Creative HeArts Gallery Exhibit
YIA Gallery at Youth in Arts
917 C Street, San Rafael
Opening party for Venetia Valley Thursday, May 4 5:30-7pm
Weekend hours for the public Saturday-Sunday, May 6-7, noon to 4 p.m. for Marin Open Studios (alongside art from Suzanne Joyal who co-created the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program and YIA Mentor Artists Cathy Bowman and Julia James).
Late hours for the public 5-8 p.m. on Friday, May 12 for Art Walk Downtown
Regular hours Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 31
Free tours are available weekday for school and youth groups by appointment only. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-457-4878 ext. 150 to reserve.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program is supported by the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund celebrating Walker’s life, love of art and friendly personality. Schools apply each year for this grant-funded program that includes a full visual arts classroom program, teacher coaching and family art events. Click here for more information.
We’ve been busy at Youth in Arts getting Fall programs up and running at schools across the region and here on C Street!
Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, for example, is teaching visual arts at both Lagunitas in San Geronimo and at Bayside-MLK Academy in Marin City. At Lagunitas, it was challenging to engage middle school teen boys in the visual arts process. But when Cathy encouraged them to carve their own linoleum blocks for prints, entrusting them with sharp tools and teaching them about the importance of caution and control in creating a good design, they rose to the occasion creating beautiful work! You’ll be able to see for yourself this January-February when Lagunitas student work is featured in our YIA Gallery!
Mentor Artist Shawna Alapai’i has also started teaching ukelele and hula at Cascade Canyon in Fairfax. Shawna combines music and dance techniques with stories from the native Hawai’ian tradition that link to nature and the Earth.
She will be bringing her own performance ensemble, Halau Hula Na Pua O Ka La’akea to Cascade Canyon for the children to experience, and then students will work up to their own December performance!
YIA Visual Arts specialist Suzanne Joyal is about to start our fourth year of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts program. This amazing program engages kindergarteners and their teachers and families in a comprehensive visual arts learning program grounded in a theme of friendship, honoring 5-year-old Walker Rezaian’s life and love of art. This year–thanks in particular to donors at our April 2016 “Travel the World” gala–we will be expanding the program to a second site at Venetia Valley this year. Find out more about this special program in the video here.
Out-of-school, in our Intensive Arts Mentorship (I AM) programs, teens have been busy working on visual and performing arts skills and projects. C Street Project students created a giant-sized “Walkable Comic” for “Litquake” San Rafael, on exhibit in our YIA Gallery through mid-November. Click here for details on when to visit or how to arrange a free gallery visit for your school or youth group.
`Til Dawn A Cappella spent a Fall retreat weekend together and this week will open the Youth Leadership section of the National Bioneers Conference on Friday at the Marin Center in San Rafael. We are also taking `Til Dawn and C Street Project students to the Visual and Performing Arts college fair in South San Francisco this Sunday as part of our new “I AM Success” program to help teen artists pursue life beyond high school in the arts.
`Til Dawn is also busy rehearsing for their November 12 performance at “Signed-Sealed-Delivered, A Cappella Live!” at Dominican University. And save the date–Monday, December 26–for the `Til Dawn SING OUT! at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley!
We have also been busy booking assembly performances for school and community sites. For example, Dance Palace Community Center is presenting a series of Youth in Arts performances for students from West Marin schools–this month Ernesto Olmos and Balamcoatl shared traditional Mayan music and dance. Capoeira is coming up in November and then `Til Dawn A Cappella will round out the series in January.
We have many more performances in schools coming up, and our Assembly Performances are available across the Bay Area. Our Program Manager Morgan Schauffler can help you book Assemblies for your own site–you can give her a call at 415-457-4878 ext. 160 or just stop in at 917 C Street weekdays 11-4 to see “Walkable Comics” and talk with any staff member about all our exciting Fall activities and events!
I have been using percussion as a learning tool with special needs populations from Kindergarten to High School. I have had amazing classes at Redwood High, Terra Linda High and at Venetia Valley Elementary and I am looking forward to new classes starting up very soon at MLK Jr. Academy.
I believe strongly in the therapeutic power of music. Music is a powerful learning tool for any population and helps develop a huge range of skills that aid in cognitive development such as pattern recognition, listening, concentration, memory and communication skills. I have seen all of my students make amazing progress in these and other areas and I am very proud of all of them.
In my classes we use many kinds of percussion instruments (frame drums, bongos, bass drums, tambourines, shakers, woodblocks, etc.) to make beautiful music. We usually start by playing a simple beat and we follow along as the beat speeds up and slows down and as it gets louder and softer.
We also incorporate numbers and counting into our playing to show how numbers and math are an integral part of music.
In addition to these tools, I dedicate a portion of each lesson to “Question and Answer” or “Call and Response” in which I play short rhythmic patterns which the class carefully listens to and then plays back to me. This tool is especially useful in developing listening, memory and concentration skills.
Also, as a method for developing individual communication skills, I give each student a chance to find their own voice by improvising any rhythm they like while the rest of the class maintains a simple groove. This empowers the students, giving them a sense of original creation.
Finally, because we want to have fun, we end our workshops with a free-form jam session which always leaves us with smiles!
I would like to give many thanks to Nydia Algazzali Gonzalez for her participation in the classes at Terra Linda High where we work together. In those classes we have incorporated movement and dance (which Nydia leads) into the music workshops and have put together a performance for parents. She is an inspiring teacher and I have been lucky to work with her.
I also want to thank all the teachers and and teacher’s aides that helped out immensely during our sessions. My work has been made much easier by everyone’s help and participation.
Lastly I’d like to thank Youth in Arts as an organization for giving me the opportunity to work with such great kids, teachers and schools and I look forward to future opportunities to continue this important work.
Thank you so much!