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YIA News

San Rafael Students Explore Identity

Drawing inside a paper bag without looking


Who am I? What part of myself do I show the world, and what do I hide?

These are some of the questions being explored by more than 1,500 3rd to 5th graders in a Youth in Arts visual arts residency.

“Selfie & Soul: Exploring Identity Through Mixed Media and Photography” is being taught virtually by Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Students have been provided art kits with collage papers, watercolor pencils, paper and other tools.

We have learned how to draw the human eye, create a mixed-media self portrait, make a “blind” drawing inside a paper bag and more. Toward the end of the 14-week program we will write and illustrate haikus, make an identity poster and create a superpower symbol.

A key part of early lessons has been observational drawing, Cathy said. Not only is it fun, but it encourages students to practice skills that can help in school and to become leaders comfortable with thinking outside the box.

“The world is so unsettled right now, and it’s important students look closely and critically at what they see and become confident in their choices,” Cathy said. “This course is a great chance for students to explore themselves and their world and how they fit into it.”

The San Rafael program is supported by Heads Up. It is also part of Youth in Arts’ YIArts.COR program (Creative Online Resource), our new digital learning platform. Through our virtual programs in visual and performing arts this Fall, Youth in Arts is reaching more than double the number of students we typically serve. 

The lessons include how-to videos, written instructions that can be printed out and a rich assortment of videos showing artists from around the world. They are designed to reach all learners, and families, classroom teachers and entire schools can access the free and affordable courses anywhere, anytime.

Cathy teaches how to draw a self-portrait based on a photograph

“Art is an equity issue,” Cathy said. “Learning online all day seems to be easier for some students than others, which makes even more important that we nourish everyone’s artistic spirit so everyone can shine. Kids can be enormously creative if they are just given the chance.”

Learning the parts of a human eye

Happnstance Performs Benefit Concert for Youth in Arts 10/30


(L to R) Danielle, Maria and Sean of Happnstance

Just because you’re staying home on Friday nights doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy live music. Treat yourself tomorrow to the beautiful harmonies of San Francisco indie-folk band Happnstance at a virtual concert to benefit Youth in Arts.

More than 125 tickets have already been sold by Youth in Arts Board Member Janine Simerly, who is hosting the virtual concert in her Mill Valley backyard. The event lasts from 6 to 6:45 p.m. and features Sean Simerly and Maria Pougiales-Posey, two-thirds of the trio (Danielle Bezadel has moved to the East Coast). 

“I kind of describe it as a millennial Peter, Paul and Mary but with 2 Marys and one Peter/Paul,” Janine said. “I’m pretty much Happnstance’s biggest fan.”

Tickets are $25 per household. To purchase (and get the Zoom link), visit

Sean and Maria sang together for three years when they were part of ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella ensemble. Janine said that experience was one of the most formative experiences of her son’s life. Friends he made are still close friends, she said, and he considers director Austin Willacy an important friend and mentor. Both singers are also part of Still Dawn, ‘Til Dawn’s chorus of alumni singers.

All proceeds benefit Youth in Arts programs and our mission to support creative, confidence and compassion in all learners of all abilities.







Celebrate YIArts.COR at Our Virtual Board Open House on Friday (10/23)

Youth in Arts is innovating everyday – and now has a new digital learning platform! At YIArts.COR, we have fully digital visual and performing arts programs education opportunities  to reach all learners.

Want to learn more? Join us tomorrow (Friday, 10/23) for a virtual launch party and open house hosted by our Board of Directors. The event lasts from 6 to 7 pm. Pacific time, and attendance is FREE! To come, click here:

You’ll also have a chance to create a Get Out the Vote poster with Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal.

Can’t make the event? No problem! Learn more at

YIArts.COR (Creative Online Resource) is a one-stop shop to find arts programs that fit your needs. Looking for an art lesson on flowers for your 2nd grade classroom? You’ll find it here. How about a dance lesson to get your fourth grader moving? You’ll find it here.

“We’re so excited to celebrate YIArts.COR, as we’ve been working tirelessly to make it the best it can be,” said Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “Youth in Arts may be considered a small, community-based organization; but we have a BIG solution to keep arts in the school day for students, schools and families.”

Youth in Arts was one of the first arts education nonprofits in the Bay Area to pivot to distance learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic school closures. With regular, in-person school hours limited, Youth in Arts is using YIArts.COR to reach students wherever they are – at home or in class. Already we are teaching more than 4,000 students online in San Rafael and other districts.

“Teaching online has allowed us to extend our programming beyond what we could have dreamed of,” Jacobson said. “While it isn’t the same as being in class, it is vital that students have a way to express themselves and share their voices during these challenging times.”

YIArts.COR provides access to streamlined, virtual arts education courses comprising different forms of digital engagement. The courses include sequential lessons that build on skills learned the previous week. Each course includes at least four lessons on topics such as Exploring Personal Narrative Through Dance; Seeds and Flowers; and Playful Shapes. Individuals and families can engage with courses on the platform anytime from anywhere. Beyond that, entire classrooms and schools can access longer, more in-depth digital courses uniquely tailored for their group by the Youth in Arts team. 

“This program enables Youth in Arts to reach far beyond Marin with its programs,” Jacobson said. “We are emboldened to expand our impact by upholding a belief that is central to our mission: Every student has a right to their own creativity. Youth in Arts is here to make sure that happens.”


ButterflEYES by Katharine Boyd (visual arts teacher at Marin Academy)

Each year, Youth in Arts hosts a show devoted to the work of teaching artists. This year we posed a pressing question: How did you stay inspired while sheltering in place?

The INSPIRE show is on view in our YIA Gallery windows and online through Nov. 27. Featuring painting, photography, drawing and mixed media, it explores the connections between North Bay teaching artists’ professional work and ideas they share with their students.

“Finding inspiration in a pandemic is a challenge, to say the least,” said Morgan Schauffler, Youth in Arts’ development and gallery manager. “I was so impressed by the work our local teaching artists created in quarantine, and am excited to share it with our community.” 

The gallery, located at 917 C St. in San Rafael, is one of the few venues in the nation solely devoted to showcasing children’s art. INSPIRE is the only annual exhibition to feature work by adults that is for sale. For inquiries please contact

This year’s exhibition features work by: Barry Beach, Carina Ybarra, Cathy Bowman, Jackie La Lanne, Jennifer Lipson, Julia James, Katharine Boyd, Katy Bernheim, Molly Blauvelt, Suzanne Joyal, & Taylor Mancini.

The artists in the show are part of a creative community that is working hard to find the best way to reach students online. Teaching a tactile subject, like visual art, poses unique challenges.

“I’m in awe of how our teaching artists have pivoted to continue to bring arts education to students virtually,” said Schauffler, who curated the show.

´Til Dawn’s Mini-Arts FINAL Showcase 9-28-20

´Til Dawn SingsFINAL PERFORMANCE 9-28-2020! Join us tonight. Are you free Monday nights? Soothe your spirit with inspiration from ´Til Dawn, whose members are finding innovative ways to express themselves on the virtual stage.

Through Sept. 14, the young artists are joining together in mini-arts showcases, performing original songs, leading virtual yoga flows, juggling, movement, cooking and more.  The artistry happens on Zoom from 6:40 p.m.

´Til Dawn Director Austin Willacy, who also performs as a solo artist and as a member of The House Jacks, said he wanted to find a way to have an end-of-the-year celebration since the group’s regular spring concert was cancelled because of COVID-19.
“These young people have been working really hard, both at being both a really supportive community during this uncertain time and at finding alternate ways to express themselves as artists and creatives,” Austin said. “These showcases provide a way to get to know the members individually. There’s a lot of hidden talent we’ve discovered.”
The Youth in Arts’ a cappella ensemble has 13 performers. Each showcase features two or three members at a time. At the first Aug. 10 event, Aidan Bergman juggled and taught his audience how to juggle virtually while Megan Shindelus led viewers through a series of yoga poses and performed an original song.
“Although we cannot perform together, the individuals who comprise ´Til Dawn have varied interests and are involved in a lot of really interesting stuff during quarantine,” Austin said.
Once the quarantine began, Austin learned quickly that he had to redirect the focus of how the group spends its time since it could no longer rehearse and harmonize together in person. Rather than learning a song they might not ever perform, ´Til Dawn members have been perfecting recordings of their work.
And, at their twice-weekly rehearsals, Austin also facilitated songwriting groups via Zoom breakout rooms.
“Right now, we’re not able to perform for audiences and receive that sense of completion and that form of positive feedback, so we shifted our goals; now we’re writing beautiful songs and compiling some great recordings,” Austin said. “It’s a tangible record of the work we have done.”

 The details:

Zoom Meeting ID: 891 1061 7564
Password: WhX6Bu

 DATES: Monday nights, Aug. 17, 24 and 31; Sept. 7, 14

TIME:  6 – 6:45 p.m.
Please join us!