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YIA News

Exploring the Language of Art with artist Julia James

Magnolia Park is a small early intervention school site nestled by open space in Lucas Valley. Most of the young students were born without the sense of hearing and are now learning sounds and language with hearing implants. This is our first year working at Magnolia Park, and Mentor Artist Julia James introduced the young artists to a world of color and shapes and textures.

Over the course of ten weeks students used a variety of art tools, materials and surfaces. Highlights were working and collaborating on a large canvas for the Kennedy center. The canvas was created over four weeks using paints, stamped textures, printing with ink on rollers, bubble wrap, sponges and a variety of brushes. The beautiful canvas will become a part of the Kennedy Center’s International Art Exhibit.

Students celebrated the residency with work displayed in the classroom along with an according book which illustrated their person art journey.

Thank you to following funders for helping to make this program happen:

BFF-of-MCF-logoKC_Contract_color 2017-18


STEAMing up Garbage

P1180520Graphing Garbage

A STEAM workshop: Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, Math

Youth in Arts staff Suzanne Joyal and Miko Lee in collaboration with the Marin County Office of Education  led a cohort of classroom teachers through a workshop teaching about the environmental pollution and ways to transform garbage into art while also teaching about graphing.

Teachers watched this video about the Pacific Trash “Island” and learned about the immense amount of plastic that has been impacting the planet. They watched the presentation (available below) about the impact of pollution on animals and saw how professional adult artists and kid artists could make powerful art from trash to tell a story.

Suzanne described the Graphing Garbage arts integration project that she created at Willow Creek Academy. Lesson plan (available below). She showed how graphing can be showed in a various artistic formats. Teachers then went through trash collected by YIA. They sorted the trash by items that had the most dangerous impact on animals. Working in teams they showcased this by featuring three sizes of fish and a jellyfish on an ocean backdrop. After reflecting on this process, teachers discussed potential math and literacy extensions.

Teachers then created individualized animals that they could bring back to their classrooms to replicate the process.

For help with sorting and weighing garbage in all Marin Schools (except Novato), contact Casey Poldino at and check out this website  For Novato schools, contact Dee Johnson at Novato Sanitary or Recology

To make the recycled art more successful, Suzanne suggested purchasing Extra Tacky Glue and Tempera Cakes from RileyStreet Art Supply.

PaperSeed Foundation currently has a Recycled Art contest. Teachers and students win prizes. Click here for more info.

Graphing Garbage Integration Lesson and Graphing GarbagePPT was provided for the teachers to share in their classrooms.


Thank you to Christina Lunde for making the dinner and helping with logistics and to Eileen Smith for her assistance. PaperSeed Foundation to making this evening possible.

Paperseed logo

Art Beyond High School

On February 20th, as a special program during the “Rising Stars: 27th Annual Marin High School Art Show,” Youth in Arts hosted a panel discussion on “How to Pursue Art as a Passion and Profession.” We are so grateful to our panelists for sharing their experience and professional and life lessons with students and have received their permission to share some of their presentation materials here with those of you not able to attend.

Jane Baldwin spoke of her activism through photography, documenting the lives of the people of the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia.

Photo Essay by Jane Baldwin on the Kara women of Ethiopia

CLICK for Photo Essay by Jane Baldwin

This is a project that has evolved for Jane over a decade and she emphasized to young artists interested in documentary work and activism that you don’t need to know what your project will be when you set out to find it. She first visited the Omo River Valley to just take photographs, and returned many times in ten years to not only take her photographs, but to also record the stories of the women from the region. This as turned into work on women’s rights, clean water, and international education programs. She has exhibited her photographs and the stories she recorded in Sonoma, Korea, and hopefully in Milan Italy next year. Jane says to be open to new experiences and let them take you down new and unexpected paths.

Kanna Aoki, a painter who lives with her family in the East Bay talked about different ways she had put her college art training to use over the course of her career.

CLICK for images of Kanna's work over her career

CLICK for PDF of Kanna’s work over her career

Kanna showed images of her work as a commercial artist, which she did both under the direction of commercial art directors (i.e. creating a specific image for a specific product) and “on spec” (developing graphics or patterns that companies might later decide to use in their product design or promotions). After starting her family, Kanna found the deadline-centric world of commercial art was no longer a match for her life. She grew her career as a painter, developing relationships with galleries that now show and sell her works–she also works on commission, creating paintings of specific views or images for clients. Kanna suggested students keep an eye out for galleries (or restaurants or other venues that show and sell art) that seem like they would be a match for your media and creative approach. Then do your research! Look them up online, reach out via email, try to make an appointment to show them your portfolio. “It’s important to remember that gallery staff are usually very busy–the gallery is where they work, meeting with clients, handling sales. You can’t walk in and expect to  talk with them. You need to make an appointment.”

Steven Polacco, Associate Professor, Graphic Arts, Dominican University presented on “Five Things You Must Do When Applying To Art Colleges”.

CLICK for Steven's PDF presentation

CLICK for Steven’s PDF presentation

Steven emphasized that students should do their research and find multiple schools to apply to that might meet their needs. The internet is great for research he noted but also urged students to “Get out there! Go visit these places and see what they are like in person.” He mentioned that if you meet with faculty on your visit, it’s a good idea to have some images of your work (i.e. on a phone or similar) that you can show them informally if you have a chance to do that. Not all faculty will take a look, but some will and it’s a good chance to get early feedback on your portfolio. When it comes to the portfolio itself, Steven urged students to pull together work that represents you and your artistic direction. He mentioned that sometimes you will want to “tweak” your portfolio for one school or another (certainly you need to meet whatever requirements they have). But don’t choose work to try to please this admissions committee or that one. Choose work that represents who you are as an artist and what you have to say. And, says Steven, “Have someone look at it!” He encouraged students to get lots of feedback before their applications are due, to make sure they are representing their work the way they want to. Finally Steven recommended looking at off-campus opportunities, programs in the community, summer programs, etc. Many art colleges have “pre-college” programs that can give you a sense of whether an art college will be a good next step for you.

Barry Beach, a teacher at Marin Academy, exhibiting sculptor and private college admissions consultant showed some “Do’s and Dont’s” for portfolio images you may use online or in other formats (link to examples here).

CLICK for web link to portfolio image Dos and Don'ts

CLICK for web link to portfolio image Dos and Don’ts

Some advice–keep the background free of distractions and as neutral as possible. Pay attention to how you crop your images to put your work front and center. Don’t be afraid to use photo editing tools to create a good, crisp image–while you don’t want to actually alter the underlying image, it’s definitely not “cheating” to adjust digital parameters (levels, brightness, shadows, etc.) to get a clearer image of your work. Barry also advised students keep and carry a sketchbook so that you are always creating images that may evolve into pieces in your portfolio.




Jay Daniel, owner of Black Cat photography (who also generously photographed work  for students attending the workshop) spoke about  his work as a technician creating high quality images for artists and about his experience in the art field at large.

CLICK for PDF with advice on photographing work

CLICK for PDF with advice on photographing work

Jay laid out elements to pay attention to when photographing work (PDF here) and went over a photography set-up that he said works for “75 to 90% of any artwork you might need to photograph” (PDF here). He also talked about how working artists need to balance creativity and financial sustainability. It’s a tiny percentage of artists, he noted, that can create absolute anything they want, however and whenever they want, and have that work out financially for them. You need to explore all your options and figure out what will work well for you. Will you be happy adjusting your work to an art director’s requests or creating work on a deadline that absolutely can’t be missed? Can you find someone who wants to buy the kind of work you like to create? He mentioned that when he was teaching a portfolio course in an art college, he  required students to also create a business plan, something many of them resisted but that he felt was essential. At the same time he asked a “very successful artist friend” he works with what her advice for students would be and she said young artists need to balance the business side of art with their creativity and keep their practice “joyful.”

Finally architect, designer and educator Shirl Buss, walked students down the curving and creative pathway from a childhood love of building things with her father, to college at UCLA, to establishing a nonprofit around women in construction, to architecture school and her current work in both design and education.

CLICK for Shirl Buss presentation slides

CLICK for Shirl Buss presentation slides

Shirl talked with students about how the same ideas can come up again and again in different ways, creating new turns in the  pathway–in Shirl’s case finding herself in a man’s world and deciding what to do about that, first in construction and later in architecture school; her love of teaching children of all ages throughout all the phases of her career; her enthusiasm for power tools (and especially for teaching kids to build with them!) and her interest in design and how humans shape the world around us. She encouraged students to be open and to explore and find their own creative pathways forward, which she is confident they will do!

We are so grateful to all our panelists–thank you!


Eddie Madril Wows at Dance Palace

P1100455On a beautiful, sunny late-January day in Point Reyes, Eddie Madril put on two energetic performances of his Sewam Dance of the Plains Indians assembly, as well as a follow-up workshop for 250 PreK–8th grade students at Dance Palace.  Many local students attended, as did students who were bussed in from Bolinas-Stinson Union School District, and from all over the Shoreline Unified School District.  Eddie Madril, is a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico, and his 50-minute performance introduced students to several Native American dances including the Grass Dance, and Hoop Dance. The origins and meanings of each song and dance were explained to the audience, as he performed.

Eddie’s handmade regalia is artwork unto itself.  The colorful feathers, embroidery and beadwork bring even more life to his dances.  During the assemblies and workshop, Eddie explained the significance of what he wore in relation to the cultural history and traditions of various Native American tribes.

As always, the hoop dance was a particular highlight. Eddie put on a breathtaking performance of the very complicated dance.  Using eight hoops, Eddie transformed himself into several forms, including a bird.  The audible audience reactions clearly showed how awestruck the students were. Selected students and teachers experienced firsthand how challenging was to work with the hoops when Eddie asked them up to the stage during the workshop component of the morning.  He had them use different methods to try to pick the hoops up with their feet, to varying levels of success.  Everyone has a wonderful time!

A special thank you to the California Arts Council for their generous support of this program!




Family Flags at Hidden Valley Elementary

Youth in Arts hosted our forth Free Family Art Night for the fire impacted, Hidden Valley Elementary in Santa Rosa on February 6th.  Hidden Valley lost their satellite location in the North Bay Fires in October 2017.  In addition 133 students, 1/4 of their school population, were displaced from their homes by the fire.  In spite of surviving this incredible adversity, all of the event’s participants were wonderfully positive, enthusiastic, and engaged.  They produced some of the most beautiful Family Flags we have seen thus far – full of color, hope and life.  We loved spending our evening with the Hidden Valley Hawks! #hawkstrong

Thank you to our project partner Riley Street Art Supply for providing all of the art supplies for the Family Art Night.  RileyStreet also generously donated fantastic art kits to all of the students who lost their homes in the fires.

If you are interested in supporting the program, please donate here.