This month, 7th graders at Davidson Middle School had very unusual History class! Professional musicians Shira Kammen, Michelle Levy, and Jim Oakden played an assortment of medieval instruments for them (including vielles, harps, bagpipes, drums, recorders, and voice) as students learned about life and culture in Medieval Europe.
The artists made a special effort to make the 1000-year old music relevant and interesting to Middle School kids. “If you ever want to make music for movies and video games,” Levy explained, ”you need to learn an instrument, and you need to know about Medieval Music.”
The artists showed a powerpoint presentation which illustrated concept art and music for movies like “The Hobbit” and video games such as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Braid”, and described how this media is influenced by Medieval art, music, and mythology. “To create a realistic instruments for an imaginary time that takes place long ago,” Levy explained, “artist John Howe drew Medieval and Renaissance instruments for Dwalin & Bofur to play in The Hobbit.” Students saw actual medieval illuminations of people playing instruments from important Medieval manuscripts such as the Codex Manesse (Germany) and the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Galicia), followed by live demonstrations of those same instruments.
Through this multi-media demonstration, focusing on the main social structures in Europe during the Middle Ages and their impact on music and everyday life, students learned to identify where a piece might have been played in Europe and what role it served in the community, and they developed critical thinking skills and vocabulary while experiencing the music of the time on historical instruments. It was a history class they will never forget!
This year, in the Arts Unite Us After-School Playwriting and Performance Group, we created an immensely powerful show about the need to celebrate diversity. The story and themes were built over 15-weeks together of 2-hour sessions with a 38 member cast at Harding Elementary. Once we had picked a topic and a frame (Time Travel and the Future), the students created short skits, which we used as fodder for our playwriting.
Starting in the bleak future, where it’s the law that your favorite color is GRAY, “The Futuristas” soon find themselves chased by robot enforcers for admitting that they love BLUE. They are saved in the nick of time by “The Time Traveling Triplets,” (played, ironically, NOT by the actual triplets who are in the class), and soon find themselves traveling through time (and space?) to learn their forgotten history. Dinosaurs teach them lessons of bio-diversity, with the Spirits of the Really Past reminding The Futuristas “YOUR survival depends on YOUR diversity.” Then they are swept into an era of Social Justice Heroes, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Rosa Parks to Audre Lorde to I. King Jordan (the first deaf president of Gallaudet University). For the I. King Jordan piece, we had Paul, our interpreter, work with a hearing student who has a passion for American Sign Language. For her piece, Paul switched from interpreting in ASL to speaking out loud, and it was a joy to see some of the non-hearing kids in the front row of the audience light up as the actors began to speak their language. ”DEAF PRESIDENT NOW!”
In the end, by celebrating diversity, the Futuristas were able to get people in the Present to commit to getting off their phones and connecting with each other in more direct ways. When they finally returned to the future, April 1st (the day of our show) had become an international “Diversity Day!”
The process was one of community building and personal growth. Many students in the class do not see themselves as actors or performers, but stepped up in big ways and let their voices be loud and proud. After each performance, we had a “Talk-Back” session with the audience, inviting first the audience to give appreciations and then speak to what they learned from the show. The actors then responded with how it felt to hear their work celebrated and it was clear that they all felt deeply proud of themselves for the work they had done.
We are excited to keep this program going, as it serves so many purposes from artistic expression to social-emotional skill building to team work. I’m so proud of the Harding kids and wish them all a fabulous summer!
Thank you to the Thomas J Long Foundation and the Green Foundation for their continued support that makes this program possible!
Creative young artists from Bahia Vista Elementary School in San Rafael, their families, teachers and friends filled Youth in Art’s gallery opening night, April 10th in celebration of the second annual “Imagining Friendship” Art Exhibit.
Some 145 people experienced the kid-friendly art world that showcased work created by students in the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts program at Bahia Vista Elementary.
Inspired young artists, their siblings and friends explored a castle art structure, crawled through a dinosaur tunnel, played interactive tic-tac-toe, created personalized books. These cardboard creations incorporating drawings, paintings and sculptures were inspired by the kids’ creativity and imagination.
The kindergartners shared their lively watercolor self-portraits and welcomed their families into their world of creativity and wonder.
Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal said, “The weekly art classes leading up to tonight’s art opening are magical. I love seeing these young artists blossom and grow. Seeing smiles on the faces of these kids and their proud parents is the perfect culmination of three months of creativity, sharing and learning.”
Bahia Vista kindergarten teacher Tara Pauley said, “Wednesday’s have been my student’s favorite day of the week. They looked forward to exploring ideas about their feelings and friendships through their artwork and were always excited to see what fun and creative art projects Ms. Suzanne would bring into the classroom.”
The Rezaian family, surrounded by the young Bahia Vista artists and their creations, experienced first hand the magical results their generosity. The memory of their son Walker lives in the artistry and imagination these students created.
This celebration of the brilliance of the Bahia Vista children’s art could not happen without the generous support of Walker’s family. Their gift brings families together and symbolizes the importance of art within a community. Bahia Vista School is the second recipient of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund, following last year’s Loma Verde Elementary School in San Rafael.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program was created through a partnership between Youth in Arts and the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund, celebrating 5-year-old Walker Rezaian’s life and love for art. Youth in Arts worked with his family to create a kindergarten visual arts program focused on the theme of friendship. The Fund has provided all Bahia Vista kindergartners this year with professional instruction in the visual arts, along with workshops for parents and teachers.
Bahia Vista was selected for this program through a competitive application process. Click here for information about applying for the 2015-16 academic year.
Art inspires: Help young artists learn to share their vision and voices through the arts. Give today.
Special thanks to Peter Rodgers for capturing the photographs and joy of the evening
We’ve experienced some changes this winter at Youth in Arts and have two new faces here at 917 C Street!
At the end of December, Financial Controller Carol Slocum retired her position. Carol had previously served Youth in Arts as a member of our Board of Directors and then as Interim Executive Director, before joining the staff as Financial Controller in 2007. Carol was an integral part of the Youth in Arts staff, and we wish her the very best as she enjoys new adventures with family and friends.
Taking on many of Carol’s responsibilities has been Financial Manager Carla Moceri, who joined our staff in mid-December. Carla’s in-depth experience in finance includes Assistant Portfolio Manager at Dynamic Capital Management/JBT Financial Advisors, Marketing Consultant at Witan Capital, and Portfolio Analyst at GMAC-RFC and Northwest Airlines. Carla is a Charted Financial Analyst who holds a degree in Economics & Finance, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Last month, we also welcomed Susan Gordon, Youth in Arts’ first-ever dedicated Development Director. Susan is a creative professional with experience in non-profit development, fundraising, community outreach, licensing and journalism. She was the Development Director for Bread and Roses Presents and the Development Manager at Marin Theatre Company. Susan also created and implemented a grassroots organizing campaign around affordable housing – Marin Family Action. Susan holds a Bachelor’s in Education and a special education teaching credential from University of Missouri and studied journalism at San Francisco State University.
Carla and Susan are in the office most weekdays between 10 and 4, if you’d like to come say hello! If you have specific questions, you can reach them at the phone and email contacts below.
Carla Moceri, Financial Manager
415-457-4878 ext. 11
Susan Gordon, Development Director
415-457-4878 ext. 14