Written by YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
This was my first year in Michaela Mirsky’s lower elementary special day class at Edna Maguire elementary in Mill Valley, and it was extremely rewarding to watch the growth of these students over the 10 weeks. There were several who were extremely resistant the first few weeks, and we were all extremely impressed with their level of participation by the culmination of the residency.
I engaged these students through the use of puppets and songs, a technique that was new to me. The level of engagement and calm throughout the class was evident immediately once they saw my “magic puppets” emerge from their bags. Some songs that worked well with puppets were: “Three Little Monkeys” with an alligator puppet and three monkey puppets, “Buzz Buzz” with Bee finger puppets for each child, and “We are the dinosaurs” with various dinosaur puppets.
I also used frog percussion instruments for the section of the class that was devoted to rhythm. They loved hearing the croaking sound they could make with them, and they were listening so closely that I heard distinct rhythmic phrases, something that I had never heard when I asked them to clap.
It was a fantastic time, and I am incredibly grateful for discovering the magic of puppets!
On June 12, an enthusiastic crowd celebrated the series of murals going up throughout downtown San Rafael as part of the Creative San Rafael project. The C Street garage was unveiled with a series of 12 murals entitled, “Travel the World with Youth in Arts” illustrating explorer and photographer Louise Arner Boyd’s observation, “You’re an explorer even when you are at home.” The murals were created by 700 children at the Marin County Fair. Additional murals will continue to go up all throughout downtown San Rafael and will be announced on the Creative San Rafael website and facebook.
The mission to beautify Downtown San Rafael is part of a collaboration involving local government, businesses and nonprofits. Youth in Arts has brought PreK-high school creators to the project, while Dominican College has showcased work from college students with members of the Downtown Street Team. ArtWorks Downtown has featured professional artists Lauren Bartone and Ernesto Hernandez Olmos.
The crowded event was highlighted by performances from Youth in Arts teen companies including`Til Dawn a capella and an ensemble performance of C Street Project’s spoken word poem “Today’s Tomorrow.” The poem and accompanying murals were inspired by Isabelle Allende’s quote “Today’s girls are tomorrow’s women and leaders.” All original artworks created by youth are available via silent auction at the YIA Gallery through July 30.
Distinguished community leaders helped to give C Street Project’s work its first performance, including Tom Peters, President/CEO of Marin Community Foundation; San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips; District 1 Supervisor Damon Connolly; Gabriella Callicchio, Director of Cultural and Visitor Services for the Marin Center; Cecilia Zamora, President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Marin; Nikki Wood, Editor of Marin Magazine; Pepe Gonzalez, Principal Laurel Dell School; Merl Saunders, Jr., Executive Director, Fenix Entertainment; Donn K. Harris, Chairman California Arts Council; Joanne Dunn, Co-Founder of Youth in Arts, Comedian/Writer Geoff Bolt and Thomas Roedoc, Art Walk Downtown.
Youth in Arts transforms young lives. With your help we can make sure each of our young artists learn to share their vision and voice through the arts.
This program was supported by the following generous donors:
Written by YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
students from Santa Margarita, a near by mainstream preschool, to join us weekly. She and the teachers from Santa Margarita Preschool have been looking for a way to integrate these two schools, and this Arts Unites Us residency was the first concrete step they were able to take toward this goal.
The presence of the Santa Margarita students greatly motivated Jessica’s students to move beyond their comfort zone and engage in activities that were new to them. We noticed that they were more fully engaged in the music and the movement and were more apt to accept new songs and dances into their repertoire.
Jessica’s students also made great strides in their musicianship, more than they had in the past. They were able to follow melodies in accuracy I had not seen before, and they were even able to read short rhythmic phrases by the end of the residency!
Now that Jessica’s students have fiends they feel comfortable with at Santa Margarita, they are traveling to that school site each week to participate in their music program as well.
Once again our fabulous cast of Youth in Arts Mentor Artists created art, community and opportunities for students in the Bay Area. Students in 25 Special Day Classes, Pre-K to Post-Secondary, explored techniques in Visual Art, Music, Dance and Theater and shared their talents with the community through culminating events.
The Arts Unite Us program aims to make high quality arts opportunities accessible to students of all abilities and to build understanding and acceptance in our communities. This year students from Redwood High School, Harding Elementary and Mount Tamalpais High School participated in collaborative residencies in which students from Special Day Classes and General Education classes worked together to create art.
Teachers in the Special Day Classes we serve value the program and what YIA Mentor Artists bring to their classroom:
“I am always so blown away and impressed with all the skills learned by our students during the YIA sessions, but am especially impressed with the leadership skills, creative thinking, self-expression and artistic expression that our students learn. The YIA artists and lessons bring out skills in my students that I don’t always have the opportunity to bring out. Without the professional artists coming into our classes, we do not have the access to adults with these skills at our schools. Mainstream classes can be too impacted, and general education teachers are not always equipped to handle the needs of students with special needs in their classes. Having art activities that are tailored to meet our students needs enables all students to access curriculum and experiences that their general education peers receive.” SDC Teacher Rachel Hughes, Terra Linda High School
Under the guidance of YIA Mentor Artist William Rossel, students from Katie Peter’s Special Day class worked with students from the Band program and opened the music concert at Redwood High School with a percussion piece. YIA Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs worked with Tam High’s Julianna Rees to lead students from Michael Lovejoy’s Special Day Class and Advanced Theater students in writing and performing an original play. At Harding Elementary, YIA Mentor Artist Thomas Arndt lead a group of 40 students in writing, directing and performing a play that incorporated American Sign Language and featured students from Harding’s HOH (Hard of Hearing) program.
ASL Translator Paul says this about the program at Harding:
“I have truly enjoyed being a part of The Arts Unite Us program and watching HOH students as well as other students in the classroom where I work grow in confidence in their class room participation. Maya, the primary HOH student I work with rarely spoke up in class. This changed dramatically after she started participating in the program and after taking on a significant speaking part in the play. It is amazing to see how her and other students confidence begin to soar so quickly!”
Each of these experiences have left a lasting impact on the students involved. Many students from Special Day Classes and HOH programs performed in front of their peers for the first time. Many of the General Education students had their first experience interacting with their peers who have abilities that are different than their own, gaining understanding and empathy.
This is what a few General Education students had to say about that experience:
“I loved participating in this project. I thought it was a great way for me to learn about people who have different abilities. I learned that they have the ability to create great things.”
“It was really fun to meet and interact with the Special Ed class. They were so sweet and friendly. I learned that some things that are easy to me are difficult to other people.”
“I had fun! I really enjoyed spending time with the [Special Ed] kids and would do it again. I learned they often have interesting ways of thinking about things. It was interesting to hear their perspectives.”
“I learned that everyone is unique in their own way. Not everyone does the same moves or talks frequently. I feel like I’ve learned so much about interacting with other people.”
As the creator and director of the Arts Unite Us program, I am so proud of the work we have done over the years and I have witnessed first hand the impacts that this program has had on students, teachers, artists and families. This program has served as a catalyst for progress, acceptance, understanding and art making that will last a lifetime.
This year, as I step down as Program Director, I pass the torch over to my colleagues at Youth in Arts so that they may continue to promote accessible programming for everyone in our community. I would like to thank every artist, teacher, administrator and student who has participated in this program. And, thank you to those who have provided much needed funding for this program, including Thomas J Long Foundation, The Green Foundation, Marin Community Foundation, Green Foundation, Marin Charitable, and Italian Street Painting Marin.
Author Isabel Allende visited with C Street Project at Youth in Arts last week to see visual art created by the students, inspired by her words as part of the Creative San Rafael project, and to talk with the youth. Ms. Allende was so gracious and generous with her time, wit and advice–and all our C Street Project students asked great, insightful questions on topics ranging from how an artist finds inspiration to the experience of writing in a second language.
Students shared their original art work inspired by the quote “Today’s girls are tomorrow’s women–and leaders.” Ms. Allende was kind enough to sign students’ works, which will be on exhibit and available for purchase via silent auction starting June 12 at YIA Gallery at 917 C Street. Join us for our June 12 opening celebration or visit Monday-Friday 10 am to 4 pm through the run of the exhibit.
Youth in Arts C Street Project provides training in writing for performance, acting and visual arts techniques, along with unique opportunities to participate in community engagement and public art projects and site-specific performances. This year, students have been working on a series of murals for the Creative San Rafael project soon to appear as public art banners along Third Street in Downtown San Rafael! Next year will bring more public art and performance opportunities for our newest after school program for teen artists–contact Suzanne Joyal for more information about becoming a C Street Project member.
And check out more great photos below by Peter Rodgers from our visit with Ms. Allende!