The Sewam Dance of the Plains Indians assemblies at Edna Maguire Elementary School were a great success. Eddie Madril performed several different Plains Indians dances for the preK through 5th grade student audiences. His incredibly engaging dances culled with chanting and singing, had students, teachers and parents enraptured.
In addition to his solo performances, he also invited students to perform two different dances with him. For the first group dance, each teacher chose one student to participate onstage with Eddie. The big surprise came when those teachers were asked to join in as well. All fifteen got up, linked hands, and enthusiastically danced with Eddie and their students. The long line of participants weaved in and out of the crowd, much to audience’s delight.
The hoop dance was a particular highlight. Students experienced firsthand how challenging it is to work with the hoops when Eddie asked them to pick the hoops up with their feet. After they sat down, Eddie put on a breathtaking performance of the very complicated dance. Using eight hoops, Eddie transformed himself into a bird. The audible audience reactions clearly showed how awestruck the students were.
Eddie’s handmade regalia is artwork unto itself. The colorful feathers, embroidery and beadwork bring even more life to his dances. During the assemblies, Eddie explained the significance of what he wore in relation to the cultural history and traditions of various Native American tribes. He taught the students the meaning behind each dance and song performed as well.
Cara Guyot, the PTA volunteer who organized the assembly for Edna Maguire’s students praised, “We loved the assembly! In my three years of doing assemblies, this is the first time that I have received thank you emails from parents who heard such rave reviews from their children. Eddie really connected with the kids!”
We are thrilled to welcome our newest board member, Melissa Jones Briggs. Though she may be new to our board, Melissa has a long, successful history with Youth in Arts. She started as a YIA Mentor Artist in 2009, and over the next six years was instrumental in designing curriculum for our Artist in Schools and Arts Unite Us programs. She also co-developed our Intensive (visual) Arts Mentorship program, C Street Project with YIA Program Director, Suzanne Joyal.
Joining our board as a strong supporter of Youth in Arts’ mission, Melissa sees the imperative role that arts education plays in our children’s future. As she emphasizes, “Dialogue across difference, giving voice – through the arts, to the young, the marginalized and powerless – are core tenets at Youth in Arts. That is what inspired me to become involved again here, now. I am passionate about theatre, and multidisciplinary arts, as a tool for social change. I believe early childhood exposure to this work is especially powerful and has the most lasting effect.”
“We are at a critical point in American history for arts education – it is more important and less valued than ever,” she continues. “In the current climate of divisive rhetoric and action, the practices of empathy, expression and dialogue are weakening. These practices are crucial for healthy people and communities.”
Outside of her work with Youth in Arts, Melissa travels internationally working as a consultant, executive coach, and program designer specializing in power and presence. She is also on the faculty at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business where she co-teaches a course called Acting with Power.
Growing up with access to strong arts education in both the UK and the Eastern US shaped who Melissa became. She explains, “It empowered a voice, courage and joy that I carry with me, in my work and personal life, to this day. In addition to visual art classes in-school and dance classes after-school, my mother, my siblings and I spent our summers rehearsing and performing with local community theatre companies, like Trilogy Repertory in New York, and Runnemede Drama Group outside London.”
In her minimal spare time, she can be found mountain biking on Marin’s single-track trails, a hobby she taught herself in recent years, or occasionally performing her comedy routines! We are very thankful to have Melissa’s passion and expertise on our board.
Mentor Artist Marty Meade worked again with the students of Braun Day Treatment to create expressive and unique works of art. (it’s her tenth year with YIA!) From Marty:
Braun High School is a Special Needs school for young people with emotional problems, supported with a clinical team.
I am just finishing another ‘blessed’ year with these students providing them a creative outlet to express their feelings, to explore something new, and to just have fun. Besides offering a visual arts experience, I am also certified in Expressive Arts Therapy.
Students were able to explore acrylic paintings on canvas, watercolors and pastels. Fused glass, and decorating sugar skulls. Each week they join me with enthusiasm and “what are we doing today, Marty”. I have many who are reluctant to participate for fear of failure, but because of the variety of materials they slowly begin to participate. Glass art is always a mystery, as they have no control over the finished piece. Sugar skulls are just plain fun, as they are working with bright colored icings, and sugar.
The environment provides a safe place for these kids, but it takes patience as you plow through their resistance. After a year of absolutely not wanting to participate, X, a beautiful young woman began to open up and express her feelings. She was given a pumpkin shape, and I asked her to write some poetry… when she handed the finished piece to me there was a look of anxiety in her face. When I read her words, I held back the tears, as she began to express sexual abuse at an early age.
A clinical staff person was with me, and we were able to work together as we sat with her privately. I expressed how it made me feel, that she did not deserve this and that we were there for her. The following week, she returned to the classroom, but asked if she could just write, but stay in the classroom. (That was fine with me).
I am grateful for Youth in Arts as they first provided my services to this school. Additional funding is coming in to continue this weekly class, but one hour a week for art is still not enough.
Arts Unite Us is Youth in Arts program tailored for students in school with special needs. Youth in Arts is the only consistent provider of arts for special education programs in Marin.
Thank you to the Buck Family Fund of the Marin Community Foundation for supporting this program.