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.
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.
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”.
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).
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.
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.
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 and the California Arts Council for helping to make this happen–thank you!
On 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!
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.
Ian Dogole’s Thoughts:
“These have been profound and unforgettable experiences. One lasting impression will be the heroic commitment that the educators, nurses and aids make to each one of these students and the exuberance and joy that accompany each positive outcome.
In Kim Cochrane’s class, the students have very limited mobility. I had some trepidation prior to my first class as to whether I could have a positive impact with them. After 7 classes, my perspective has undergone a complete transformation! I feel deely connected to these students and when a breakthrough occurs … even at the most subtle level … there is a celebratory feeling in the classroom and I feel so uplifted. Kim and all of the nurses and aids have been unbelievably supportive and appreciative and I am deeply grateful. From my perspective, they are all heroes for their devotion to these students and for their consistently positive attitude.
Katie Peter’s class presents a different type of challenge — her students are mobile and capable of holding and playing percussion instruments to varying degrees. The goal for me is to attempt to keep them engaged and look for ways to raise the bar for them in the most supportive and fun way that I can. Like Kim’s class, Katie and her support staff have been quite helpful in this endeavor. We did experience mini-breakthroughs with a few students this past week using repeated spoken words to convey specific rhythms. Quite powerful.
Many thanks to Youth In Arts for offering me this opportunity. It has been revelatory.”
Thanks to the Buck Family Fund of MCF and Marin Charitable for making this program possible.
We are thrilled to welcome long-time Youth in Arts supporter, Janine Simerly to our board! Janine’s youngest son, Sean Simerly of Happnstance joined Youth in Arts’ Til Dawn A Capella group when he was a sophomore in high school. Janine remembers his experience fondly, “Sean had a lot of interests. He was a busy kid. Without doubt, the thing that ‘lit him up’ like no other was ‘Til Dawn. It was, from my vantage point, the most transformative experience of his high school years. He learned so much, not just about music and voice and harmonies (and beat boxing). ‘Til Dawn embodied everything that is wonderful about a team sport — without the orthopedic injuries.
One of the greatest joys in my life was attending ‘Til Dawn performances and watching these kids grow and blossom over the years, from nervous, awkward kids into seasoned professionals, so comfortable on stage with a mic in their hands.”
She also has a tremendous amount of respect for ‘Til Dawn director and mentor, Austin Willacy. “Austin Willacy is incredible. The man is a genius. He not only taught these kids about music and discipline. He also taught them to support and love one another. I could go on and on.”
Janine, a partner at the Miller Law Group in San Francisco, plans to bring her incredible energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the YIA Board, as well as, “an irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes that comes in handy.” Her goals as a YIA board member are to be, “a productive and valuable member of the board. To contribute. And hopefully pay back a little of what YIA has given to me (and Sean) over the years.” We feel very lucky to have her on our team!
Growing up in New Orleans, Janine had access to a well rounded arts education that included visual art, theatre, and music. Though she doesn’t consider herself an “artist” today, she is an avid gardner, champion Chili-maker, and she loves to sing and perform. “In my high school and college days, I had a blast performing in musicals. I’m told that I really nail ‘Big Spender’ from Sweet Charity.” We’re hoping she’ll grace us with a performance very soon.
Thank you, Janine!
Inspired by the paintings of artist Jasper Johns, students at Oak Hill school created their own numerical works of art. Using large stencils made by Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, they traced numbers 0 through 9. Nearly 30 students worked on the collaborative project. Some created a single number, while others made several. In the end there were 70 numbers – 7 sets of 0 through 9.
Students enjoyed working with a familiar subject matter, and the straight and curved sides of the stencils gave them a solid framework for drawing. Once the numbers were stenciled onto watercolor paper, they used oil pastels and watercolors to explore pattern, color and shape. They were encouraged to look at the entire page and decide where to apply the pastel, knowing that the pastel would “resist” the watercolor that came later. Some students worked entirely with pastels, giving their numbers bright, bold lines and shapes. Others used mostly paint, preferring to create numbers with soft edges. The project was a wonderful opportunity for young artists to experiment with unfamiliar materials, including water-soluble graphite. For some, it was a chance to practice touching and using pastels that were freed long ago from their paper sleeves. The pebbled surface of the heavy watercolor paper was a satisfying and sturdy surface on which to create. The project was also a chance for artists to practice thoughtful watercolor techniques and gentle brush motion.
When the paintings were finished, we looked at the stencils. After being handled, touched and scribbled on by numerous students, the stencils had become works of art. With each mark and splotch of paint that remained, the numbers told a story far beyond what ended up on paper.
Thank you to the following for helping to make this program happen:
The 27th annual RISING STARS show opened with a lively Awards Reception for participating artists at the Youth in Arts Gallery in downtown San Rafael on February 4th. 330 students, parents, and teachers visited the gallery throughout the afternoon. Executive Director, Miko Lee and Student Board Member, Rose Myers presented forty prizes to students from 17 of Marin County’s public, private, and alternative high schools full list of winners here. The show was blindly adjudicated by our panel of professional artists: painter, Kay Carlson; ceramicist, Melissa Woodbury; and photographer, Joy Phoenix. Additional awards were granted to students selected by Perry’s Art Supplies & Framing, RileyStreet Art Supply, Alejandra Tamayo, and Youth in Arts.
The exhibition, which runs through March 28th, highlights paintings, drawings, photography, ceramics, sculptures, digital and mixed media work from up to 12 teacher-nominated students from each school. Over 130 students submitted 2D and 3D artwork for this years RISING STARS, and the varied works have come together in a beautiful presentation that draws well-deserved attention to the talented visual arts students throughout Marin County. Though our staff and judges are always thoroughly impressed by level of student ability, the quality of artwork in this year’s show is particularly astounding. We were also moved by the eloquence and thoughtfulness of the artist statements produced by this years participants. Thank you student artists!
RISING STARS will be on view at YIA Gallery, 917 C Street in San Rafael, through March 28th, 2018; 11am–4pm. We are also open for the 2nd Fridays Art Walk Downtown: Friday, February 9, 5-8 p.m; Friday, March 9, 5-8 p.m.
and Allan Daly for photography
Teens, please join us for a visual arts workshop, How to Pursue Art as a Passion & Profession, on February 20th.
By Shirl Buss, Ph.D.
I am an urban designer and educator. One of the most joyful things I do is facilitate architecture and urban planning studios for elementary school children in public schools through Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN.
Like many adults today, I am asking myself how—in my professional role—can I positively contribute to the #MeToo movement for and with the children in my life? How might I, when I work with young people, respond proactively to the gender inequities and injustices that we are witnessing every day? How can I help both boys and girls express their own power, free from the distortions and abuses of sexism and racism?
In the 30+ years I have been working in the studio or classroom with children—even very young ones—I have observed how they all crave validation for who they are as human beings. Boys and girls openly express the desire to feel that they genuinely matter—to adults, as well as to each other. They are also eager to energetically actualize their potential as makers, doers, and leaders. Unfortunately the messages we all learn about gender and power are ingested at a very young age. Hence, in their quest for personal potency, children often adhere to traditionally defined masculine and feminine forms of power— to the detriment of both.
Within this context, I would like to share a very popular challenge that my colleagues and I pose for children when we start our architectural residencies in their classrooms. It’s called Towers of Power.
To begin, we ask each child to write down five distinctive adjectives describing his or her strengths and talents. When they have a good list of descriptive words such as Creative, Athletic, Musical, Loyal, Friendly, Kind, Smart, they inscribe these words on colorful paper discs and put them aside. Each student then gets a 4” x 4” wooden base, a selection of recycled cabinetmaking wooden pieces, and glue. Their mission is to build a model tower that may not exceed 20” in height nor extend beyond the perimeter of the base. For the next hour or so, the students design and build model skyscrapers—testing structural forces, adding details, and creating their uniquely beautiful edifices. Because of the constraints on the project—especially the limit on height, and width— as the children build their towers they concentrate their energy on qualities such as elegance, strength, and balance. For a finishing touch they artfully affix the colored discs bearing their five adjectives and their name onto their tower.
When the towers are completed, we all step back and behold a stunning array of Towers of Power! In that moment, all of us see an extraordinary “snapshot” of what an egalitarian future might look like. These beautiful structures—built by both boys and girls—stand before us adorned with proud adjectives describing each young architect. These towers stand tall, reflecting the shiny young people who so lovingly created them. They symbolize the many strengths, talents, and gifts these children have to share with the world.
At that point, we challenge the children to present their own tower to the group. We often invite fellow architects and urban planners in to give the children feedback on their work during these presentations. One panelist, an architect, was nearly in tears while the children were sharing their towers. She later told us, “It is so moving to see third grade children, girls in particular, stand before a crowd, and proudly proclaim, ‘I am strong. I am talented. I am creative.’ What an affirming, empowering experience! I never had this opportunity when I was a girl.”
As I reflect upon this project and the hundreds of children who have built their Towers of Power over the years, I am moved to share it with everyone looking for light, optimism, and a new narrative about gender relations. Amidst the stories of sexual harassment, bullying, and discrimination, this project shows that during those early years—before sexism and misogyny become inbred—we can help children define and experience power in new and different ways.
We as adults can, and should, play a role in creating a healthier culture where the pathways to power for both boys and girls are not based upon dominance and submission, but rather equity and mutuality. We can create opportunities for children to experience their personal power and agency with integrity, dignity, and respect. These beautiful children and their Towers of Power offer us all a vision of gender equity and redefined power. Together they compose an image of a future I want to inhabit — NOW!