The 4th and 5th graders at SRCS created some stellar short plays on issues they were passionate about changing.
I received so many thank you’s after their classes. So many questions about different issues. So many stories of how they are taking agency to create change in their lives. They were fired up.
Then one day after a class, I received a different type of response to the work we were doing. “Can I talk to you Hannah, about something that happened to me that’s about racism?” one of my 5th grade students at SRCS asked me after class.
I nodded and we sat side by side on the edge of the stage. My student shared with me that he had been the target of racist words multiple times. His voice shook as he told me story after story. I listened. When he was done I thanked him for having the courage to share those stories with me. I asked if he had shared this story with anyone else. He replied,
“No. I didn’t think it was ever OK to talk about racism until you taught us it was.”
My heart broke. Some topics are really uncomfortable to talk about. Like racism and sexism. Especially because so much shame can be linked to those topics if we have personal experiences with them. I was beyond grateful to provide this student an opportunity to share his experiences. Though it might be painful, working through our negative experiences is how we heal. Not by covering them up and pushing them down.
After a lengthy conversation I walked this student to the counselor to help him process and get support. As I walked through the muddy field to my car, I was reminded that this is why I do this work. This is why I help young people create a sense of agency and power around making change in this world. This is why I work so hard to normalize having these uncomfortable conversations. So that through a safe-space, we as a community, we as Americans, we as human beings can hear each others stories with empathy. And find inspiration in the discomfort so that we may all heal, grow, and change.
By YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Gavagan
The 6th-8th grade students at SRCS were amazing. They were able to discuss the issues in the world with a determination to create change. They exuded power by telling their stories. In short, they had something to say.
One group especially had something to say. And they worked harder than any group I have ever taught in my entire teaching career. That is a bold statement, I know. But these four 8th grade girls would pop their heads into the theatre at lunch, recess, and every break they had to ask me, “Is it ok if we rehearse on the stage?” OF COURSE was always my answer. The short play they devised was constantly growing and shifting. Every practice was an opportunity for them to make their message stronger. They knew they had something to say. The issue they chose to tackle was consent.
I am not writing about these girls because the play they performed was so well executed (it was), or because they were some of the most talented actors I have had the pleasure of teaching (they were), but because of their collaboration and determination to make there voices heard in the most creative, powerful ways possible.
The class before their final performance, they asked if it was alright if they wore shirts they made. OF COURSE was my answer. They showed up to their performance donning white shirts with black lettering across the front that said “You are not alone.” I loved them! However, they still surprised me. During the final moment of their play, one of the girls who dealt with someone who did not respect her lack of consent spoke to the audience. She said she felt so alone and did not understand why this happened to her. She turned her back on the audience and knelt, defeated. As she turned around, I saw the back of her shirt. It read,
I burst into tears. That moment was emanating with power. Then the three other girls in the cast came onstage and physically helped her up. All their shirts also read #MeToo on the back. Once they all stood with locked arms, they faced the audience and reminded us that no one is alone in dealing with our traumas.
These girls used every opportunity to strengthen their message. And the hundreds in the theater heard them loud and clear. I was one proud director. But more importantly, they were incredibly proud of themselves.
by YIA Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper
What a wonderful day we had with the Terra Linda Special Day Classes led by Rachel and Abby. We had 9 adults assisting the 12 students on the final sharing day of my residency last week. I thought it would be nice to start our day off with a warm up to Bob Marley. The man! He cuts to the chase with his lyrics of “Is it love?”. It must be love because everyone was smiling while we moved all our bodies in unison to get ready for the big dance called KUKU. It is from Guinea West Africa and it involves fishing with nets, sharing our catch, becoming fishes and having a full on party at the end. The African based cultural dance day eased in with our sharing of energy around the room both in clockwise and counter clockwise directions. We cleaned up the day with Keb Mo and Michael Jackson and my all time favorite get funky dance song “Green Onions” by Booker T. and The M.G.’s. It just takes it away. The paras and the aides all danced a solo in the middle of the room which they all accomplished with flair. Each wheelchair got a pirouette opportunity and the students crushed it with smiles. I love sharing with so many students the joy of movement and music. It seems like it keeps getting better the more we do it. Each time feels better than the next.
Executive Director of Marin Cultural Association and Marin Center Gabriella Calicchio provided an overview of the Marin County Arts Plan that is currently in process. Marin County Office of Education’s Eileen Smith described the Arts Education planning process and Youth in Arts Executive Director Miko Lee spoke about the San Rafael Cultural Arts District that is underway.
An overview of statewide arts data being collected around Arts Education in California.
A localized version that is used in LA County Arts Data
The preliminary work in process in Marin that includes elementary and community based organizations Marin Arts Ed Data project
Since these multiple arts planning are underway it was stressed how critical it is to build the case for arts education. Youth in Arts has created an Advocacy page so that schools/organizations that are ready to develop an arts plan can forge right ahead.
As an arts community in Marin we will begin to focus on celebrating youth artists and sharing the power and story of arts education during National Arts Education Week – September 12-18, 2018
Marin County Office of Education will host a series of professional development workshops both at the county office and then at specific school and community sites. If you are interested in providing a workshops reach out to Eileen Smith.
Samples of how other counties celebrate arts education (month/week)
For more information about how you can become involved. Please reach out to Miko Lee.
National Arts in Education Week
Passed by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 designates the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. During this week, the field of arts education joins together in communities across the country to tell the story of the impact of the transformative power of the arts in education. Watch the video and join us in the celebration!
These students had eight sessions of Persian dance and culture class with Shahrzad Khorsandi, director of Shahrzad Dance Academy and author of The Art of Persian Dance. The eight-week session included a group choreography, culminating in a student performance.
In addition to the choreography, the students learned about the geography of Iran, the different regional dances, cultural traditions, and even learned how to do the special (and loud) two-handed Persian snap! When asked what their favorite part of the experience was, many said it was when they worked in small groups to create their own movement patterns in the dance style they were learning.
By YIA Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman
This past winter I had the privilege of working with four fun and friendly San Rafael High School students on creating signage for the Youth in Arts C Street studio and gallery. The objective of the project was to design and create an eye-catching sign that grabs the attention of the public and invites them to come into the Youth in Arts studio to view and even create art.
The students first brainstormed how to visually portray what YIA is about (i.e. accessible art programs revolving around music, performing, and visual arts.) They proposed various ideas and discussed the effectiveness of using certain visuals. The students continued editing their ideas further until they had collaborated a harmonious design and composition.
Not having much experience using paints, the students spent some time familiarizing themselves with basic painting techniques before applying paint to the final surface. We decided to paint the sign’s design on a canvas using acrylic paints and then have the image digitally reproduced with the Youth in Arts logo printed directly onto a sandwich board sign to be placed outside the YIA studio.
The final design of the sign (prior to the digital reproduction) was comprised of colorful music notes dripping with wet paint, theater masks, a violin with a pencil for a bow, a paint-filled drum being played with paintbrushes, and vibrant piano keys atop a pastel rainbow background. The bold lines and pops of color will definitely grab the attention of the viewers and draw them in to learn more. The art students fully enjoyed learning what it was like to design and paint like artists, wearing their smocks, using traditional painting palettes and techniques, and thoughtfully orchestrating their physical working positions to allow all four artists to work on the same canvas simultaneously.
Second graders at Cornell Elementary School in Albany had the opportunity to learn about Persian dance, music and culture. Each class learned a different style of dance from Iran. There were four 2nd-grade classes, 92 diverse students who participated in this residency.
These students had nine sessions of Persian dance and culture class with Shahrzad Khorsandi, director of Shahrzad Dance Academy and author of The Art of Persian Dance. The nine-week session included a group choreography, culminating in a student performance.
In addition to the choreography, the students learned about the geography of Iran, the different regional dances, cultural traditions such as the Persian New Year fire-jumping celebration, and even learned how to do the special (and loud) two-handed Persian snap! When asked what their favorite part of the experience was, many said it was when they worked in small groups to create their own movement patterns in the dance style they were learning.