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Youth in Arts Named a Hero

 

Kristen and students dancing in the YIA Gallery before the shelter in place order

Want to learn more about #YIACre8tes? Read about these free online arts activities and Executive Director Kristen Jacobson on Partnership Resources Group’s website.

The San Rafael-based consulting firm provides fundraising services to organizations in Northern California. During the coronavirus quarantine, it has been highlighting nonprofits doing good work by featuring them on its heroes page.

This week, Youth in Arts was named as one of those heroes.

Kristen explained that as a mom of two boys, she knew immediately that Youth in Arts needed to step up to the challenge facing parents who found themselves suddenly homeschooling while trying to work.

“I understand how important arts education is to my children and to this community,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “STEM really needs the A for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).”

Youth in Arts has been providing free arts activities live streamed weekdays at 11:08 a.m. on Facebook and Instagram. Activities have included a shape chain dance, making paper playgrounds, painting with flowers and building towers with cardboard scraps.

Vanessa Coleman, a teacher at Rancho Elementary School in Novato and the mother of two boys, appreciates the Youth in Arts lessons.

“We have been using Youth in Arts as fun brain breaks and just some different types of instruction,” she said. “The live stream is videoed so they an be accessed live, or later at a time convenient for us. They are short and sweet ­– just perfect.”

Kristen said Youth in Arts is reaching as many schools as it can through distance learning. The arts education nonprofit currently has partnerships with about eight school districts, using teaching artists to provide programs designed to reach all learners and build creativity, confidence and compassion.

Kristen said the silver lining of live stream videos is that Youth in Arts is connecting with more families in a new way.

“Whether they join us live or later, we are getting 800 to 1,100 views on our videos every day,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “We need things like this now more than ever.”

To read the full interview with Partnership Resources Group, click here.

 

`Til Dawn Explores a New World

‘Til Dawn and Director Austin Willacy

Although a cappella is technically defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, many a cappella singers use their voices to create instrumental textures when they rehearse and perform to create a multilayered musical experience for themselves and their audiences. 

Once everyone in a group learns their part, individually, the next level of work begins, that of weaving these individual parts together into an evolving blended, balanced, dynamic tapestry of sound.  Though each member of an a cappella group can learn and practice their parts on their own, the aforementioned weaving has to be done together.  

That’s the challenge that’s faced `Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group. Though the 15-member ensemble typically meets twice a week to practice, they last rehearsed together in person on March 11. 

When the shelter in place order resulting from the coronavirus pandemic was issued, the members of `Til Dawn, like everyone else in the Bay Area, have been stranded at home, forcing the cancellation of all of their spring shows, auditions for new members and the cancellation of their annual spring concert.

Suffice it to say, there’s simply no way to do a lot of what the group had been doing.

“There is no way to rehearse that allows us to sing together, real-time, and hear each other,” said longtime Director Austin Willacy. “Variations in wifi access and speed create lags that make it impossible to sing together through Zoom.  Truth be told, though we’re a singing group, we spend as much of our time listening as we do singing.  Learning to listen to each other while singing, to navigate our individual voice’s proper place as we’re performing, is the most important part of what we do at rehearsal.  It’s an ongoing dance of stepping forward and stepping back,” he said.

When they first met online, because of time lags, Willacy was only able to work with one singer at a time – which was very inefficient as it left the other members of the group waiting for their turn.  At in-person rehearsals, although individual support is available as needed, the group typically learns new music by voice part; the sopranos all learn the soprano part together, etc.

Recognizing how draining that amount of waiting while glued to a screen could be, Willacy quickly adjusted, shortening rehearsal time by 30 minutes and splitting the group into four songwriting groups based on their self-assessed comfort/experience with songwriting. The check-ins, which are a longstanding attuning process at the beginning of rehearsal, have continued to allow the group to stay connected with each other as much as possible. The music-focused time in `Til Dawn rehearsals is now evenly split between rehearsal and review of existing repertoire and songwriting.  

The members of `Til Dawn have been nimble and creative in finding ways to use technology to support their songwriting. One member sang her melody to a friend over the phone (he recorded a track with instruments and sent it back). Another downloaded free beats from a website. Several members play the ukulele, saxophone, guitar and other instruments and have been using those while composing. 

Willacy said exploring songwriting has been an unexpected benefit for `Til Dawn members confined to home.

“I’ve been deeply struck by the level of songwriting talent in this group,” he said  “I’ve also been inspired by the level of creativity, trust, and willingness to try on something new.”

For the Youth in Arts’ COVID relief fund, `Til Dawn has prepared a special video and song. To make it possible, Willacy laid down a basic piano part to a click track and received an iPhone-recorded guide vocal. After combining them, he sent an MP3 to the group members so they could listen to it in earbuds while recording their respective parts. They recorded themselves (singing mostly on their phones) and sent their audio files back to Willacy, who painstakingly edited them all together, then providing that recording to the song’s lead vocalist, Anna McShea, who was able to perform and record her own vocal in Ableton, a music recording app.

The teens also furnished video of themselves singing along to the track to Youth in Arts Program Director Kelsey Rieger, who is compiling the individual video into a video of the whole group. Watch this wonderful performance here!

Willacy, a renowned performer who travels worldwide as a solo artist and with the pioneering a cappella group, The House Jacks, said he’s been able to stay in the creative flow despite the quarantine. He’s written or co-written at least four songs and mixed and edited several more.

“I’m really lucky to have a studio at home,” he said. “It’s a huge privilege that feels even bigger right now.  Being creative helps me stay present.”

 

Savoir Faire Helps Our Students

Pierre-Yann Guidetti

We were thrilled to get a call recently from Pierre-Yann Guidetti, chief executive officer of Savoir Faire. The Novato company imports beautiful, high end art materials from Europe and sells them wholesale.

When the coronavirus forced schools to shut, Pierre asked himself what he could do for his community. He thought about all the kids stranded at home without art supplies – and he thought of us.

“Art is good for you, and it is good for the world,” he said. “I’m always fighting for the fact that art is very important. I think it’s essential.”

Pierre donated more than 80 sets of lovely Austrian CretaColor pencils, 70 packets of gorgeous Fabriano paper and high quality white paper, too! Youth in Arts has already begun distributing them to students in our Arts Unite Us program, which serves young artists experiencing disabilities.

“These children are most at risk for being left behind as schools move to online learning, ” said Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger. “We’re so grateful that Pierre stepped in to help us serve them.”

Pierre travels the world lecturing about art and meeting with suppliers, often influencing product design. The paper he gave our students comes from Fabriano, an old Italian company that invented the modern cotton paper and once served great artists like Michelangelo and Da Vinci.

“It was like the Silicon Valley of the 13th century,” he said.

The wonderful supplies from Savoir Faire

Pierre shares one of Youth in Arts’ core philosophies: give kids the best art materials you can.

“The experience of making a mark with a bad color and bad paper is different from making a mark with a beautiful color and beautiful paper,” Pierre said. “If kids don’t know the difference, they feel it.”

To learn more about Savoir Faire, please visit their website to see which local stores carry their supplies. It was Pierre’s wife, Maureen Labro, who began importing fine art supplies in the early 1980s. She and Pierre went into business together (she is president), fell in love and got married.

“Everything we sell, I’ve seen how it’s made,” he said.

Thank you Pierre, Maureen and everyone at Savoir-Faire! And thanks to artist Kay Carlson, executive director of Marin Open Studios, who helped Pierre connect with us. Community support like this makes all the difference.

 

 

 

Families, Fun and Art at Walker Rezaian Show Opening

How do you open a show when your art gallery is closed temporarily? By hosting a virtual celebration for your community with a drawing lesson, story time and fabulous self portraits.

Youth in Arts joined families, friends and staff at Laurel Dell Elementary School to celebrate Imagining Friendship, our annual show that honors Walker Rezaian. The online exhibit featured a  slideshow of more than 90 self portraits and emotions studies by kindergarten and first grade students

The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was at Laurel Dell and Short schools last Fall. The visual arts residency builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills through art making. It also helps children learn how to make and keep friends while practicing sharing and empathy.

Friday’s celebration began with a bilingual drawing lesson with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Joining us were kindergarten teachers Alejandra Vazquez and David Peterson, and first grade teacher Vanessa Nunez. Together we explored what it’s like to make and then draw different expressions. How does your face look when it is happy? What about angry?

Principal Pepe Gonzalez delivered a sweet and funny message with help from his young sons and talked about the importance of creating visual art, music and dance while sheltering in place.

“If we weren’t creative, we’d be pretty bored right now because we’re usually in our pajamas,” he said.

Gonzalez, who heads both Laurel Dell and Short schools, praised Youth in Arts for making sure “creativity stays alive” while students are forced to stay home. He noted that Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal assembled art kits for every student at both Laurel Dell and Short schools.

Our thanks also go to author Susan Katz, who read her book “All Year Round” in English and Spanish. It was fun to know the Principal Gonzalez had her as a teacher when he was in school!

We wrapped up the evening with a slide show of the self portraits accompanied by music from ‘Til Dawn,  Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella troupe.

Suzanne encouraged viewers to check out the cool coloring pages made from the students’ self portraits. The portraits will be viewable online until May 31. They can be printed out, colored and put in your window to share with your neighbors, and you can find them here:

Emotions Sketches Coloring Pages 1st Grade
Portraits Coloring Pages 1st Grade
Portraits Coloring Pages Kindergarten [Rm 3]
Portraits Coloring Pages Kindergarten [Rm 4]

Suzanne also thanked the Rezaian family for making this wonderful program possible.

“You can say thank  you to them in your own way by being a good friend to those around you and creating something every day,” she said.

A special thanks to Tracey Wirth Designs for turning the portraits into coloring pages; to our translators: Alejandra Vazquez, Vanessa Nunez and Peter Massik; and to Principal Gonzalez and the staff at Laurel Dell for making this program such a success.

Get Creative on your Walk Around the Block

Morning altar made by Novato kids

By now you’re probably wearing grooves in the pavement when you get out for fresh air. We’ve seen the blocks around our houses plenty of times! Need ideas to get creative? Here are a few: Morning altars. Please check out morningaltars.com with artist Day Schildkret to learn more about the healing power of nature art altars. You can gather fallen petals, twigs and leaves as you walk around. For more inspiration, check out British artist Andy Goldsworthy. When you get home, think of how to make your own design. What are you grateful for? Signs of Beauty. Thankfully, the flowers aren’t quarantined. What signs of beauty do you see? What’s different from the last time you walked? Look at the colors, shapes and lines to get you started. How is Spring waking up the earth? Sound Walk. How have the sounds changed in your neighborhood since shelter-in-place began? What do you hear now – or not hear? Are there more birds? Less traffic? Nature Rubbings. Watch Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger’s Facebook lesson how how to make an amazing landscape using rubbings. Or tear up your rubbings and make a collage of your street. What shapes do you see? Where do you see warm colors like red and yellow, and where do you see cool colors, like blue and green? How do they mix? Fill a Neighborhood Need. Many neighbors are sewing face masks for others. What do you see that you can do? Sweep up a neighbor’s leaves by the driveway? Wave hello? Safely reach out to someone who may need checking on. We love to hear from you! Please share your ideas of how to walk creatively.

Walker Rezaian Show Opens April 17

 

Please join us for our first virtual art exhibit! Youth in Arts is proud to present Imagining Friendship: Portraits of Young Artists at the YIA Gallery.

The exhibition features a slideshow of art created through our Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Viewers can see more than 70 colorful portraits created by kindergarteners and first graders. The online gallery opens this Friday, April 17, with a celebration on the Youth in Arts’ Youtube channel at 5 p.m.

A coloring book page has been made of  many of the self portraits. Viewers of all ages are invited to print out the black and white images, choose one to color, and tape it in a window for others to see and enjoy. With families staying home due to the coronavirus, we invite you to celebrate these young artists in your own way. People are encouraged to post their art on social media and Youtube. Don’t forget to share with us at @youthinarts.org!

The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was created by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family to celebrate Walker’s life and his love of the arts. You can learn more about this amazing program here. We invite you to participate and explore (safely) what being a good friend means during the quarantine. 

The portraits were the final project of a 12-week residency taught by Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Using innovative lessons that allowed students to use a range of tools and materials, children explored ideas about compassion, empathy and friendship. Youth in Arts’ programs celebrate creativity, confidence and compassion in ALL learners – and we need that now more than ever.

Cathy said each class did their portraits slightly differently. One kindergarten class made watercolor portraits with cardboard frames colored with black and white pastels. The other kindergarten class did the opposite: they created black and white portraits and used colors on the frames. This decision turned out to be fortuitous as those pages (as well as several from first grade) were transformed into coloring pages that could be downloaded.

Adapting is a way of life at Youth in Arts. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate, explore and create so we can reach students of all abilities with innovative art programs. Let’s infuse our community with joyful art in as many ways as we can!

Imagining Friendship: Join the YIA Gallery Online!

Now that you’re staying at home, there’s no better time to visit museums and galleries in London, Tokyo or Paris.

Or San Rafael.

Like art institutions across the nation, Youth in Arts is putting its exhibits online. Our annual “Imagining Friendship” Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Show, which opens April 17, will feature more than 70 colorful self portraits created by kindergarten and first grade students at Laurel Dell Elementary School.

We are exploring innovative ways to engage with viewers who visit this show, so stay tuned! Visual Arts Director, Suzanne Joyal is putting together a slideshow of the artwork and other activities to encourage community members to engage and connect.

“This is one of our favorite exhibitions. It’s important that we find a way to reach viewers even if we can’t use our gallery walls,” Suzanne said. “These portraits are full of joy, and we need that now more than ever.”

The Walker Rezaian show is generously supported by the Rezaian family in celebration of Walker’s life and how much he loved making friends and art. This program teaches young students visual arts fundamentals, and also helps them develop compassion, empathy and other social-emotional skills.

Once you’re online, the YIA Gallery isn’t the only place you can visit. Kids can travel to museums or watch theatre shows in Amsterdam, Rome and New York – all in the same day.

“These virtual tours are an excellent way to keep kids engaged with art, and to draw inspiration from what they see,” Suzanne said. “You never know what image will inspire a child to create their own work.”

Museums are generously making their collections online for viewers to enjoy. Need ideas? Take a look at this excellent PBS Newshour article.

Is dancing more your speed? Check out Dancing Alone Together for a list of online dance classes around the Bay Area.

Miss going to the theatre? Visit WhatsOnStage for stage shows, musicals and opera you can see online.

“You may feel stranded at home, but you don’t have to be alone,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re here to help you engage.”

Teaching Artists Adjust to a New World

Kids Move with Youth in Arts

We can’t wait to reconnect with our students!

How should a dancer teach online? How does clown perform without a live audience? How can a metal artist heat up materials without her studio?

More than 50 teaching artists from around the Bay Area joined a Zoom call recently to explore how to continue working with their students, now that schools and businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Youth in Arts held a similar call the same day with its own teaching artists.

The Bay Area wide event was supported by Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and Oakland Unified Arts Partners. It was facilitated by Mika Lemoine, a mentor artist who teaches hip hop and street dance with Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, and Rachel-Anne Palacios, a multicultural artist and activist who works in the Oakland schools.

Participants began by coming up with a word to describe how they were feeling. The answers were telling: Hopeful. Weary. Isolated. Groovy. Challenged. Excited. Unwashed.

With work inside schools halted, teaching artists discussed ways to engage with their students online. Several expressed their concern about how to reach kids who don’t have access to a computer, and how hard it is to be creative when you feel anxious.

“I realize how much social connection feeds me and motivates me,” said one dance teacher. “Not being able to fully move is hindering my well being.”

Teaching artists also talked about the strain of trying to figure out how to survive financially. Can they file for unemployment? Which is the best online platform to use to reach the widest audience? When will they be able to earn a living working in classrooms again?

Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson held a similar Zoom call with Youth in Arts’ teaching artists and staff. Kristen shared that Youth in Arts is talking to funders, donors and school partners to find ways to continue programming and support teaching artists.

“Reaching all kids with meaningful arts activities and supporting teaching artists is crucial during these challenging times,” Kristen said. “We are working as hard as we can to make this work.”