Collaboration and problem solving, self-advocacy & awareness, and building new art skills were among Mentor Artist Lisa Summers’ exciting student goals in Brian Khoury’s class at San Marin High School. Through YIA’s Arts Unite Us program, Lisa worked with students in small groups for the first several weeks on skill-building lessons and projects that emphasized how we recognize emotions through facial expressions and how those facial expressions are communicated in art. Students used cardboard shapes and scraps (and Googly eyes!) to assemble faces that evoked emotions ranging from joy, sadness, humor and anger, to frustration, curiosity, and confusion by looking at the relative position of eyes (up eyes, down eyes, sideways eyes), eyebrows, and smiles vs. frowns.
In the second part of the residency students developed understanding of shapes, proportions, scale, shape, contrast and dimensional perspective by working with pastels and paint, Model Magic and blocks, collage, and even a stack of chocolate chips cookies.
Questions were focused on contrasts and comparisons between solids and patterns, opacity and translucency, two and three dimensions, and foreground and background. In the “Rainy Day” projects, students used patterned paper, colored paper, ink washes, pastels, metallic paint, and permanent markers to create a composition of a single figure standing in a downpour. Many students took this opportunity to explore rain gear fashion design including bat-themed umbrellas and raincoats. Students discussed shadows and negative space, and the visual impact of a gray-toned ink wash against the bright colors of the umbrella and raincoat. Students were asked to share their reflections on how their artwork said something unique about themselves, their interests, and their individual preferences for colors and materials.
A special thanks to the following organizations for making this program possible:
With so much change happening in our world, art is a powerful tool for self expression.We’ve been moved by photos of people making art from the simplest materials. Flower petals turned into hearts. Food crumbs that inspired a face. Drying dishes? A quick still life.
In communities throughout the Bay Area, people have written messages in sidewalk chalk. Tiny hands have scrawled signs of encouragement in the window. Children have made morning altars of gratitude from flower petals and leaves. One family made their own giving tree, hanging it with tags suggesting ways to support Black Lives Matter. In another neighborhood, children painted rocks of hope and nestled them in the trunk of their old palm tree.
How does art show up in your life and sustain you in uncertain times? How can art support equity in your community? If you are making art, where are you making it, who are you making it for, and why?
Photo credit: Thanks to artist Nathalie Valette (blue plate, drying dishes and tree tags); artist Eve Aldridge (chalk message), and to the artists who made the hearts and altar.
When Vallecito Elementary School students return to their school, they will see an outdoor mural that graduating 5th graders left for them – all of it created through distance learning.
Youth in Arts had just begun a partnership with the San Rafael school when the coronavirus pandemic forced it to close. Pivoting quickly, Program Director Kelsey Rieger worked with Principal Elizabeth Foehr and teachers Erin Baker, Robin Hassan, Sarah Lai, Julie McKeon and Hildie Sims to find a way to do the mural digitally. The project included 5th graders from five different classes.
“The teachers and the staff are the ones that made it happen, hands down,” Kelsey said. “The school still really wanted to provide this opportunity for the 5th graders, especially since Shelter in Place was taking a lot of their last year away from them.”
First, Kelsey filmed short instructional videos from home that explained the project. Students began by creating identity maps in the shape of a starburst. Kelsey explains, “We looked at the things that make up who we are, and what aspects of this identity we give to ourselves and also aspects given to us by other people. From there, each students created what we call a Power Word by choosing a part of their identity that they felt was most representative of who they are and that made them feel powerful.”
Students chose words like ardent, adventurous, creative, kind, ambitious, brave, and hopeful.
Using the Principles of Design, they then talked about how shape, color, texture and scale can be used to communicate messaging more effectively. Together, they also discussed typographical concepts and how to pay attention to spacing and shape to keep things legible. “Our goal was to create our own font for our Power Words that would further convey the meaning of that word based on the students’ interpretations and values,” Kelsey explains.
Students photographed their art and sent it to their teachers, who sent it directly to Kelsey. Again, teacher participation was key. Because Kelsey never saw the students, she relied on teachers to communicate any questions or areas that the students required more support in. “I wasn’t with them in the classroom, so I couldn’t respond to student cues like you normally do when you’re teaching something new,” Kelsey said.
Upon completion, the mural was created from over 80 Power Words using materials students had at home – colored pencils, regular pencils, paint and markers. A few artists created their work digitally. The completed collaged mural was delivered to the school, where it will be installed for fellow students to engage with when they return in the Fall.
“They did a great job,” Kelsey said. “The works were personal and thoughtful, and were excellent examples of how the arts can bring us together in extremely unique and unexpected ways.”
Special thanks to the Vallecito PTA, educators, and staff for helping to make this project possible.
In response to recent events, we at Youth in Arts recommit to lifting up the voices of the unheard and underrepresented. Access to creativity empowers youth to share their voices and ask difficult questions of themselves and of the world.
Equity is at the center of our work. Starting this week, we are launching YIACr8tes Conversation, looking at race, identity and racism. Teaching artists presenting these free digital lessons include Jessica Recinos of Rising Rhythm SF, Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger and other Mentor Artists from the YIA roster. Each lesson will end with guiding questions for parents and educators to ask children. The lessons will air on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at 1 p.m. PDT today (June 8), Wednesday, June 10, and Friday, June 12.
“We will continue to facilitate art and put creativity in the hands of those often left out of critical dialogue,” said Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We will drive discussion of implicit bias, policies that support equity and unobstructed access with educators, administrators and parents. We will not shy away from pushing the conversation surround privilege and power, especially in our community. We will continue to build a network of advocates that look to arts education as a vehicle for social change.”
As many schools look at slashing the arts because of budget shortfalls in light of the pandemic, we urge them to look for free and affordable resources and partners. Along with shifting to online learning, many students are trying to find their paths amid trauma, economic uncertainty, isolation and the chaos of world events. Access to art and creativty is more important than ever for offering ways to support mental and emotional health. Creativity can be also be used as a catalyst for discussions about anti-racist parenting and classrooms.
“Covid-19 pushed educators and parents to find innovative ways to engage creative exploration through digital/virtual means – Youth in Arts was ready and present with online learning. Now, as the trauma of Covid-19 is compounded by intensity of racial justice protests, Youth in Arts is again ready to join parents, educators and schools to inspire conversation and dialgoue on critical issues,” Kristen said. “Youth in Arts’ work has long centered on equity and we feel empowered to step forward as a leader and resource for our community.”
We urge you to join Create CA’s statewide effort to promote the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning. This resolution outlines students’ rights to a high-quality public arts education, regardless of background, culture, language or where they live. Youth in Arts has already signed on. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at more ways to create digital programs to address racial and social justice.
In the meantime, here are some resources:
From the New York Times, books that help explain racism to kids
From National Public Radio, Raising White Kids: How White Parents Can Talk About Race
Also from The Times: 26 short films for exploring race, bias and identity
We are grateful to be able to do the work that we do at this important time. Please join us and please reach out with any suggestions or resources for continuing racial justice work through the lens of arts programming.
Students in Maria Romero’s class at Novato High School worked with Mentor Artist Lisa Summers through YIA’s Arts Unite Us (AUU) program. Lisa designed lessons around prompts and activities that used old photos, pieces of familiar toys, quick dry clay, and pastels to explore themes of social justice, culture, and family. The first activity was a sketching challenge based on David Hockney’s Polaroid mosaics. Students and teachers created mosaic portraits using pencils and Lyra Graphite crayons on Post-It notes, copying from squares of cut up images of activists Malcom X, Dolores Huerta, and Julia Butterfly Hill. They were then tasked with reassembling the image as a group. When Post-It notes were matched up to corresponding squares, students reflected on how shapes, shadows, and lines come together to make a composite image.
In looking at a single Post-It note, is there another composition there? What different styles of interpretation can you see in individual drawings? What is different about a group portrait as opposed to one created by an individual artist?
Because several of Maria Romero’s students are in the MSA Visual Arts program, experience and skills varied widely in the class. The idea behind many of the activities and lessons was to experiment different styles, collaborative art-making, and as an opportunity to look at a face as a way of familiarizing oneself with the “other,” even when that other is the self.
Thank you to the following organizations for making this program possible:
When you park in downtown San Rafael, look up!
Colorful art created by children at Magnolia Park School during a Youth in Arts’ residency has inspired a sign now on display at the Fifth Avenue and C Street garage.
The city’s Parking Services Division selected the work created with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Julia James during a competition last year aimed at beautifying the downtown San Rafael garage. The mixed media piece has been transformed into a 3 by 6 foot sign at Fifth Avenue and C Street while the new public safety center is being built across the street. The sign will remain up for six months before a new sign featuring new artwork will take its place.
Each children’s art piece that has been selected is paired with work by an adult artist that appears on the opposite side of the sign, celebrating San Rafael. The piece created by Julia’s students at the San Rafael school is paired with “Under the Surface” by San Rafael-based artist, Travis Weller.
This is the second Youth in Arts’ artwork to win a spot in the sign contest. A mixed media piece by students at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito has already been on display. That art was created last spring in a self-contained class of kindergarten and first graders who worked with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.
Cathy’s and Julia’s classes were part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us (AUU) Program, which serves young artists experiencing disabilities.
Thank you to the city of San Rafael for this amazing program.