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.
At this month’s Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area (AEABA) education policy roundtable Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson, who serves on the Board of Directors for the alliance, joined other arts leaders from the Bay Area to present on and discuss strategies for bringing more arts education to students throughout the Bay Area.
The convening was an opportunity for arts leaders from Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda counties to share their work on developing arts education master plans to improve accessibility for arts learning. Youth in Arts has been a leader in the development of Marin County’s Arts Education Plan. Its purpose is to provide a road map to ensure that every student in the county has access to a quality arts program. Other partners involved in the development of the plan include public schools, the county Office of Education, the Marin Community Foundation and community based organizations.
“After my long history as an arts educator and as well as recent experience as part of San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan Advisory Committee, it’s been exciting as a Novato parent to join the team at Youth in Arts and dig into the momentum behind Marin County’s arts education plan, initiatives and partnerships, ” Kristen said. “An opportunity to have arts leaders from across the Bay Area in the same room to discuss successes, challenges and questions is an immense gift in my new leadership role.”
Kristen said the perception of Marin is that it is a place filled with resources and progressive policies. In reality, she said, there is a great inequality among its 18 school districts. Although she is glad the county has an arts plan, it does not include a timeline for implementation or accountability.
The Arts Education Alliance, which meets bimonthly to collectively address issues in arts education, is important because educators can discuss the challenges they face in light of budget cuts and changing policies. In discussing her work with the alliance, Kristen also stressed the importance that all arts advocates have a seat at the table. She adds, “Asking tough questions and pushing difficult discussions are both important to the process. Though I’m new in my role I am thankful for my seat at the table; a fresh perspective can often bring to light new solutions and ideas,” she said.” I am looking forward to working in collaboration with the Marin Arts Education Plan team to continue to move the needle on arts provision for ALL of Marin’s students.”
Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee has won a nonprofit leadership award from the North Bay Business Journal.
Lee spoke passionately about her work at Youth in Arts, where she has served as executive director for 13 years. During that time, she helped pass the Marin Arts Education Plan Working with Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal, she has created the ARTS Bank, a searchable free database to help teachers and parents find arts activities that will reach all learners.
Lee began her speech by teaching the audience how to say “imagination” in sign language and spoke proudly about the work that Youth in Arts does through providing innovative programs in visual arts, theatre, music and dance to reach all learners.
“We get young people to use their imagination to find out more ways that they can solve the incredible problems and challenges that we are facing in our world today,” Lee said.
Lee described how powerful the arts education can be in giving students the skills to share their voices. She recalled the tragic Parkland shooting in Florida and the students who credited their theater teacher with giving them the confidence to speak out. Because of their actions, she said, more than 130 laws were passed.
“Because I had theater as a child, I was able to get up and speak and show who I was in the world,” said Lee, who participated in Youth in Arts as a student. “We believe in the power of art to change lives.”
Lee has an extensive background in acting and the performing arts and serves as co-chair of the National Advisory Committee of the Teaching Artists Guild and is part of the leadership team of Asian Americans For Civil Rights and Equality. She attended the event with Youth in Arts’ Development Associate Morgan Schauffler.
Lee was one of 18 leaders honored at the event, which was held at the Hyatt Regency in Sonoma’s wine country.The event was underwritten by the Bank of Marin. The corporate sponsor was InterWest Insurance Services, LLC.
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This summer, Youth in Arts’ Director of Visual Arts Suzanne Joyal began her study toward a Master of Arts in Arts Education with a focus on special populations from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA. The only program of its kind in the country, the program was founded by Lynn Horoschak, a pioneer in the field of arts education for special populations. For the students of Moore, and arts educators at Youth in Arts, “special populations” means anyone who does not thrive in the linear, neurotypical classroom. This could mean students experiencing disabilities, newcomer and english language learners, students experiencing the effect of trauma, or anyone with an IEP (Individual Education Plan).
“I decided to pursue the Moore Masters program after attending several workshops led by Lauren Stichter, the graduate program director at Moore. I have been working with students with special needs for 11 years at Youth in Arts, and after listening to Lauren, I knew I could do more. I know that what we are doing at Youth in Arts is necessary and needed and the right thing for all students. We all need to be able to express ourselves with confidence, and for many people (myself included), it’s through the arts that this is possible. For students experiencing disabilities, every day can be painful or scary or exhausting, and infusing the arts into learning is what can help them thrive. We want every student to want to come to school and to feel proud of their accomplishments, and I have witnessed how the arts helps many students get there.”
Suzanne spent six weeks this summer participating in the intensive program, is working remotely for the school year, and will return to Philadelphia next summer to complete and present her thesis.
Reaching all students through the arts was the focus of a professional development workshop taught by Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman. San Rafael teachers who attended learned how arts can facilitate a richer experience for students and support skill building in social emotional learning.
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL, 2019).
There are five core competencies associated with SEL including self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The workshop focused on self-awareness. Self awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior; and the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.” At Youth in Arts, we frame this core competency with the question: “Who Am I?”
We began with the Brain Dance, a way to warm up our bodies, fire synapses, and get students ready to learn.
Observational drawing teaches students to look closely and to record what they SEE, not what they remember or think. We start by drawing familiar objects, then move into self portraits. Observational Drawing also applies to projects in science (recording experiments), math, social studies and language arts (descriptive writing)
Self portraits can be realistic or abstract: we drew lines that represented adjectives describing us, and then experimented with mirrors and Emotions Cards: what happens to our eyebrows when we are excited? Our mouths when we are sad? What do we do when we see these expressions on our friends? What can we do to change them if needed? We used the Emotions Art Cards and Booklet to help us imagine emotions we could show.
We also introduced teachers to the Student Strengths Assessment: a tool we designed to help teachers, parents and students find their best ways of learning.
Youth in Arts has also produced a Digital Toolkit, which includes six videos on inclusive teaching practices for artists, classroom teachers and parents. We have also developed a free ARTS Bank. The database, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows educators, parents and students to type in an IEP goal or grade level and find an arts activity that matches.
This workshop was made possible through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received.
More than eighty community leaders, educators, students, and Youth in Arts supporters came out to celebrate Arts in Education Month at the YIA Gallery last Friday, March 8th. Youth in Arts and the Marin County Office of Education co-hosted the event, which was centered around introducing attendees to the 2018-2019 Marin Arts Education Plan. There was lots of positive feedback, and seemed to be buzz building around the movement in Marin to improve arts access for ALL learners.
Visitors were also able to enjoy the wonderful artwork from our RISING STARS High School art exhibition, on view through March 29th. The “Best Of” show and category winners (drawing, mixed media, painting, photography, and sculpture), were also encouraged to attend the event to receive another amazing prize to commemorate their accomplishment. College of Marin kindly awarded each of the 6 students a full semester scholarship! The lovely Lauren Smart was on hand to receive her award letter, and was photographed alongside her beautiful charcoal, pen and graphite drawing of her grandfather, entitled Evolution of Life. Lauren, a senior at Redwood High School, plans to attend San Jose State in the fall, and is excited to take some summer art classes at College of Marin. Thank you College of Marin for supporting our young artists!
Youth in Arts staff, Miko Lee, Suzanne Joyal and Kelsey Rieger have been presenting on arts equity as a tool to begin implementation of the Marin Arts Education Plan. On January 29 the team conducted a 3-hour interactive workshop for Marin County educators and administrators at Marin Community Foundation. Participants learned about the recent data released from the California Data Project and reflected on the Race Counts study. They watched “A Student Named Art” student produced film from the California Arts Education Alliance and deconstructed the video using Visual Thinking Strategies. They learned about the latest in arts education research, created a collaborative mural and used theatre to explore language arts and history links.
“Thank you for the amazing presentation you and your team so beautifully engaged us in yesterday. It was wonderful how you kept everybody engaged while instilling some crucial facts about the powerful impact art can provide students. Observing the group, I feel confident that each person present will be sharing this information with others and thinking more about how to take the next steps within their district or school.”
-Eileen Smith, Marin County Office of Education Director of Education Services
That same night Miko & Kelsey provided similar workshop for the North Bay PTA leads and provided information about CREATE California’s Public Will Campaign. For more info about this workshop, reach out to us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Master Architect Shirl Buss has been working with Laurel Dell Elementary students on their vision for the San Rafael 2040 Plan. Students presented their projects (sea level rise, their 2018-2040 Portfolios and their proposals for Gateways to San Rafael) to Kate Powers, environmental advocate who is on the San Rafael 2040 general plan steering committee. Kate served as a great audience for the students to practice their public speaking skills and shared information about the San Rafael 2040 General Plan and the work of the Steering Committee.
On Saturday October 13, Youth in Arts hosted one of the district lead community arts planning forums. Supervisor Damon Connolly and Gabriella C. Calicchio, Director of Cultural Services listened as 40 residents shared their vision for the Arts, Culture, Action! initiative.
The first local arts and culture master plan is in development to maximize the creative potential of Marin and secure its cultural richness for future generations. The Marin County Department of Cultural Services is working in partnership with the Marin Cultural Association, the Marin Coalition for the Arts, and arts leaders from all over the county to create the plan, dubbed Arts, Culture, Action! The plan will document, capitalize, support, and enhance the county’s cultural resources to better serve all members of the community.
To roll out the plan’s debut, town-hall-style community meeting in districts were held throughout Marin. The Marin Arts Education Plan that Youth in Arts took the lead in creating will be incorporated into this County Arts Plan. Community members are invited to fill out the survey to provide input. In addition, artists are invited to share their information here.
Arts leaders, local officials, and community members gathered at the YIA Gallery to celebrate the launch of the Downtown San Rafael Arts District on Friday, October 12th. The district, located along the spine of 4th street, is home to numerous arts-related organizations including Artworks Downtown, the Falkirk Cultural Center, and the California Film Institute. Downtown San Rafael is one of only 14 inaugural state-designated cultural arts districts. Speakers included Supervisor Damon Connolly, CFI’s Dane Callihan, AWD’s Elisabeth Setten, Bank of Marin’s Jaime Ortiz, Marin Arts’ Kathie Gaines, Youth in Arts Mentor architect Shirl Buss, and YIA youth board member Kathryn Hasson.
On behalf of YIA’s board and staff, Executive Director Miko Lee presented the Pamela Levine Arts Education Leadership Award to Dominican University professor, Lynn Sondag. The award is given to individuals for exceptional accomplishments in arts education in memory of Youth in Arts’ former Executive Director Pamela Levine. “We are thrilled to celebrate Lynn, who is an exemplar of arts education and leadership,” Lee said. “Lynn is a driving force in making the arts come alive in San Rafael.”