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Exploring Art at San Jose Middle School

Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman says of her Arts Unite Us Residency at San Jose Middle School: “The students explored art in very creative ways!”

“Texture Collage Boards” —  Our first class project was all about textures. Each student was given contact paper with the adhesive side up (secured to white foam board) and choices of textured materials to add. We discussed what the materials felt like and described the feeling it gave, (i.e. soft, bumpy, rough, smooth, noisy/crunchy, hard, etc.). We then took oil pastels and drew across many of the textures. As the last step, we covered the remaining sticky areas with magic gold transfer foil. Some of the classes removed the white foam board from the back of the artwork and displayed them in the window, while others left them with the white background and hung them on the wall.

Our second class project was making stained glass window kites, which focused on creating shapes, working within borders and cutting with scissors. The students were given the same set up of contact paper placed on a white foam board, but with different instructions. Each student was given four strips of black construction paper to create a diamond shape on their contact paper and were given additional strips to add anywhere within the diamond’s borders. Within the spaces of the black strips, the students placed square pieces of colored and patterned tissue paper to further decorate their kites. The students then smoothed on a top layer of contact paper to seal the pieces in place and then cut them out, staying on the outside of the black diamond borders. Most students needed assistance and/or adaptive scissors, which were provided by the classroom teachers. Lastly, the students taped a yarn tail with a tissue paper bow to complete their kites. All of the students held up their kites and pretended to fly them around the room before they were hung in the windows.

During this residency program, we also focused on creating various marks on watercolor paper with tempera watercolor cakes and an array of adaptive tools. The tools ranged from paint brushes with variously shaped handles, sponges, roller sponges, silicone stamps, etc. Prior to adding paint with the adaptive tools, the students drew on their paper with oil pastels to create resistance artwork. Together, we talked about oil and water resist each other and how the oil will fight with the watercolor to show through. The students improvised on making marks with different parts of each tool. One student even used the foam roller as a hammer and made small circles on his page. We used these skills to work on three-dimensional and two-dimensional projects throughout the residency.

 

These programs were made possible with support from the following sources:

Gesture Drawing

At Olive and San Ramon elementary schools, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman taught gesture drawing to 3rd through 5th graders.

We started by standing up and drawing in the air with our finger and discussed how it felt to work “big.” Demonstrating with a student as a model, Ms. Bowman demonstrated how to capture the essence of the figure in a 30-second pose. Every student with an interest in selecting a pose got a turn, while the rest of the class worked quickly to capture their efforts. Models were able to explore what makes an interesting pose by choosing how to extend their arms and legs. As artists we learned to work fast, letting our intuition take charge. We practiced drawing the shapes, forms and lines of the body.

Gesture drawing was a great follow up to blind contour drawing and working small. It was hard at first to use the whole paper and resist the temptation to add details like eyes, ears and glasses but we did. When we finished, we had a thoughtful discussion about the process.

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) Grant that Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classrooms this spring.

Persian Dance at Davidson Middle School

Youth in Arts was excited to offer two assemblies supported by funding from the California Arts Council to Davidson Middle School this Spring, tying into core learning goals for 6th – 8th grade Social Studies with arts integration techniques. For this program the Shahrzad Dance Ensemble, Director Shahrzad Khorsandi and four members of the ensemble, performed a special series of dances for the Persian New Year that had been choreographed and designed by Shahrzad over the last several years. Norouz (“New Day”), the Persian New Year, represents new beginnings, rebirth, and renewal. Shahrzad Dance Company’s Norouz program for 2019, Symbols of Love, brought into focus the true meaning behind this celebrated event and gave students the opportunity to learn about the music, traditions, and cultural relevance of the Iranian holiday today. The performance began with students learning several Persian Dance movements, such as Shokufeh (Blossom), where the dancer starts out with their arms at their sides, and then brings them up over head and back out to side palms up (like a blossom).

Students were also invited to participate in a modified rendition of the fire jumping tradition which is part of the Norouz celebration. Shahrzad explained that traditionally we will jump over fires, saying in Persian ” I give my yellow to you, you give your red to me”. This indicates a throwing away of sorrow, pain , suffering, anger and illnesses into the fire (yellow), in order to burn it and receive positive energy (red) from the fire.

Throughout the performance, dancers portrayed dynamic characteristics associated with the symbols of: Sabzeh (“Sprout”) which is symbolic for rebirth, Seeb (“Apple”) which is a symbol of health, Samanu (“Wheat Pudding”) which is a symbol of sweetness, Sekkeh (“Coins”) which is a symbol of wealth and prosperity, and Norouz (“New Day”).

These assemblies followed a three day cultural immersion series led by Shahrzad with participating classrooms in Fall 2018. During these workshops, Sharhzad sharing the geographical significance of the many regions in Iran/Persia, and how where each region is located within the country and what they are bordered by has affected the music and dance which can be found there. Students also learned about other types of Persian culture, such as the food, holidays, and traditions that are important to people across the country.

 

Youth in Arts would like to provide a special thank you to the California Arts Council for their support of this program!

 

 

Arts Unite Us at San Marin High

Lisa Summers, a teaching poet and artist, worked with two special day classes at San Marin High School through our Arts Unite Us program to create work representing “spirit animals.” In Brian Khoury’s class, students practiced observational drawing skills including gestural drawings, calligraphic imagery using handmade bamboo pens and inks, and learned to make patterns. After sewing lessons, students cut out spirit animals in felt, sewed and stuffed them, then displayed sketches, patterns, and sewn animals in the front office of the school.

 

Lisa explored the idea of a spirit animal with Steve Lamott’s class while they were reading Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya. In the novel, the curandera Ultima arrives with her spirit animal, the owl. Students considered what their protective spirit animal might be through lessons that ranged from gestural drawing to pen and ink to a group portrait project. In the second half of the residency, students prepared sketches for a triptych that displayed their spirit animal and elements of their “interior world” including landscapes, colors, and symbols that hold meaning for each of them. Students prepared and mixed colors, used collage techniques, and learned to transfer elements of their original sketches to the panels.

Lisa says, “I learned so much from working with Brian and Steve’s students about process, and the relationship between creative exploration and identity development. Brian’s students especially loved sharing their work with teachers and other San Marin students.” Selected works will be on display at Youth In Arts during the July exhibition.

 

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Eddie Madril at Hamilton Middle School

This Spring, Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Eddie Madril brought the music, arts and culture of Native American dance to Hamilton Middle School. Part of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of Southern Arizona and Northern Sonora Mexico and active member of the Native American community, Eddie represents his culture as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright and filmmaker and brings these skills with him to every school site he visits.

During his time at Hamilton, Eddie shared singing and dance with students as part of a special assembly to 6th through 8th grade students. Teachers were able to tie the curriculum to core Social Studies learning goals and valued the opportunity as much as their students did. Throughout the performance, Eddie explained the origins of movements in each dance, contextualized Native American History and the ongoing effects that state and national laws and regulations have on the 567 federally recognized tribes throughout the country, and offered a new perspective on the narratives we’re taught in school.

Following the assembly, Eddie visited the school’s two eighth grade classrooms to share more about his work. Students were given the opportunity to pose questions as a follow-up to some of the facts and experiences that Eddie shared during the performance, and participate in a hands-on workshop. During the workshop students, teachers, and school administrators were invited to learn different techniques for working with hoops. While demonstrating and guiding participants through the movements, Eddie shared important facts regarding how and why Hoop Dancing is an integral part of his Native experience, and the potential meanings that the symbol of the hoop encompasses.

 

Youth in Arts would like to provide a special thank you to the California Arts Council for their support of this program!

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Arts Unite Us at Hamilton School

This Spring, Mentor Artist Lisa Summers worked with students at Hamilton Middle School to create multi-media projects based on the work of folk and vanguard artists through Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program. Students started with metallic pens and black gesso boards to assign lines to words they felt best described them. Over the next several weeks, students used a bird pattern to create work inspired by Indian Gond art, a form of painting that is practiced by one of the largest tribes in India with whom it shares its name. We began by looking at examples of Gond paintings, and then started our own artworks by incorporating our individual “lines” into the composition.

We built upon these skills with exercises such as contour line drawing of faces and animals, in which we used unconventional drawing and painting utensils like sticks and cotton swabs to experiment with pattern, color theory, composition, geometric shapes and shadows. Students learned about graphic artists like Peter Max and self-taught artist Kiyoshi Awazu by making posters using collage and oil pastel. As a reflection exercise, students were asked to consider advertisements that use visual language and to evaluate their own work by asking questions such as: “What makes this pop? What gives this line or shape emphasis? What attracts you to these colors and the design? What do you think the message is?”

We had lively discussions about their work, and students were encouraged to revise if they felt a particular work was not complete. Classroom teacher Ms. Moon and staff jumped into the collage project as well. Examples of student artwork were hung in the front office, and many of the artworks created throughout the residency will be on display at Youth In Arts during the summer exhibition, “Outside the Lines: Collaborative Art in Special Day Classrooms” opening on July 31st, 2019 at the YIA gallery.

 

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

Visual Arts at College of Marin

In Steve Maldonado’s class, Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Lisa Summers introduced students to a range of drawing and ink wash techniques to play with lines, shape, color, dimension, and perspective as part of this year’s Arts Unite Us residency at College of Marin. Throughout this ten-week program, students explored different ways of seeing, starting with a variety of graphite pencils and crayons and working on gaining exposure to more and more visual arts materials. We considered questions like: “Which one feels comfortable in your hand? Which one feels heavy or awkward? What kinds of lines to different kinds of pencils and pens make? What happens when you draw a face or an object without lifting your pencil from the paper? How do seemingly random lines and shapes organized into an image?”

Next we played with oil pastels and an ink wash. Students used simple wooden blocks to assemble familiar structures that they could draw using observational drawing techniques. During this exercise, we considered the following questions: “Where were the shadows? How do we make something become three dimensional?”

Following the observational drawing lesson, we continued learning with lines and shapes. After looking at a few examples from American artist, cartoonist and puppeteer Wayne White, students drew horizon lines to explore perspective using block letters that spelled out words they chose. Some of the questions we asked were: “What are some words people might use to describe you?” Or, “What’s your favorite pastime?”

Examples of student work from Steve’s COM class will be on display at Youth In Arts during the summer exhibition, “Outside the Lines: Collaborative Art in Special Day Classrooms” opening on July 31st, 2019.

 

Through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received, Youth in Arts was in multiple Special Day Classes this spring.

 

A Year of Arts at Coleman Elementary

Youth in Art’s year-long visual arts residency at Coleman Elementary School concluded with a successful campus-wide exhibition as part of the school’s Open House event in June, 2019. Mentor Artist Julia James installed artworks from all grade levels in campus windows, doorways, classrooms, and throughout the art room in order to show the impressive breadth and depth of work that students had accomplished throughout the year. Featured projects included explorations in water and ink, fantastical treehouse landscapes, Matisse-inspired silhouettes, hand-sewn sketchbooks, still life observational drawings, and much more!

Students and their friends and families stopped by throughout the night to view the exhibition, locate their artwork, and speak with Ms. Julia to learn more about the types of projects and skills students acquired throughout the year. Over four-hundred people were in attendance, discussing art techniques that were learned and narratives behind the artworks. Students shared what they enjoyed most, what they struggled with, and their intentions behind their artistic choices. At the end of the night, many students were able to bring their artworks home for their families to enjoy.

Persian Dance with 2nd Graders at Cornell Elementary

Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Shahrzad Khorsandi worked with 2nd grade students at Cornell Elementary School in Albany for the 3rd year in a row through Youth in Arts’ Artists in Schools program, introducing students to Persian culture through the music and dance of regions across Iran.

We began with a discussion on the geography of the Middle East and Iran, introducing students to each area with a sample of different folk dances from the various regions of the country.  The first class ended with everyone learning how to do the two-handed Persian snap (always a favorite and a challenge both for the students and teachers), which we could use throughout the residency to cheer for our peers.

Throughout the eight-week residency, each of the 4 classes learned a dance specific to a region of Iran. In the process, we learned about rhythm and patterns of movement, linking our sessions to and shape-making and understanding lines through our bodies. We then turned these shapes and lines into spatial patterns on the dance floor. Each class also worked in small groups to create their own movement patterns that they would do in a section of the choreography. This process gave the kids the opportunity to do problem solving and work on social skills, and allowed for the development of their own creative expression.

The residency ended in a culminating student performance with costumes/accessories. The parents were invited and all four classes got a chance to see each other perform, with almost 200 family members and supporters of all ages participating as audience members. During the culminating student performance, Shahrzad shares: “We worked for weeks on traditional dance moves from across Persia. Today you will see mix of some of those traditional moves and also some contemporary moves that the students created all on their own. This mix of old and new is part of the show today. In traditional Persian dance all the females would be in long skirts, in today’s show everybody dresses in any way they want and everyone is celebrated. They learned to dance in groups and to collaborate.”

Shahrzad describes working with kids as a job that is rewarding and fulfilling. She remembers one particularly special moment at the end of this residency when a student who had been crying and frustrated the day before the performance because he thought the performance was going to be a “failure”, ran to her after the show and hugged her, smiling, saying, “We did a great job!” Later, as Shahrzad was reading the colorful Thank-you notes/drawings from the kids, she saw the drawing from that same student and cried. Below is the drawing.

Drawing from 2nd-grader at Cornell Elementary

Drawing from 2nd-grader at Cornell Elementary

 

Teaching Counter Narratives Through the Arts

Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Eddie Madril taught counter narratives to a group of Marin County teachers by sharing his experience as a member of the Native American community.

Madril is part of the Pascua Yaqui tribe of southern Arizona and northern Sonora Mexico and represents his culture as a dancer, singer, teacher, playwright and filmmaker. During his presentation, teachers experienced history differently and learned how to make a corn husk figure (not a doll). Madrid talked about how important it is to understand multiple perspectives, including how tribes historically cared for and respected the land where they lived and did not consider it something that could be bought and sold. He also explained that if there is only one student in a class who is Native, for example, that student should not be singled out or made to represent all Native American people. Teachers ended the day with a hoop dance.

“It’s critical for teachers to be able to hear counter-narratives to expand their teaching to reach all learners,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “It’s through these culturally responsive teaching practices that our students can learn about the world that we live in with a more balanced perspective.”

Madril has taught American Indian music at San Francisco State University and was a three-year recipient of the California Arts Council Artist-In-Residence grant. As a dancer and educator, he has performed throughout the western United States, including the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival and World Arts West’s arts education program People Like Me. He works with students to encourage the appreciation of and respect for American Indian dance, music, culture, history, art and sign language.

To review the hands-outs and suggested readings, go here.

Youth in Arts worked with the Marin County Office of Education to provide professional development courses like these. We are proud to announce a generous grant from the California Arts Council to provide for Eddie Madrill’s Assembly Performance and Workshops for Title 1 schools whose teachers attended the counter narrative training. Thanks also to Marin Community Foundation for supporting our work.

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