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Painting to Music at Rancho Elementary School

Pre-K students in the Ready, Set, Grow! program at Rancho Elementary School explored various tools while painting to music. Part of a sensory-rich arts experience for students with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, this 10-week Rancho residency is part of the Arts Unite Us program.

Cathy says of her classes: “Recently, we painted to different pieces of music. We talked about how different music makes our bodies feel different things. First, we listened to  “Gymnopedie No. 1” by Erik Satie. Then we listened to a lively bit of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” Finally, we heard Duke Ellington play. It was fun to try different things to paint with, from creamy crayons to toothbrushes dipped in tempera paint. How does a sponge make marks differently from a roller? We used two colors of paint, pink and yellow-green, to explore mark making on sturdy mat board generous”.

 

 

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Lynwood Students Build Sculptures and Learn Pattern and Form

 

 

 

 

As part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program at Lynwood Elementary in Novato, Pre-K to 2nd grade students worked with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman to practice identifying and building with different shapes.

Cathy explains, “We used circles, squares, and rectangles to make 3-dimensional sculptures. This was a great way to reinforce geometric patterns that they are learning at school.”

Students used regular glue mixed with cornstarch to create an extra-sturdy bond that enabled shapes to “stand up” on the mat board base. Together, Cathy and her students worked through creative solutions to challenges such as balancing forms exactly the way they wanted them to sit.

Taking inspiration from artists such as Louise Nevelson, students finished their projects with monochromatic painting the following week.

“We used white or black paint to finish their sculptures,” Cathy says. “We used our paint brushes carefully to get into all the corners.

“The following week, students made observational drawings.  We looked carefully and closely at our shapes to draw what we see instead of what they think is there. After we used thick, water-soluable pencils, we applied a bit of water to make the lines come alive. This was a great way to practice using brushes gently – like a cat’s tail. We finished by writing our names at the bottom.

The lesson continued the next week with students practicing color mixing with tempera paint in red, blue and yellow and  creating paintings of their shape sculptures.

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Exploring Identity through Lines and Patterns

 

 

Students at Novato High School explored identity with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. To start a 10-week residency, we created self portraits with lines and shapes. First, we came up with a list of five adjectives and adverbs to describe ourselves. Then we turned each word into a line. What kind of line is “curious”? What kind of line is “awesome”? How do we draw “grumpy”? These were some of the questions we explored.

We started by sketching in pencil. Using gold and silver Sharpies and black canvas boards, we made patterns using our lines. Some of us covered the entire canvas with linear patterns while others worked in a more freeform way. We talked about issues of identity and what we choose to reveal about ourselves in our work.

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Clay Sculptures

 

 

 

Students at Short Elementary School in San Rafael made clay sculptures inspired by the work of artist Monir Farmanfarmaian. Inspired by curriculum provided the Kennedy Center, students looked at patterns in art. Like Farmanfarmaian, they worked with geometric shapes. We continued our discussion of patterns from a previous project and how to make patterns (a shape that repeats itself). Using air dry clay, students added color by coloring the clay with markers. We formed large shapes and pressed them into mat board. Then we made patterns using shiny paper, beads and found objects in the shapes of circles, ovals, triangles, squares and other forms. It was great to watch a short film about Farmanfarmaian and learn about her work! We finished the project with a reflection in which each student presented to the entire class.

 

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Paper Sculptures at Short Elementary School

Students at Short Elementary School in San Rafael explored color and cutting by making shape sculptures inspired by glass artist Dale Chihuly. First we cut a single piece of paper into three pieces. Then we used oil pastels to add pattern. Finally we used watercolors to add more color. Once everything was dry, students cut notches in the paper so everything fit together. It was hard work to get to balance but we managed and it was a fun way to learn how to do it. The lesson built on previous lessons exploring pattern and shape.

Compass Student’s Story from RISING STARS

MMeade_Compass_Student MMarty Meade, has been a Youth in Arts Mentor Artist for well over 20 years. Through our Arts Unite Us program, Marty has worked with students at Compass Academy (formerly Braun High School), an alternative elementary/middle/high school for students who experience underlying mental health challenges. She teaches students how to create artwork in a variety of media including, but not limited to painting, drawing, printmaking, and even glass making! The stories she shares in conjunction with the caliber of work her students produce continues to astound.

Marty enters many of her students in RISING STARS each year. This year’s blindly adjudicated exhibition, features 6 works by six Compass academy students, including anonymous student “M” who won the Youth in Arts award. “M was blown away with the award,” Marty shared, “and the staff was too. His response with the award, was immediate doubt, ‘but I’m not very good.’ He received it with the middle school and high school kids present. Everyone applauded, and I reminded him that the judges were professionals, and that all they had was a number and not a name. There was a moment when I saw him sink into his chair and tears filled his eyes.”

M, like many of the students at Compass, experienced trauma at an early age. His winning entry into RISING STARS is a block print on watercolor paper entitled, Self Portraits. “He has been drawing the image from day one, regardless of the assignment,” Marty said. “He has used acrylics, India ink, permanent markers with marbling, etc. I just let him do it and often wonder where it comes from. He did have a beautiful fish painting…but when I asked him which to choose [for the show] he instantly picked the prints.”

“My wonderful students at Compass confront challenging mental health or emotional struggles. The fact that they only get 45 minutes of art each week is unbelievable, and yet they make such wonderful art. I have been deeply moved that our students have been able to receive awards in spite of this limitation.”

Thank you, Marty for all you do!

 

A successful semester of art at Compass Academy

 

Compass Academy is an alternative elementary/middle/high school for students who experience underlying mental health challenges. Marty Meade, a certified Art Therapist  who works year-round with Compass Academy, says of her goal is to have the students “connect with the creative process, and to know that it is a safe space to inhabit when they are feeling powerless.”

She expands on their projects over the last semester, explaining: “We have painted with watercolors and acrylics, decorated sugar skulls, and made fused glass pendants and small plates.  The students have experimented with marbling paper and some print making as well. We play with concepts like scale, sometimes working big and sometimes in miniature. For some, it’s a process of learning to live with mistakes and let go, and for others it’s a time to slow down.”

Every day brings new adventure, and sometimes new challenges. Students who are new to the class in particular can experience understandable hesitation. Marty explains “I have new students who come in feeling unsure and occasionally defensive. One particular high school student painted a beautiful apple on her first day, but when I complimented her, her response was that she ‘didn’t like art’. I backed off, and as the following weeks went by she became more and more engaged. Her Sugar skull was delicate as was the trinket box that she carefully painted. Last week we did marbling and I gave them straws to blow the paint around in the water. She soon was dropping the dyes into the bubbles and then experimented with dish detergent. On Halloween as they were painting masks I read two stories from Grimm Fairy Tales. She immediately knew the version of Cinderella, and giggled as I read the vivid descriptions of the stepsisters trying on the shoe. All the while, I’m watching the hard-edged woman become a playful child again.”

However, time has had a positive effect on many of her students. Now in his second year, one student has transformed from being disruptive to the class leader. Marty notes that “his art is wonderful, and I’m trying to think of a creative way to gather his images of cats.” Another student, who Marty refers to as “I”, can hardly contain himself during art class and loves making things for his mother. Marty builds on these experiences to help students think about who they are and how their work might reflect their character, beliefs, and values. During the trinket box project, Marty brought in uncut rocks with opals inside and asked everyone to pick a stone that they felt reflected them most. She adds, “They were all very careful as they examined the stones.”

Marty credits her time in the classroom to the collaboration of the Marin County Office of Education and Youth in Arts. She is grateful for the opportunity to be with the children for the entire school year, and adds: “It has made such a difference in my relationship to the students.”

Thank you to the contract from the Kennedy Center and the funders who helped to make this happen:

 

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Willow Creek Academy and Short School Students Make Texture Collages

At Willow Creek Academy and Short Elementary School, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman worked with students to make wonderful collages using textures of different shapes and colors. Many students in special day classrooms experience sensory defensiveness, so Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal developed this as one technique to address this issue. Joyal explains, “For kids with special needs there is so much beyond their control that can be frightening and art is a safe way to take risks. Using textures in art provides children with a safe and fun way to confront potential anxiety around new experiences.”

Cathy describes the process, “Instead of glue, we used self-stick paper to hold down our shapes. We had to use at least five different shapes and colors. We felt each piece carefully before we placed it on our collage. Some shapes were rough and bumpy, while others were smooth or shiny. The soft feathers were especially fun! After pressing down our shapes we drew around them or on top of them with oil pastels. It felt unfamiliar to draw directly on the sticky paper. The final step was rubbing on the magic gold foil. It was hard to wait for the shiny foil but we did. We finished with a group discussion reflecting on the choices we made. It was a good chance to practice our speaking and listening skills”

The program was part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program, which serves students in special day and severely handicapped classes throughout Marin County. Thank you to the contract from the Kennedy Center and the funders who helped to make this happen:

IEP Arts Lesson Exchange

Post VSA Conference with added activities

By YIA Sachiko Moran, UCLA World Arts & Culture intern

Staff Miko Lee and Suzanne Joyal recently presented at the Kennedy Center VSA Intersections International conference in Atlanta on the upcoming IEP Arts Lesson Exchange. They introduced the concept to teachers and asked for their feedback and ideas on how to make it meaningful and useful to them and their students.

For years YIA has seen the impact that arts has on all students and particularly students with disabilities. For students with special needs, teachers must make the time to fill out Individualized Evaluation Plans (IEPs). Often times, when creating these plans, arts are left out of the picture.

YIA began working with a small group to create the beginning of an IEP Arts Lesson Exchange. This will be a free searchable database of arts activities for teachers and teaching artists to access in order to reach all types of learners. Through this exchange, YIA hopes that teachers and artists alike can contribute and benefit from one another’s knowledge and skills, making arts education more accessible. YIA knows that there are countless motivated educators that are keen on sharing and learning. The IEP Arts Lesson Exchange will be a platform on which they can do so.

To add your own activities and learn more go here.

Shout out to UCLA World Arts & Culture intern Sachiko Moran who created the rainbow and tested out the online forms.

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Suzanne Joyal working with the VSA conference participants

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Oak Hill Students Explore Painting and Sculpture

By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

For the past year, Oak Hill students have been exploring painting and sculpture. We ended the year with a student exhibit that featured several exciting projects. The display featured masks, paintings, drawings and two collaborative works based on the number paintings of artist Jasper Johns. It was important for students to get a chance to survey their own work as well as the art made by their friends. It was hard not to touch the art!

One of the projects the students liked best was using tape to separate space on pieces of canvas. The artists applied oil pastels and paint; once dry, they removed the tape. Some students enjoyed pulling off the tape more than painting! There were surprises of color and lines everywhere, and decisions to be made about whether to leave parts of the canvas bare. We finished off the project by using letter stencils. The artists were very creative and used the stencils randomly, rather than spelling out recognizable words or names.

Another popular project was making sculptures based on the work of Alberto Giacometti. Students began by making wire forms and then covering them with foil and clay. Once the clay dried, the sculptures were painted. Some students made human forms while others created animals.

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