Catherine Layton is a Marketing Manager by day, but her true passion is dance, specifically Tango. She has spent years honing her skill and performing in New York and throughout the Bay Area. Her deep appreciation for the arts, culled with her marketing superpower, and being the mother of two school-aged children, make her an ideal fit for the board.
Catherine is a recent graduate of the San Rafael Leadership Institute. Executive Director Miko Lee spoke at their Diversity, the Arts & Media session and Catherine was inspired, “Miko’s general energy, personal story, passion for the transformative nature of the arts in general, and for the work of YIA in particular, really struck a chord with me and inspired me to become involved. Plus, I’ve always been pro-arts and a supporter of arts in schools, and have two school-aged children, so I already had a passion for the cause – it felt like a natural fit.”
Born in England and raised by two classical musicians, Catherine was exposed to the performing arts at an early age. Her arts education growing up in England and then Ohio was rather limited. “I spent half of my K-12 education in England, and only remember music class in school there. I only vaguely remember music and art in K-12 in Ohio,” she explains. “Most of my arts education occurred outside the classroom, and exposure to the arts in general came from my parents. It really wasn’t until I was in college that I had good access to arts education in all forms, and was able to choose from many classes in the arts.” She wishes educational leaders would have had a better understanding of the importance of arts education, “as a critical part of a “well-rounded” curriculum, and really understood the profound benefits of arts in schools. That artistic expression and talent were nurtured in all schools (not just creative and performing arts schools), and that there were options for dance!”
Catherine looks forward to utilizing her skills in, “problem solving, collaboration, strategic thinking, marketing, project management and operational experience” to further the mission of Youth in Arts. We are so thankful to have her passion and expertise on our board. Thank you Catherine!
Her background as an elementary school literacy specialist, and museum educator at renowned institutions such as the Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art and SFMOMA, make Suzanne Reich Gibson a seamless fit for the Youth in Arts board. We were lucky enough to meet her at one of our Lights On Tours this spring, where her thoughtful questions highlighted her passion for arts education. “I had heard about the wonderful work that Youth in Arts does in Marin schools, particularly working with students with special needs,” she explains, “I was inspired as well by the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Arts Program, which reaches students at the start of their elementary school years and, now, empowers them with arts skills throughout their elementary school years. I came for a visit to YIA’s C Street gallery and was awed by the students’ creativity and voices on display there.”
Suzanne grew up with arts as a centerpiece in her life, “I was fortunate to have all sorts arts at the core of my childhood, both in and out of school,” she shares, “I also had grandparents who made art of their own and were determined to take us to museums and concerts from an early age.” In her adult life she has found time for art-making as part of her museum work, where she says, “art-making is very much a way of looking at and appreciating the art on display.” And she is continuing her own arts education through a recent mono-printing class, “which was very accessible and refreshing – I will definitely do more!”
Prior to settling with her family in Mill Valley, Suzanne lived in various locations in Europe and learned some valuable life lessons, “I’ve lived in some faraway places – the north of Norway and Warsaw, Poland. There’s a lot to learn by being the ‘outsider’ about who makes a community and the richness of many cultures living together.”
Thank you, Suzanne. We look forward to learning more from you as part of the YIA community!
Youth in Arts is thrilled to welcome Kylee Ortiz to our board. Kylee, has always been creative, and she had great support from her family when it came to pursuing her passion. Although she had access to visual art and music in school, much of her arts education was self-led. She explains, “I was lucky enough to have visual art in the classroom regularly although…I was not taught technique or guided to connect to the source of my creativity. Using my intuition, I did those things on my own, in school and out.” Her motivation to pursue the arts ultimately led her to get a Masters in Transformative Arts from John F. Kennedy University. It was there that she realized how omnipresent creativity can, and should be in education. “It wasn’t until I was at JFK that I realized everyone has a creative source, we’re all creators in our own right. Creativity is messy and sometimes dark and that’s ok.”
Kylee recognizes just how important arts education is to developing well-rounded, and confident leaders, “I recognize the transformational power of art and know that when young people are provided a safe space for art making and guidance accessing their creative source, their potential is limitless. With that belief, five years ago, my husband and I conspired a semester long, after-school pilot program. We facilitated transformational research-based art making, non-judgmental dialogue, and exhibited their art in a local gallery. Proceeds benefited a local non-profit.”
Kylee, is a Manager System Administrator at Kaiser Permanante by day, and a renegade prose and multi-media visual artist by night. She lives in San Geronimo with her husband and three children.
We are very thankful to have Kylee’s wonderful energy, compassion and creativity on our board. Thank you, Kylee!
Youth in Arts welcomed our wonderful new Program Director, Kelsey Rieger earlier this month. Kelsey has served as a community gallery manager, museum educator, and volunteer teacher. Most recently she was the Curator of Education at the Palmer Museum at Penn State University, where she received her Masters in Arts Education.
Thanks to her parents, Kelsey, a Southern California native, grew up with excellent access to the arts. “I was fortunate enough to have been gifted access to cultural institutions and the arts from a very young age, granting me entry into the perspectives, values, and aesthetics of people I had never met and places I had never been.” She explains, “I took art lessons every week, learned to play musical instruments, and spent weekends attending theatrical performances because my parents felt that this exposure would help me grow into a compassionate and capable adult. The arts were ingrained in every aspect of my life, and from these experiences I learned the value and humanity of creativity.” Recognizing that although her arts education was plentiful, many others’ is scarce, eventually led Kelsey to pursue a career in the field, “With time and perspective, I have grown to realize that my upbringing was a wonderfully privileged one and that many people suffer from inequitable access to arts resources across the country and throughout the world. It was this increased awareness and a deep-seated desire to provide every child with the same opportunities to grow with the arts that I had, which ultimately led me to my profession as an arts educator.”
Her drive to bring all arts to all students, makes her a fantastic fit for the role of Program Director. “I have always believed that at its core, art is a malleable and necessary discipline that helps us investigate, interpret, and engage with the world around us. Having worked closely with students in the process of creative expression and interpretation, I’ve witnessed the subtle power of the arts in promoting open mindedness and inspiring innovation as well as confidence in our youth and within society.” Acknowledging that arts education is too often undervalued, Kelsey passionately asserts that we need to do more, “Arts Education Administrators, community members, artists, and educators must work collaboratively across the institutional board to provide supplemental programming that is both accessible and relevant to students and people of all backgrounds. It is this need that initially interested me in the important work that Youth in Arts is doing, and I look forward to the opportunity to help propel their programs forward for the benefit of the community and the voices of our future generations.”
Though she doesn’t call herself an artist, Kelsey creates, and has long felt connected to the arts, “I have deep respect and admiration for the work that artists do. Having worked closely with many gifted artists devoted to creating and sharing their work with the world, I have never quite considered myself to be an artist. However, I was formally trained in the fine arts and have always found comfort in drawing and mixed-media sculpture. I enjoy the journey of making art and rely on it as a means of keeping my life balanced and healthy.”
We are thrilled to have Kelsey join our team. Her enthusiasm for her work is palpable, “I hope to find effective ways to apply my experience in public programming, community engagement, curriculum development, and evaluative research in order to keep growing YIA’s reach within the community!”
Thank you, Kelsey!
Youth in Arts hosted our second annual Bocce Tournament Fundraiser on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon in San Rafael. Nearly 50 players enjoyed four lively rounds of Bocce at the Marin Bocce Federation on September 15th. Many donors came out to support the event, and one of the eight teams was comprised of teenagers from our ‘Til Dawn A Cappella group. Though our ‘Til Dawn team they didn’t take home the big prize, they played with such wonderful enthusiasm! Competition was stiff, but after an exciting final round between, Take the Cannoli and deBOCCEry…deBOCCEry came away with the win! The winning team was rewarded with beautiful certificates and bottles of wine from YIA Board Member, Maura Tokarski. Our fantastic volunteers, Aliya & Jeffrey helped us to sell lots of raffle tickets at the event and announced the winners of the wonderful prizes from Benissimo Restaurant & Bar, Pizzalina, and Marin Bocce Federation. ‘Til Dawn performed a set of four beautiful songs, to cap off a great day. We enjoyed delicious food and beverages from our generous donors – beer from Iron Springs Public House, wine from BJ Acker-Hitta, a slider bar from Farmburger Marin, and dessert from True Marin Treats. A big thank you to all of our individual and corporate donors, volunteers, and staff for helping make this fundraiser a success!
We are very excited to welcome, Kathryn Hasson, as the new student representative on the Youth in Arts board. Kathryn, an incoming senior at Marin Academy, has been a member of ‘Til Dawn since her sophomore year. In addition to being an incredibly talented vocalist, Kathryn has seriously pursued acting, and creative writing throughout her high school career.
She appreciates and creates art in ALL of its forms, dabbling in photography, drawing, and painting as well. “So much happiness in my life comes from creating things,” she exclaims, “I consider myself a proud and extremely passionate artist.”
Kathryn has had access to excellent arts education throughout her life, but realizes that everyone isn’t as lucky. While she wouldn’t change anything about her personal arts education experience, she would like to open up the dialogue around the importance of the arts in education. “If I could change anything it would be students’ and teachers’ perception of arts education. I feel that many people hold the belief that arts education and opportunities are unimportant, or at the very least a last priority. I want to improve this and show people that having a space for creativity in school is incredibly beneficial.”
We look forward to Kathryn bringing her bold creativity and enthusiasm to the board. “I’m incredibly driven and passionate, and that shows when I speak about things that I love,” she explains, “Additionally, I’m very eager and willing to learn.” That positive attitude extends to her willingness to learn more about the condition of arts education in Marin County. “I would like to have a greater understanding about the current state of arts education in Marin…my ideal goal as a board member, is to be an example of someone who has been greatly influenced by the arts and thus help people understand just why the arts are so vital to both education and life.”
Thank you, Kathryn!
A big thank you to the golfers (and wine lovers) who spent a foggy Friday at the Presidio Golf & Concordia Club in San Francisco competing in the second annual Youth in Arts Golf Tournament, hosted by YIA Board Treasurer Tim Distler.
The winning lowest score foursome was comprised of Bobbe Sabella, Ken Christopher, Jeff Stephenson and Tracey Gardner.
The two closest to the pin winners were Gerard Westmiller and Rip Malloy. Lastly, the longest drive winner was JD Cafaro.
The event was sponsored by Troutman Sanders LLP with a host of amazing wineries providing wine for the event and a silent auction. In total the event netted over $5000 in support of Youth in Arts programs for children of all ages and abilities.
If you’d like to donate to support the cause, click here!
Much appreciation to Kyle Haraszthy for securing all the auction donations and for being the perfect sommelier for the guests. And thank you to all the following auction and event donors–please support businesses that support arts for kids!
Fleury Estate Winery
Haraszthy Family Cellars
Kamen Estate Wines
Kanzler Family Vineyards
Lasseter Family Winery
Ovid. Napa Valley
Mill Valley Community Center was lit up “Electric Blue” on Friday by the spirit of generosity from generous sponsors, over 100 event and auction donors and nearly 200 arts-loving partygoers!
Youth in Arts thanks everyone for being part of a fun and festive night that netted over $50,000 in support for Youth in Arts programs, including a special appeal that raised more than $26,000 for the Arts Unite Us program serving youth with special needs in Marin.
We are so grateful to our sponsors Nancy & Luis Belmonte, Yerba Buena Commons, Entelo, Bank of Marin, Stephanie Lamarre–Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty, the Marin Independent Journal and Marin Arts. And we also want to thank our Board of Directors and particularly Events Committee members Naomi Tamura, Devin Dixon, Melissa Jones Briggs, Angela Rafner, Linda Sudduth, Maura Tokarski, Sheila Tuffanelli and Justine Rudman for spending so many hours, weeks and months preparing for the event.
The evening included silent and live auctions, a special reading of Youth in Arts student work by leaders in Marin County efforts to build more arts into our community, dinner from An Affair to Remember Catering, wines from Rock Wall and White Oak, beer from Moylan’s Brewery, coffee from Nova Rosti, a “dessert dash” game and performances from Youth in Arts `Til Dawn A Cappella and the amazing Pride & Joy, whose electric blues dance music inspired the event theme!
Live auction donors included Playa Restaurant in Mill Valley and the Napa Valley Film Festival, as well as YIA Board Member Devin Dixon. Our silent auction and dessert dash included contributions from over 100 local businesses and several more contributed goods or services to the production of the event. We encourage you to check out the full list of event supporters on our website and to always support businesses that support arts for kids!
Finally, thank you to all our guests–you really made the night a success with your generous donations and auction bids (and of course with your fabulous dancing!)
We’ve included a gallery of photos below snapped by Curtis Myers (thank you, Curtis!)
The end of the year is almost here–keep watching our blog here for stories from our school sites about all the creativity, confidence and compassion you have helped to support!
Youth in Arts is thrilled to announce that we have just completed a three-year strategic plan focused on intensifying the impact of our work to ensure all our students receive the full benefits we know arts learning can provide.
The vision behind this new plan is that youth of every background and ability will have the creative skills, compassion, confidence and resilience to share their voices and achieve their goals.
Our work will be guided by key values, reaffirmed in this planning process:
We believe in INCLUSION, that differences are beautiful, and that students of all abilities and backgrounds deserve an education in the arts.
We believe in CELEBRATING young people as artists, knowing one impact of the arts is bringing joy to human lives.
We believe in EMPOWERING youth to share their stories and express their beliefs freely and effectively through music, dance, visual arts, theater and new media.
We believe in ARTISTS of all ages, endorsing a mentorship approach to arts education that connects students with professional working artists, skilled in their art forms and effective in their teaching.
A Focus on Intensive Arts
In our arts residencies in local schools, we are adding new key elements that will now be a part of every program, intensifying the impact on students:
We believe that this approach of 8+ week residencies supplemented with events that include family members in children’s arts learning will provide a quality educational experience that will not only teach children specific art skills but also foster confidence and self-expression.
Assemblies and Performances
Youth in Arts has historically provided 45-minute performances for students, first through a mainstage series and more recently through our school “Assembly” program. In order to have the kind of impact on students we hope to achieve, we are now connecting any performance we provide to additional arts learning opportunities in the classroom. This means that we may provide schoolwide performances as part of a longer site residency, or in conjunction with curriculum-linked workshops, but we will no longer be providing “stand alone” Assemblies where a short performance is our artists’ only interaction with students.
We are in the process of developing a series of performances enhanced with classroom workshops linked to social science and language arts curriculum. While we intend this model especially for middle school sites, we would be happy to talk to elementary schools that are interested in this approach to arts learning.
Intensive Arts for Teens and Model Projects
Youth in Arts will also continue to offer our “Intensive Arts Mentorship” (I AM) programs for teens, including `Til Dawn A Cappella music program and C Street Project visual arts. We will continue to showcase youth voices through exhibits at YIA Gallery, and we are developing a new YIA Theater Ensemble to provide opportunities in a new genre.
We remain strong in our commitment to serving students of all abilities and will continue and hopefully eventually expand Arts Unite Us residencies serving special education classrooms. We also plan to further refine our model work in creating inclusive arts residencies that bring together students of differing abilities through shared arts experiences.
And we will continue to develop unique program models we have been piloting at some of our closest partner schools. These include piloting a K-8th grade sequential arts program starting the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Kindergarten Art Program and “Architecture in Schools,” along with several other promising models, including both direct classroom instruction projects and professional development for educators.
Our website will be updated soon to reflect these changes. Meanwhile should you have any questions about specific programs coming to your school, please contact Morgan Schauffler.
If you have questions about the strategic planning process or overall vision for Youth in Arts, contact Executive Director Miko Lee.
Last weekend, Youth in Arts supporters met up on the courts at Marin Bocce Federation for a fundraiser supporting arts programs for K-12 students of all abilities. After three rounds of preliminary games and two playoff games, the big winner was Team WBBB. Congratulations!
The event raised over $10,000 for arts education and was a fun time as well, with a featured performance by Youth in Arts `Til Dawn A Cappella at the end of the day. We are so grateful to all the players for coming out to support Youth in Arts, to our Youth in Arts Board Member Deb Bennett for organizing, to Board Member Maura Tokarski for providing beautiful certificates and prizes for the winners, and especially to our sponsors who made the event possible. Thank you!
First Federal Savings & Loan of San Rafael
Bruce & Linda Hopper
Team Mannie & Al
The Holy Rollers
Susan Feder Mediation
Melissa Jones Briggs