Katya McCulloch, TeamWorks Art Mentoring co-founder, and Louis Murillo TeamWorks teaching artist, instruct at the Loma Alta School (Marin County Office of Education’s Juvenile Court classroom). They shared more about the inspiration behind, and process of creating their group artwork on display as part of our RISING STARS exhibition, on view at the YIA Gallery through March 29th.
“Holiday Banquet,” a mixed media work featuring images of food painted on paper plates, mounted on a hand embroidered tablecloth, began as a project about recycled materials. Katya, Louis, and their students discussed how food vendors at places like the Marin County Fair, have to discard food once it’s opened, and so much of it is wasted. The work is also a comment on the fact that juvenile hall probation restricts students from going to the Marin County Fair. So, in a sense they were depicting food they wouldn’t typically be able to have.
The work started around the winter holidays, so the teaching artists and their students were talking about memories of family and their favorite foods. They discussed how, “during the holidays some teens were locked up while others were home enjoying good food,” Katya said. “This is when we try to come up with a group project that will keep them focused and not think negatively,” Louis shared.
Once each students had settled on their individual subject, they then focused on the formal qualities of painting such as shadow, highlight, contrast, and perspective to make their work more 3-dementional. The artists, aged 13 to 18, worked in the round at a table of 8 students. Once they were finished they left the painted plates out on the table to dry, and realized it looked a lot like a banquet…hence the title.
Katya and Louis work with Loma Alta’s students once per week 12 months of the year. They don’t have any real breaks in the juvenile hall system. “The continuity…the ongoing nature of the art is the most impactful for the students,” Katya shared. Having more school breaks would, “delay the the process of building trust.”
“Exhibits are very important for building pride,” Katya noted. Loma Alta student’s work is displayed multiple times per year – as part of RISING STARS at Youth in Arts, as well as at the Marin County Fair, San Rafael Library, Pickleweed Community Center, Marin Center, and Civic Grand Jury Chambers.
Through art making Katya has seen, “a quantum leap in students willingness to work together…putting personal issues and posturing aside” to focus on the art. “The unity in these projects is huge, as it’s tremendous to helping the kids communicate amongst others with more respect,” Louis added.
TeamWorks has been providing “on-going arts engagement for at-risk youth ages 11-18 in Juvenile Justice and in Alternative Education high schools in Marin County” for 20 years.