With so much change happening in our world, art is a powerful tool for self expression.We’ve been moved by photos of people making art from the simplest materials. Flower petals turned into hearts. Food crumbs that inspired a face. Drying dishes? A quick still life.
In communities throughout the Bay Area, people have written messages in sidewalk chalk. Tiny hands have scrawled signs of encouragement in the window. Children have made morning altars of gratitude from flower petals and leaves. One family made their own giving tree, hanging it with tags suggesting ways to support Black Lives Matter. In another neighborhood, children painted rocks of hope and nestled them in the trunk of their old palm tree.
How does art show up in your life and sustain you in uncertain times? How can art support equity in your community? If you are making art, where are you making it, who are you making it for, and why?
Photo credit: Thanks to artist Nathalie Valette (blue plate, drying dishes and tree tags); artist Eve Aldridge (chalk message), and to the artists who made the hearts and altar.
Want to learn more about #YIACre8tes? Read about these free online arts activities and Executive Director Kristen Jacobson on Partnership Resources Group’s website.
The San Rafael-based consulting firm provides fundraising services to organizations in Northern California. During the coronavirus quarantine, it has been highlighting nonprofits doing good work by featuring them on its heroes page.
This week, Youth in Arts was named as one of those heroes.
Kristen explained that as a mom of two boys, she knew immediately that Youth in Arts needed to step up to the challenge facing parents who found themselves suddenly homeschooling while trying to work.
“I understand how important arts education is to my children and to this community,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “STEM really needs the A for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).”
Youth in Arts has been providing free arts activities live streamed weekdays at 11:08 a.m. on Facebook and Instagram. Activities have included a shape chain dance, making paper playgrounds, painting with flowers and building towers with cardboard scraps.
Vanessa Coleman, a teacher at Rancho Elementary School in Novato and the mother of two boys, appreciates the Youth in Arts lessons.
“We have been using Youth in Arts as fun brain breaks and just some different types of instruction,” she said. “The live stream is videoed so they an be accessed live, or later at a time convenient for us. They are short and sweet – just perfect.”
Kristen said Youth in Arts is reaching as many schools as it can through distance learning. The arts education nonprofit currently has partnerships with about eight school districts, using teaching artists to provide programs designed to reach all learners and build creativity, confidence and compassion.
Kristen said the silver lining of live stream videos is that Youth in Arts is connecting with more families in a new way.
“Whether they join us live or later, we are getting 800 to 1,100 views on our videos every day,” Kristen told Partnership Resources Group. “We need things like this now more than ever.”
To read the full interview with Partnership Resources Group, click here.
Although a cappella is technically defined as singing without instrumental accompaniment, many a cappella singers use their voices to create instrumental textures when they rehearse and perform to create a multilayered musical experience for themselves and their audiences.
Once everyone in a group learns their part, individually, the next level of work begins, that of weaving these individual parts together into an evolving blended, balanced, dynamic tapestry of sound. Though each member of an a cappella group can learn and practice their parts on their own, the aforementioned weaving has to be done together.
That’s the challenge that’s faced `Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella group. Though the 15-member ensemble typically meets twice a week to practice, they last rehearsed together in person on March 11.
When the shelter in place order resulting from the coronavirus pandemic was issued, the members of `Til Dawn, like everyone else in the Bay Area, have been stranded at home, forcing the cancellation of all of their spring shows, auditions for new members and the cancellation of their annual spring concert.
Suffice it to say, there’s simply no way to do a lot of what the group had been doing.
“There is no way to rehearse that allows us to sing together, real-time, and hear each other,” said longtime Director Austin Willacy. “Variations in wifi access and speed create lags that make it impossible to sing together through Zoom. Truth be told, though we’re a singing group, we spend as much of our time listening as we do singing. Learning to listen to each other while singing, to navigate our individual voice’s proper place as we’re performing, is the most important part of what we do at rehearsal. It’s an ongoing dance of stepping forward and stepping back,” he said.
When they first met online, because of time lags, Willacy was only able to work with one singer at a time – which was very inefficient as it left the other members of the group waiting for their turn. At in-person rehearsals, although individual support is available as needed, the group typically learns new music by voice part; the sopranos all learn the soprano part together, etc.
Recognizing how draining that amount of waiting while glued to a screen could be, Willacy quickly adjusted, shortening rehearsal time by 30 minutes and splitting the group into four songwriting groups based on their self-assessed comfort/experience with songwriting. The check-ins, which are a longstanding attuning process at the beginning of rehearsal, have continued to allow the group to stay connected with each other as much as possible. The music-focused time in `Til Dawn rehearsals is now evenly split between rehearsal and review of existing repertoire and songwriting.
The members of `Til Dawn have been nimble and creative in finding ways to use technology to support their songwriting. One member sang her melody to a friend over the phone (he recorded a track with instruments and sent it back). Another downloaded free beats from a website. Several members play the ukulele, saxophone, guitar and other instruments and have been using those while composing.
Willacy said exploring songwriting has been an unexpected benefit for `Til Dawn members confined to home.
“I’ve been deeply struck by the level of songwriting talent in this group,” he said “I’ve also been inspired by the level of creativity, trust, and willingness to try on something new.”
For the Youth in Arts’ COVID relief fund, `Til Dawn has prepared a special video and song. To make it possible, Willacy laid down a basic piano part to a click track and received an iPhone-recorded guide vocal. After combining them, he sent an MP3 to the group members so they could listen to it in earbuds while recording their respective parts. They recorded themselves (singing mostly on their phones) and sent their audio files back to Willacy, who painstakingly edited them all together, then providing that recording to the song’s lead vocalist, Anna McShea, who was able to perform and record her own vocal in Ableton, a music recording app.
The teens also furnished video of themselves singing along to the track to Youth in Arts Program Director Kelsey Rieger, who is compiling the individual video into a video of the whole group. Watch this wonderful performance here!
Willacy, a renowned performer who travels worldwide as a solo artist and with the pioneering a cappella group, The House Jacks, said he’s been able to stay in the creative flow despite the quarantine. He’s written or co-written at least four songs and mixed and edited several more.
“I’m really lucky to have a studio at home,” he said. “It’s a huge privilege that feels even bigger right now. Being creative helps me stay present.”
How should a dancer teach online? How does clown perform without a live audience? How can a metal artist heat up materials without her studio?
More than 50 teaching artists from around the Bay Area joined a Zoom call recently to explore how to continue working with their students, now that schools and businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Youth in Arts held a similar call the same day with its own teaching artists.
The Bay Area wide event was supported by Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and Oakland Unified Arts Partners. It was facilitated by Mika Lemoine, a mentor artist who teaches hip hop and street dance with Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, and Rachel-Anne Palacios, a multicultural artist and activist who works in the Oakland schools.
Participants began by coming up with a word to describe how they were feeling. The answers were telling: Hopeful. Weary. Isolated. Groovy. Challenged. Excited. Unwashed.
With work inside schools halted, teaching artists discussed ways to engage with their students online. Several expressed their concern about how to reach kids who don’t have access to a computer, and how hard it is to be creative when you feel anxious.
“I realize how much social connection feeds me and motivates me,” said one dance teacher. “Not being able to fully move is hindering my well being.”
Teaching artists also talked about the strain of trying to figure out how to survive financially. Can they file for unemployment? Which is the best online platform to use to reach the widest audience? When will they be able to earn a living working in classrooms again?
Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson held a similar Zoom call with Youth in Arts’ teaching artists and staff. Kristen shared that Youth in Arts is talking to funders, donors and school partners to find ways to continue programming and support teaching artists.
Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.
The San Rafael elementary school recently celebrated its reopening with a joyful ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew dozens of students, staff and members of the community. Youth in Arts was there to celebrate its Architects in Schools program and to showcase the amazing work made during residencies last Fall while the school was being rebuilt.
Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented Principal Pepe Gonzalez with the this year’s Pamela Levine award for his outstanding support of arts education. It was evident how much he is loved by the thick book Suzanne made that was filled with hundreds of cards and drawings from students, teachers and specialists. There were so many cards from well wishers that the book couldn’t hold them all.
Although Suzanne has never seen Pepe draw a picture, dance or sing, she considers him a kindred spirit who thinks like an artist.
“He enjoys the success that comes from solving problems as much as I do,” she said. “Mr. Gonzalez understand that the arts are about so much more than the pretty object we draw. The arts offer students a safe space to explore their world, to stand up to speak out and to believe in themselves.”
The day included visits to a special exhibition of work made with Youth in Arts’ architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Visitors were encouraged to look closely at how Youth in Arts teaches a sequential program in which skills are built upon from one year to the next. The lines and curves in a kindergarteners’ self portraits, for example, leads to a third graders’ colorful model of what Fourth Street in San Rafael could look like. That model gives fifth graders the skills they need to design spaces for the city’s future library.
Pairs of students from each class served as docents, giving tours, answering questions and explaining their work. Practicing speaking in public supports one of Youth in Arts’ goals: that students reflect upon making art and can speak confidently about their work. Third graders who worked with Shirl (creative director at UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN) will present their design and policy proposals for downtown San Rafael the city’s 2040 general plan steering committee on March 11.
The daylong celebration ended with a Family Art Night with Youth in Arts. Children in after school care, as well as families and friends, stopped by to make tiny bridges for crossing the canal. It required them to find a place where they thought a bridge was needed, then to measure the spot to make sure the bridge was long enough. They used buttons, embroidery hoops, clay, bumpy paper and wood scraps to bring their models to life.
Family Art Nights are a great way to involve families in the art their children are making and are usually a part of all Youth in Arts’
Artists in Schools residencies. For more information about art nights and Youth in Arts’ residencies, please contact Program Director Kelsey Rieger at (415) 457-4878 ext 110.
Welcome to the`Til Dawn 2019-20 company.
The new singers attend schools throughout Marin, from Larkspur to Novato and bring a variety of expertise and interests.
“I sing when I wake up and I sing until I go to sleep,” said new member Leah Nemerovski. “I don’t find passion in anything else.”
Current ‘Til Dawn members are already practicing and putting their musical experience to use. Nemerovski plays the trombone, piano, drums, ukelele and enjoys musical theater. She became interested in ‘Til Dawn when she saw them perform at her middle school. She was surprised how easily she connected with other members of the group.
Nemerovski, and Alisa Costello, both 14, attend San Marin High School in Novato. One of the things they enjoy is the closeness of the group.
“It’s like a family,” Costello said.
For the newest members, music runs in the family. Costello’s uncle was an opera singer who performed at Carnegie Hall; Nemerovski is learning how to play the drums from her dad. Will Ferris’s mom is a singer, and Jacquie Kizer has two uncles who are musicians. Emma Orrick’s father is a music producer.
Kizer, 15, goes to Redwood High School. Kizer moved to Marin from New York last year and previously sung in a similar group. Being in the group, she said, provides a safe space and an environment in which to have fun.
“It’s honestly been amazing,” she said.
Orrick, 14, is also at Redwood. and plays the piano and does theater. She was surprised by how quickly the group learns the songs.
“It’s always my highlight of the week,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like a chore.”
Ferris, 15, is a sophomore at Drake High School. He didn’t think he’d get into the group, he said, because he couldn’t figure out what to sing. He chose his winning song –”Fly Me To The Moon” – on the day of the audition.
Ferris said he enjoys performing all of the songs, although some are difficult because they are beyond his tenor range. The songs that are performed are chosen by the ensemble.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s really healthy for the group.”
`Til Dawn is an advanced vocal music program that celebrates the value of the arts, encourages positive messages about meaningful social issues and inspires children of all ages. The 15-member ensemble is part of Youth in Arts’ I AM mentorship program and the longest-running, year-round teen a cappella ensemble in the Bay Area. It’s directed by Austin Willacy, who performs as a solo artist and also with his own a cappella group, The House Jacks. While Willacy is on sabbatical this fall, the group has been taught by singer Lilan Kane. a ‘Til Dawn alumnus, and others.
Laurel Dell 5th graders spent a few days happily painting one of San Rafael’s utility boxes as part of the “emPower Utility Art Box” project. If you’re heading to the 101 freeway, you’ll see the box at Second Street and Lincoln Avenue on the right side.
This spring, the students participated in a 12-week residency program that was a unique collaboration between Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN. The program featured local architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford and artists working with 4th and 5th grade students teaching design and build concepts. Students created bridges, towers and maps looking at important issues facing San Rafael, such as climate change, affordable housing and access to the Canal community.
“It’s great that the students were so engaged in the work, ” said Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal. “They really wanted people to think seriously about San Rafael’s 2040 plan and what the city needs for the future.”
To paint the utility box, a small group of 5th graders worked with Joyal and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. In selecting the design and color, it was important to consider how different colors make us feel. Students practiced writing their important words big so they would be visible. Despite the heat, the painting was fun! We didn’t blend colors completely to maintain a painterly effect. We added floating houses, trees, birds and clouds. When we were done painting, we added more detail and pattern using paint markers. It is an important visual reminder of what we all need to be thinking about.
The grand unveiling of the six boxes that were painted will be held on June 14 in conjunction with the 2nd Fridays Art Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. The boxes are located in the city’s downtown corridor and transit center.
The 2019 San Rafael Leadership Institute started the utility box project as a way to bring more art to downtown San Rafael. The institute is a San Rafael Chamber of Commerce program made up of public and private professionals, nonprofit leaders and business officials.
Youth in Arts is excited to announce the opening of our new ART LAB at the YIA Gallery.
Located in the gallery’s store, the ART LAB is open during regular Youth in Arts hours – Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and until 8pm during Downtown San Rafael’s 2nd Friday Art Walks. It’s free and open to the public for art-making activities linked to YIA exhibitions.
“In keeping with our mission of providing arts access to all learners, Youth in Arts is opening its doors to the community to explore its creativity,” said Miko Lee, executive director of Youth in Arts. “We’re providing free, hands-on art projects for all ages.”
Children will enjoy kid-sized tables where they can make art and explore materials. Each exhibition will also feature the artwork of one of Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artists. All artwork on view in the space will be for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Youth in Arts.
Suzanne Joyal’s work is currently featured and coincides with Imagining Friendship the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts exhibition of self portraits by kindergarteners and first graders from Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. The colorful paintings were created during their Fall residency with Youth in Arts. As part of the exhibit, Youth in Arts’ staff have created a kid-sized interactive cardboard world with doors, tunnels and windows for exploring.
Both children and adults are welcome, but we kindly ask that all children be accompanied and supervised by their grownups.
Please come and visit us soon. Just look for our bright red wall!
By YIA Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman
This past winter I had the privilege of working with four fun and friendly San Rafael High School students on creating signage for the Youth in Arts C Street studio and gallery. The objective of the project was to design and create an eye-catching sign that grabs the attention of the public and invites them to come into the Youth in Arts studio to view and even create art.
The students first brainstormed how to visually portray what YIA is about (i.e. accessible art programs revolving around music, performing, and visual arts.) They proposed various ideas and discussed the effectiveness of using certain visuals. The students continued editing their ideas further until they had collaborated a harmonious design and composition.
Not having much experience using paints, the students spent some time familiarizing themselves with basic painting techniques before applying paint to the final surface. We decided to paint the sign’s design on a canvas using acrylic paints and then have the image digitally reproduced with the Youth in Arts logo printed directly onto a sandwich board sign to be placed outside the YIA studio.
The final design of the sign (prior to the digital reproduction) was comprised of colorful music notes dripping with wet paint, theater masks, a violin with a pencil for a bow, a paint-filled drum being played with paintbrushes, and vibrant piano keys atop a pastel rainbow background. The bold lines and pops of color will definitely grab the attention of the viewers and draw them in to learn more. The art students fully enjoyed learning what it was like to design and paint like artists, wearing their smocks, using traditional painting palettes and techniques, and thoughtfully orchestrating their physical working positions to allow all four artists to work on the same canvas simultaneously.
Youth in Arts is offering free Family Art Night activities to school communities impacted by the recent fires. Family Art Night is an integral part of our school programs—we bring artists, supplies and volunteers to a school site, usually on a weekday evening or possibly a weekend day.
We would like to offer a Family Art Night for free to any impacted school that would value this, whether or not they are already participating in our programs. Schools would be free to supplement arts activities with a potluck or other community sharing activity.
We can provide examples of invitations that partner schools have used to gather families for the event. Each Art Night would include two projects:
Family Flags of Hope
Families and students work together to design and hand paint canvas flags that can be strung together to beautify an area of campus.
Ethiopian Necklace Scrolls or Accordion Books
A take-home project creating a uniquely shaped handmade “book” containing children’s dreams for the future.
Please contact Morgan Schauffler at Youth in Arts to schedule. As we know you are all very busy right now, here is what the school community would need to do to participate:
Youth in Arts will:
Please let us know if this would be helpful. We wish you all the best as your community recovers.
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