917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
This was my sixth year teaching Music and Movement in Youth in Arts’ VSA program, and I was lucky enough to be assigned to work with four amazing teachers, Rockne Beeman, Laura Becker, Meriam Grainer Cox and Jessica Leaper. We had a wonderful time singing, dancing, playing and learning.
Rockne Beeman’s class of upper elementary students were a challenging joy to teach. He has a class of students with a variety of behaviors and levels of engagement. Some students would fully participate and sit in the circle and others would listen from different parts of the room. What was most facinating this year was that the students who had worked with me previously would suddenly focus and fully participate when they heard specific familiar songs. One such song was A Rig-a-Jig, a song that requires students to dance with a teacher and/or myself. Their favorite song by far was “Goin on a Bear Hunt,” where we would practice phonemes that are difficult for the students while we marched around and dance.
Another discovery was that certain students who had previously been non-verbal are now speaking and even singing. The photo below shows one of these students singing his favorite “penny game” song.
Laura Becker and Carla Victoria’s elementary special day classes were combined for a wonderfully large group every week. They accomplished a great deal over the course of ten weeks. The biggest challenge with these two groups was the fact that their abilities were so vastly different. Laura’s students need a great deal of assistance physically. All were in wheel chairs or other supportive devises and were not able to move on their own. Carla’s class was very active and needed to be constantly stimulated or they would lose focus. The best strategy I found for working with these two classes was to pair Carla’s most active students with Laura’s most inactive. They became “helpers” and danced and sang to the students who did not have the ability to participate in that way.
Meriam Grainge-Cox’s students were the most high functioning of my groups this year and they were able to perform quite complicated musical phrases despite the fact that they were 3 and 4 year olds. My focus with this group was to create a class where they could learn to be autonomous and run as much of the class as possible. This was very successful, and the last day of class was almost completely run by the young students
Jessica Leaper’s class was incredibly fun. They absolutely loved singing train songs and their favorite activity was dancing to Greg and Steve’s Choo Choo. There are a number of autistic students in this class, so I focused primarily on creating a clear routine over the course of the first couple weeks. As they grew more comfortable with the progression of the class. I was able to add more complex music and movement problems for them to solve. By the end of the 10 weeks the class was at a point of running most of the activities themselves.
All in all it was a fantastic school year, and each of these classes and their teachers made it an exciting experience.
YIA Mentor Artist Hannah Dworkin
As part of the 7th Grade Social Studies curriculum, I presented a two-day workshop at Davidson Middle School on Renaissance drawing techniques.
After discussing the apprenticeship system of artist training and the tools and techniques used by the dominant artists of the period, students chose a print by Michelangelo or Leonardo DaVinci to copy. This was one of the most common exercises a Master artist would give their apprentice!
We started by drawing a measured grid on colored charcoal paper, and then we copied the master drawings square-by-square to our drawing paper using charcoal and/or conte pencils. Students don’t need advanced drafting skills to do this…one just has to break down the images into lines and shapes, a little bit at a time. This process forces the draftsperson to observe very closely, and the students were surprised with the accuracy of their drawings!
Youth in Arts “Travel the World” programs provide professional arts instruction linked to K-8 History/Social Studies curriculum. Click here to download a flyer on programs you can bring to your school next year.
The 6th grade students at Davidson Middle School have been learning about Ancient Cultures in their Social Studies classes, and through our Passport event, their curriculum came to life! Throughout the day, every 6th grade Social Studies class took turns participating in a one hour long immersion into art forms of Ancient Cultures, engaging in both Visual and Performing Arts Activities.
Chinese Lion Dancers introduced students to the gongs, symbols, drums and dance movements of Ancient China; scaring off evil spirits with loud music and movements. Participants were given the opportunity to play the instruments and even get inside the Lion to dance!
YIA Mentor Artist Michelle Levy gave students a glimpse into the music of Ancient Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire, including the rebab, vielle, violin, saz (Turkey), Tambura (Macedonia), drums including dumbek, frame drum, riqq and the zurna. Students learned to count in different time signatures and the significance of various instruments in ancient time.
Students also participated in various styles of classical Persian dances with Shahrzad Khorsandi. Moving to the beats of the Daf (a traditional Persian frame drum), dancers moved in unison, learning social dance steps, hand movements and even a new way to snap their fingers!
For Visual Arts, students also explored two different activities.
YIA Mentor Artist Gabrielle Gamboa presented the ancient Greek art of Sgraffito – a technique traditionally used to adorn clay vessels, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colors, and then in either case scratching so as to produce an outline drawing. Students explored this by etching designs in Magic Paper.
In honor of the ancient Japanese art form of Chinese Brush Painting, YIA Mentor Artist Julia James taught students the various techniques of using Japanese brushes and traditional mulberry paper to create images of Mount Tam.
Every sixth grade student had the opportunity to participate in each activity, and most of them did exactly that! Students flowed seamlessly from one activity to the next, absorbing the information and partaking in the festivities. It was indeed a wonderful Passport to explore our artistic world!
This past weekend May 17 & 18 Arts Unite Us premiered an original production which combined educator Ben Cleaveland’s advanced theatre students and students from educator Michael Lovejoy’s Special Day Classroom. Students engaged in a collaborative theatre program, written, created, designed and performed by the youth under the leadership of Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs. The packed performances received standing ovations and praise from all involved.
Tam High student creators Victor, Glyn, Julia, Jake, Cate, James, Maribel have some words to share with you about their experience writing, directing, producing and performing as an integrated ensemble of young artists from Conservatory Theatre Ensemble and Marin County Office of Education!
“We took two of the most atypical programs in the county, and mashed them together, and it was extraordinary.”
At the beginning, “I was a little afraid of making new friends. I wasn’t sure we would get a long but by week two I felt so welcomed into the process.”
“I liked rehearsing, all the exercises and breaking up the scenes.” Working hard together in rehearsal was “one of the reasons the performance went so well. But even when things on stage didn’t go so well we were there for each other.”
“It went perfectly! I wasn’t nervous. For this one I wasn’t nervous coming into the process knowing whatever happened would happen and it will be great. Something different will happen and you have to react accordingly.”
“It was more about the process more than the product. That is something I’ve learned to value the most.”
Together on stage
My feeling in performance “its good!” I felt “happy”. But “the writing part. I like it cause the writing part was hard, the best.”
“I liked the acting part cause I like to dress up.”
Rehearsing a favorite scene
“It was a different experience. I felt really accomplished afterwards.”
One student was scared to go on stage for his cue with the packed audience. He finally worked up the courage and exited the stage whoop!ing it up! He said afterwards “I felt great! And happy! And I did my line!” He was also quick to praise his classmate’s funny delivery of his lines.
Another student praised her castmate too, “Maribel inspired me. I know she was always there for me on stage and as a writer.”
“I want to keep doing my lines!”
Actors playing campers
One of the co-directors had an interesting insight; before seeing the play some Tam High peers seemed to plan on “seeing it as if it was a kids show. It was like they didn’t really want to see or really think about it. I don’t know what to do to change that.” You want to know what to do to change that? You are doing it!
Other people would say our collaboration is going to be “so cute or sweet.” When people talked about the play preparation in a patronizing way “I got angry and stopped talking. It was discouraging.” Another said “you just have to see us working in rehearsal to know our work is just as hard, just as good!” But “The people who saw it and really thought about it, they loved it. They felt something. One guy said he had a horrible day and our play made him happy! They saw we worked so hard for so long together. We made people think and feel something! And I think that’s like the whole point of theatre.”
A moment backstage
Feedback on campus was super positive all around. “A lot of people say they heard it was good even if they didn’t see it. People were really talking about it, like, everywhere. Everyone said it was really entertaining to watch.” The audience “liked the ensemble aspect of it. How we were there for each other.”
Castmates and friends
“Everyone was so generous with themselves. Everyone put their peers before themselves but still worked hard on their work, their part of the pie. I think the world could use a little more of that. We put so much of ourselves and risked so much and the audience got to see that.”
“I know what we should do for our next play…”
Well… this project may be over, but high school students of all abilities from across the Bay Area are invited to apply for admission to a groundbreaking new integrated Dramatic Art Project (iDAP). This two-week intensive will be led by a professional artist and will culminate in a live multi-media performance. This is the beginning of the Youth in Arts Performance Company.
Your world isn’t typical.
Your art shouldn’t be either.
Exceptional young people with diverse experiences and abilities collaborate to produce an original piece of dramatic art. Explore elements of playmaking and filmmaking in this exclusive intensive at Youth in Arts in San Rafael this summer. Create an impactful live performance using forms of theatre and digital filmmaking.
Mentor Artist Melissa Jones Briggs will guide a small ensemble of students as they explore their collective authentic dramatic voice. Young artists will also work with professional guest artists to create, design, produce and perform an original piece of dramatic art. The Project meets at Youth in Arts Studio in San Rafael July 22nd - August 2nd, M-F, 10AM-3PM.
Many voices, one story: come share yours!
Apply @ youthinarts.org/idap
A Compass Rose is the diagram on a historical map that points the way north. The Compass Rose is also a way for a map maker to express themselves. So how can we tell future map readers about ourselves (as mapmakers) with our own personal Compass Rose? Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal worked with third grade teachers Anne Siskin and Maya Creedman at Willow Creek Academy to design this art project integrating Social Studies (mapping the local area), Math (fractions), and Art (self expression, drawing, composition and design).
What is most important to us? That idea should be facing True North, as marking is the most prominent aspect of a compass rose. What is also important? Draw those images around the edges. The Compass Rose can be your signature as a map maker.
Basketballs, puppies, paintbrushes, flowers, baseballs… What can you find in the pictures below? What would point north on your own personal Compass Rose?
Mentor Artist Djenane Saint Juste worked with children from kindergarten through grade 8 this year:
Dance is a powerful art form that allows the true self to shine and be happy. It is a way of communication that transcends any kind of barriers that our ancestors have used for many generations. It is a way to bring the community together.
After each residency at a school I discover new artists aware of their body and learning to translate their emotion through movements. I saw happy children and teachers who feel safe and confident to share their new dance moves. I saw respectful middle school students who learned to enjoy partner dancing with their classmates. And I spent a year working with the Cascade Canyon community who enjoyed traveling and learning about Haiti and other remarkable Caribbean cultures.
I am very thankful that I had the chance to grow up with a mother who is an amazing artist who taught me the passion for dance. And I am so happy to bring my family with me to each residency. My mother Fofo is a singer and dancer, my brother Jeff is a percussionist and my son Hassen is a dancer. I think it is very important for children to see four generations of family working together as artists, and to understand that dance is for everyone and is the true language of love.
Mentor Artist Angela Baker facilitated a clay residency with 1st graders at San Ramon Elementary in Novato. The teachers suggested a theme of animals and habitats to connect with grade level curriculum and link to a field trip to the California Academy of Sciences.
Students first explored various clay techniques such as squeezing, rolling, pinching, and smoothing with an air dry clay. Students could create anything they wanted but were encourage to pay close attention to how to make their piece strong. What happens if pieces are too thin? Some solutions for strengthening pieces were demonstrated.
After practicing with the air dry clay, students created animals in a beautiful terra cotta kiln fire clay. For these pieces students also learned how to use clay tools such as a wooden pencil and a metal scratching tool. They practiced the “scratch and attach” technique; a method for attaching two pieces of clay together.
While the clay was in the kiln for the glaze fire students were shown some paper folding techniques and made mini collages. These were great practice for creating a 3-dimensional structure and helped with the construction of the final dioramas of animal habitats.
At the end of the last class together, the animals were placed in their dioramas and the class did a gallery walk. Many students had created habitats so rich in color and detail that the animals were camouflaged.
Angela asked “What do you see?” One girl answered, “Details.” She then asked if they thought details were important in art and if so, why. Here are some answers: “Details make it look more like the real world.” “Details make it beautiful.” “Details give you more information.”
Youth in Arts is open late for 2nd Friday San Rafael Art Walk Downtown this Friday, January 11, from 5-8 p.m.
Come see our latest gallery exhibit, “Re-Generation: Teaching Recycled Art,” before it closes January 25. Help create a recycled “rag rug” or collect take-away cards to inspire your own recycled art projects at home.
“Re-Generation” features work from recycled and found materials by master artists, as well as recycled art works by their students and protégés.
Come explore the many reasons artists may choose to use alternative materials in their work and how they pass along these ideas to a new generation of young artists.
And don’t miss our new store layout with all kinds of artist-made items for sale, including creative recycled gift items by professional and youth artists!
Message to Our Community
Mentor Artist K-Dub Williams has designed a year-long project with the teachers of Willow Creek Academy which will culminate in PSA’s by “Elder Avatars” (unique masks created by each teacher). The first Professional Development Workshop explored answering the question “How can we use what we create to inspire Youth and Community?”
We began with theater exercises designed to engage the whole body in the creative process. Teachers were asked to think of a word that represented the superpower their own personal superhero might possess: Listening, Strength, Caring, Inspiration.
When people were warmed up, we moved on to visual arts and began to brainstorm on our “Elder Avatar”. How do we design our masks to visually represent the characteristics of our personal character? First, we worked in paper. We practiced patterns, symmetry, cutting, and attaching pieces securely.
Next time, we move into cardboard and plaster.
Large ears represent a good listener.
Creating a Community SuperHero: Expressing character and a positive message through physical movements.
Collaborating to Create a Tableau Vivant: each person's pose represented the word they contributed to the group's message.
Matthew Jackett is a junior at Marin Academy, interested in history and writing. As a 2012 summer intern for the Marin History Museum, Matthew wrote a series of blog posts on the mural installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the fourth post in that series. Historic images from the Marin History Museum collection.
Section of Mural by Davidson students
Across the mural runs a strip of film, centered around a depiction of the “El Camino” Theater that used to be located on 4th Street in downtown San Rafael. This is a recognition of Marin’s place in the film industry stretching all the way back to the 19th Century, when Thomas Edison mounted a camera onto the gravity railroad car on Mt. Tamalpais in one of the earliest movies made, in March 1898. Eadweard Muybridge was another film pioneer who made many movies featuring the landscape of San Rafael, Sausalito, and Mt. Tamalpais.
The film industry in Marin continued to flourish, and even Charlie Chaplin came to work in San Rafael for a year. In 1912, as the movie business in Marin grew, the California Motion Picture Corporation, decided to form a movie studio in San Rafael. “Salomy Jane” is their earliest and last surviving film. They produced many silent films, centered around Beatrix Michelena, the wife of George Middleton, the studio director. After a few years, the studio went bankrupt and the movies were abandoned in a vault that would one day catch on fire, and most of the films would be lost.
In 1917, Leon Forrest Douglass, a long time San Rafael resident, produced the first colored film in America. He presented the technology to film companies and got a patent for it, but unfortunately, movie studios were unwilling to invest in new equipment. However, with the invention of the Technicolor process a few years later, Douglass’s patents were repeatedly violated and he won a large sum of money as a result.
After the failure of the California Motion Picture Corporation and the other local film studios in San Rafael and Fairfax, the film business slowed down in Marin. While many films were made in the county, the next big name to visit was George Lucas.
Lucas made the decision to film “American Graffiti” in San Rafael, the beginning of his involvement in Marin County. After the success of “Star Wars”, Lucas moved to San Anselmo and made the decision that his new film center would be in Marin. He financed the move to San Rafael and began working on the sequel to his first Star Wars movie. He would later shoot scenes from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Marin, and a scene from “Return of the Jedi” in Muir Woods. Lucasfilm and Industrial Light and Magic bring the modern film to Marin, which has always been at the head of the industry.
El Camino, the theater depicted in the mural, was the premier theater in Marin County, opened in 1928. It had an organ, an orchestra pit, and elegant design, murals and furnishing in its lobby. The El Camino soon became the theater of choice as talkies emerged and the Depression began. As movie attendance went up, El Camino became even more and more successful, and the owners, the Blumenfelds, began building and buying theaters across Marin, including the Orpheus, the Sequoia, and the Lark.
The El Camino was closed in 1953 as television became popular. Some of its architecture can still be seen in the office buildings along Lootens Street (the theater was at Fourth & Lootens).
El Camino Theater, from the Marin History Museum collection
Film has always been a rich part of Marin’s history, San Rafael in particular. The presence of the theater and the film strip in the mural pays recognition to the rich culture it has given the county.
The San Rafael history mural at Youth in Arts was created with support from the County of Marin, the Fenwick Foundation, the MacPhail Family and the Marin Community Foundation. Youth in Arts will host a public reception and celebration of the mural on Friday, September 14, from 5-8 p.m. The event will include a dedication ceremony at 6 p.m. and the opening of a new exhibit on the creation of the mural by Davidson students.