How can you draw your friend on a Zoom call? How can you explore identity with a can opener and a spoon? Despite the challenges brought forth from necessary distance learning approaches, Oak Hill School students found ways to do just that through our Arts Unite Us program.
Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman had just started her 10-week residency with educator Danya Lebell’s class when the pandemic forced the school to close abruptly. Using what students had on hand at home, Cathy changed the curriculum to focus on self portraits and identity, working with both students and paraprofessionals.
For the first online class, we took turns making different faces and posing for each other. We quickly found out that it was a challenge to work on Zoom, as staring at the tiny green dot of the camera isn’t the same as looking into someone’s eyes. For artists experiencing disabilities, eye contact is especially crucial for interpersonal engagement. Despite these challenges, the activity was a perfect fit for students as they begin exploring job opportunities. Learning to read facial expressions is key!
The following week we explored drawing profiles while making different expressions. A week later we practiced blind contour drawing. We hid our paper and drawing hand in a grocery bag and drew each other without lifting our pencils or peeking inside our bags. The faces didn’t look like we expected, but we made some interesting line drawings.
For our final class, we used kitchen utensils and other objects. Students and paraprofessionals made four different portraits, each time rearranging the items in a different way. It was amazing to see how many expressions a can opener could make.
“I wanted students to use art to explore thinking outside the box,” Cathy said. “Given the complex challenges of our world, staying flexible and confident in our choices is more important than ever.”
In response to recent events, we at Youth in Arts recommit to lifting up the voices of the unheard and underrepresented. Access to creativity empowers youth to share their voices and ask difficult questions of themselves and of the world.
Equity is at the center of our work. Starting this week, we are launching YIACr8tes Conversation, looking at race, identity and racism. Teaching artists presenting these free digital lessons include Jessica Recinos of Rising Rhythm SF, Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger and other Mentor Artists from the YIA roster. Each lesson will end with guiding questions for parents and educators to ask children. The lessons will air on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at 1 p.m. PDT today (June 8), Wednesday, June 10, and Friday, June 12.
“We will continue to facilitate art and put creativity in the hands of those often left out of critical dialogue,” said Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We will drive discussion of implicit bias, policies that support equity and unobstructed access with educators, administrators and parents. We will not shy away from pushing the conversation surround privilege and power, especially in our community. We will continue to build a network of advocates that look to arts education as a vehicle for social change.”
As many schools look at slashing the arts because of budget shortfalls in light of the pandemic, we urge them to look for free and affordable resources and partners. Along with shifting to online learning, many students are trying to find their paths amid trauma, economic uncertainty, isolation and the chaos of world events. Access to art and creativty is more important than ever for offering ways to support mental and emotional health. Creativity can be also be used as a catalyst for discussions about anti-racist parenting and classrooms.
“Covid-19 pushed educators and parents to find innovative ways to engage creative exploration through digital/virtual means – Youth in Arts was ready and present with online learning. Now, as the trauma of Covid-19 is compounded by intensity of racial justice protests, Youth in Arts is again ready to join parents, educators and schools to inspire conversation and dialgoue on critical issues,” Kristen said. “Youth in Arts’ work has long centered on equity and we feel empowered to step forward as a leader and resource for our community.”
We urge you to join Create CA’s statewide effort to promote the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning. This resolution outlines students’ rights to a high-quality public arts education, regardless of background, culture, language or where they live. Youth in Arts has already signed on. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at more ways to create digital programs to address racial and social justice.
In the meantime, here are some resources:
From the New York Times, books that help explain racism to kids
From National Public Radio, Raising White Kids: How White Parents Can Talk About Race
Also from The Times: 26 short films for exploring race, bias and identity
We are grateful to be able to do the work that we do at this important time. Please join us and please reach out with any suggestions or resources for continuing racial justice work through the lens of arts programming.
When you park in downtown San Rafael, look up!
Colorful art created by children at Magnolia Park School during a Youth in Arts’ residency has inspired a sign now on display at the Fifth Avenue and C Street garage.
The city’s Parking Services Division selected the work created with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Julia James during a competition last year aimed at beautifying the downtown San Rafael garage. The mixed media piece has been transformed into a 3 by 6 foot sign at Fifth Avenue and C Street while the new public safety center is being built across the street. The sign will remain up for six months before a new sign featuring new artwork will take its place.
Each children’s art piece that has been selected is paired with work by an adult artist that appears on the opposite side of the sign, celebrating San Rafael. The piece created by Julia’s students at the San Rafael school is paired with “Under the Surface” by San Rafael-based artist, Travis Weller.
This is the second Youth in Arts’ artwork to win a spot in the sign contest. A mixed media piece by students at Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito has already been on display. That art was created last spring in a self-contained class of kindergarten and first graders who worked with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.
Cathy’s and Julia’s classes were part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us (AUU) Program, which serves young artists experiencing disabilities.
Thank you to the city of San Rafael for this amazing program.
At Youth in Arts, we get by with a lot of help from our friends. One of them is artist Tracey Wirth.
Tracey wears many hats: textile designer, seamstress, handbag creator, graphic designer, fine artist and more. She also happens to be a neighbor of Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal.
When Suzanne started working on “Imagining Friendship,” our annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts show now online at Youth in Arts, she dreamed of turning kindergarten and first grade portraits into coloring book pages.
Enter Tracey, who generously agreed to help. Suzanne sent her more than 80 portraits and emotions studies created by students at Laurel Dell Elementary School last fall. Through Tracey’s magic computer skills, each portrait was transformed into a black and white line drawing.
“Those pages would not exist without Tracey’s help,” Suzanne said. “It meant the world to us.”
Tracey is no stranger to coloring book art. When the coronavirus shelter-in-place order took effect, she asked herself what she could do to help. Using her own artwork, she created 30 free and beautiful coloring pages available on her own website. Each one carries an uplifting message, like “not all heroes wear capes.”
“I like the idea of being a visual storyteller,” Tracey said. “It was good therapy for me.”
The feedback has been positive. One acquaintance gave some pages to her mother, who has dementia. The recreation director for her late mother-in-law’s assisted care facility in San Rafael printed out several pages for elderly residents there to use.
“I’d love to see more adult artists reinterpreting students’ art, ” Suzanne said. “There’s something very therapeutic about just coloring.”
If you haven’t seen the student self portraits in our online Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts show, please check them out here. (The portraits can be printed out, colored and put in your window for your neighbors to enjoy.)
The portraits were the final project of a 12 week residency with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills through art making with a rich variety of tools and materials. It also helps children learn how to make and keep friends while practicing sharing and empathy.
The program was created in 2013 with the Rezaian family in honor of the life of their young son, Walker.
How do you open a show when your art gallery is closed temporarily? By hosting a virtual celebration for your community with a drawing lesson, story time and fabulous self portraits.
Youth in Arts joined families, friends and staff at Laurel Dell Elementary School to celebrate Imagining Friendship, our annual show that honors Walker Rezaian. The online exhibit featured a slideshow of more than 90 self portraits and emotions studies by kindergarten and first grade students
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was at Laurel Dell and Short schools last Fall. The visual arts residency builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills through art making. It also helps children learn how to make and keep friends while practicing sharing and empathy.
Friday’s celebration began with a bilingual drawing lesson with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Joining us were kindergarten teachers Alejandra Vazquez and David Peterson, and first grade teacher Vanessa Nunez. Together we explored what it’s like to make and then draw different expressions. How does your face look when it is happy? What about angry?
Principal Pepe Gonzalez delivered a sweet and funny message with help from his young sons and talked about the importance of creating visual art, music and dance while sheltering in place.
“If we weren’t creative, we’d be pretty bored right now because we’re usually in our pajamas,” he said.
Gonzalez, who heads both Laurel Dell and Short schools, praised Youth in Arts for making sure “creativity stays alive” while students are forced to stay home. He noted that Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal assembled art kits for every student at both Laurel Dell and Short schools.
Our thanks also go to author Susan Katz, who read her book “All Year Round” in English and Spanish. It was fun to know the Principal Gonzalez had her as a teacher when he was in school!
We wrapped up the evening with a slide show of the self portraits accompanied by music from ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella troupe.
Suzanne encouraged viewers to check out the cool coloring pages made from the students’ self portraits. The portraits will be viewable online until May 31. They can be printed out, colored and put in your window to share with your neighbors, and you can find them here:
Suzanne also thanked the Rezaian family for making this wonderful program possible.
“You can say thank you to them in your own way by being a good friend to those around you and creating something every day,” she said.
A special thanks to Tracey Wirth Designs for turning the portraits into coloring pages; to our translators: Alejandra Vazquez, Vanessa Nunez and Peter Massik; and to Principal Gonzalez and the staff at Laurel Dell for making this program such a success.
Please join us for our first virtual art exhibit! Youth in Arts is proud to present Imagining Friendship: Portraits of Young Artists at the YIA Gallery.
The exhibition features a slideshow of art created through our Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Viewers can see more than 70 colorful portraits created by kindergarteners and first graders. The online gallery opens this Friday, April 17, with a celebration on the Youth in Arts’ Youtube channel at 5 p.m.
A coloring book page has been made of many of the self portraits. Viewers of all ages are invited to print out the black and white images, choose one to color, and tape it in a window for others to see and enjoy. With families staying home due to the coronavirus, we invite you to celebrate these young artists in your own way. People are encouraged to post their art on social media and Youtube. Don’t forget to share with us at @youthinarts.org!
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was created by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family to celebrate Walker’s life and his love of the arts. You can learn more about this amazing program here. We invite you to participate and explore (safely) what being a good friend means during the quarantine.
The portraits were the final project of a 12-week residency taught by Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Using innovative lessons that allowed students to use a range of tools and materials, children explored ideas about compassion, empathy and friendship. Youth in Arts’ programs celebrate creativity, confidence and compassion in ALL learners – and we need that now more than ever.
Cathy said each class did their portraits slightly differently. One kindergarten class made watercolor portraits with cardboard frames colored with black and white pastels. The other kindergarten class did the opposite: they created black and white portraits and used colors on the frames. This decision turned out to be fortuitous as those pages (as well as several from first grade) were transformed into coloring pages that could be downloaded.
Adapting is a way of life at Youth in Arts. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate, explore and create so we can reach students of all abilities with innovative art programs. Let’s infuse our community with joyful art in as many ways as we can!
With thousands of Bay Area kids at home due to the coronavirus closures, how can you keep them busy?
By joining Youth in Arts on social media for art projects you can make with supplies from home.
For at least the next two weeks, Youth in Arts is offering free, 8-minute livestream tutorials at 11:08 a.m. PDT (2:08 p.m. EDT) Monday through Friday. At #YIACre8tes, daily tutorials include drawing your toys, movement exploration, building paper playgrounds and making sculptures.
“All of our programs emphasize creativity, confidence and compassion, and we need that now more than ever,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re excited to support our students, partners and their families during this crisis that is taking them out of their daily routine.”
The livestream sessions on Instagram and Facebook will feature Youth in Arts’ staff and emphasize art projects that students are able to do with what they have on hand at home. With families trying to create learning schedules at home, these lessons offer a guaranteed creative break during the day.
“Since we can’t work with students in classrooms, this is a new and innovative way to reach them,” Kristen said. “It’s proven that art reduces stress and helps people connect.”
Although Youth in Arts’ staff had planned to live stream every day, this week’s sudden shelter in place order required us to pivot – and quickly. We moved swiftly to pre-record a week’s worth of tutorials that could be released a day at a time. Next week, staff members will be live streaming again from their homes.
“Like everyone, we’re trying our best to adapt to a rapidly changing situation,” Kristen said.
Although Youth in Arts is based in San Rafael, these lessons are free and accessible to students in the Bay Area and beyond. Students and their families are encouraged to share their own ideas at #YIACre8tes or @YouthInArts.
“Since we can’t collaborate in person, let’s make our community virtual,” said Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “Creativity is the glue that holds us together. It’s something we all still have, and it’s free.”
Stay tuned for more in-depth lessons!
Students at Oak Hill students explored themselves by making different lines.
Working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, they used black and white pastels on a beautiful brown paper. We looked at thick lines and thin lines, curvy lines and bumpy lines. Some artists worked precisely and methodically and made only straight lines; others used only curves and made spontaneous marks everywhere.
When we finished, we laid the work on a table and talked about connections.
At the next session, we looked at the portraits and then made different portraits using water soluble Lyra graphic crayons and white pastels. Students made more lines and shapes, then activated the pencil lines by tracing them with a paintbrush dipped in water. It was fun to look at the two portraits together.
“This is another example of how we scaffold,” Cathy said. “It builds confidence in artists when they can practice a familiar subject with new materials.”
Cathy is at Oak Hill as part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program, which supports students experiencing disabilities.
Students at Olive Elementary School found an interesting way to make prints. They used their hands.
Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, students in Joe Smith’s class began by creating small collages using at least five torn pieces of colorful paper. They arranged the composition first, then glued them flat onto mat board.
That’s when the real the fun began. Using black printer’s ink, students took turns rolling out the ink, listening for the “sticky” or “tacky” sound that indicated it was ready. Using the sides of their palms, their fingertips and other parts, they created self portraits.
Cathy likes to show students that a self portrait doesn’t have to be a realistic image of your face. Just as Van Gogh painted his shoes, young artists can show themselves through a painting of an object or image – or choosing what part of their hands to use for a print tool.
Cathy taught the same class at San Ramon Elementary School with Kelsey Olson. This project engaged many important skills, from rolling out the paint to tearing the collage papers into manageable pieces. For young artists in our Arts Unite Us program, which supports artists experiencing disabilities, these can be crucial skills to master.
While rolling out the thick black ink, one student sighed happily.
“I could do this all day,” she said.
How can you turn a colorful collage into a painting of blacks, whites and grays?
Students in Kelsey Olson’s class at San Ramon Elementary School used their collages from a previous class as inspiration for paintings that explored tints and shades.
Working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, the young artists started with a plastic slide (view finder) to choose a tiny detail of their collage that they wanted to enlarge and turn into another painting.
After making a quick sketch, they worked with white and black paints on mat board. Some students made sure to keep the light areas light by using a little bit of white pastel, too.
In making the paintings, we had to look carefully. Which part is the darkest? Which part is the lightest? How do we mix white and black together to show a range of tints and shades?
“I wasn’t sure if they would find black and white paint boring, but they all liked it,” Cathy said. “It’s amazing what a variety of tints and shades students created.”
Class ended with students looking at the ways their own work connected to that of their classmates. It was good practice to talk about what we “see” instead of what we “like” and the value of giving precise, neutral feedback to each other.
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