Marty Meade, has been a Youth in Arts Mentor Artist for well over 20 years. Through our Arts Unite Us program, Marty has worked with students at Compass Academy (formerly Braun High School), an alternative elementary/middle/high school for students who experience underlying mental health challenges. She teaches students how to create artwork in a variety of media including, but not limited to painting, drawing, printmaking, and even glass making! The stories she shares in conjunction with the caliber of work her students produce continues to astound.
Marty enters many of her students in RISING STARS each year. This year’s blindly adjudicated exhibition, features 6 works by six Compass academy students, including anonymous student “M” who won the Youth in Arts award. “M was blown away with the award,” Marty shared, “and the staff was too. His response with the award, was immediate doubt, ‘but I’m not very good.’ He received it with the middle school and high school kids present. Everyone applauded, and I reminded him that the judges were professionals, and that all they had was a number and not a name. There was a moment when I saw him sink into his chair and tears filled his eyes.”
M, like many of the students at Compass, experienced trauma at an early age. His winning entry into RISING STARS is a block print on watercolor paper entitled, Self Portraits. “He has been drawing the image from day one, regardless of the assignment,” Marty said. “He has used acrylics, India ink, permanent markers with marbling, etc. I just let him do it and often wonder where it comes from. He did have a beautiful fish painting…but when I asked him which to choose [for the show] he instantly picked the prints.”
“My wonderful students at Compass confront challenging mental health or emotional struggles. The fact that they only get 45 minutes of art each week is unbelievable, and yet they make such wonderful art. I have been deeply moved that our students have been able to receive awards in spite of this limitation.”
Thank you, Marty for all you do!
Compass Academy is an alternative elementary/middle/high school for students who experience underlying mental health challenges. Marty Meade, a certified Art Therapist who works year-round with Compass Academy, says of her goal is to have the students “connect with the creative process, and to know that it is a safe space to inhabit when they are feeling powerless.”
She expands on their projects over the last semester, explaining: “We have painted with watercolors and acrylics, decorated sugar skulls, and made fused glass pendants and small plates. The students have experimented with marbling paper and some print making as well. We play with concepts like scale, sometimes working big and sometimes in miniature. For some, it’s a process of learning to live with mistakes and let go, and for others it’s a time to slow down.”
Every day brings new adventure, and sometimes new challenges. Students who are new to the class in particular can experience understandable hesitation. Marty explains “I have new students who come in feeling unsure and occasionally defensive. One particular high school student painted a beautiful apple on her first day, but when I complimented her, her response was that she ‘didn’t like art’. I backed off, and as the following weeks went by she became more and more engaged. Her Sugar skull was delicate as was the trinket box that she carefully painted. Last week we did marbling and I gave them straws to blow the paint around in the water. She soon was dropping the dyes into the bubbles and then experimented with dish detergent. On Halloween as they were painting masks I read two stories from Grimm Fairy Tales. She immediately knew the version of Cinderella, and giggled as I read the vivid descriptions of the stepsisters trying on the shoe. All the while, I’m watching the hard-edged woman become a playful child again.”
However, time has had a positive effect on many of her students. Now in his second year, one student has transformed from being disruptive to the class leader. Marty notes that “his art is wonderful, and I’m trying to think of a creative way to gather his images of cats.” Another student, who Marty refers to as “I”, can hardly contain himself during art class and loves making things for his mother. Marty builds on these experiences to help students think about who they are and how their work might reflect their character, beliefs, and values. During the trinket box project, Marty brought in uncut rocks with opals inside and asked everyone to pick a stone that they felt reflected them most. She adds, “They were all very careful as they examined the stones.”
Marty credits her time in the classroom to the collaboration of the Marin County Office of Education and Youth in Arts. She is grateful for the opportunity to be with the children for the entire school year, and adds: “It has made such a difference in my relationship to the students.”
Thank you to the contract from the Kennedy Center and the funders who helped to make this happen: