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San Rafael, California 94901
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Live Music… in History Class!

This month, 7th graders at Davidson Middle School had very unusual History class! Professional musicians Shira Kammen, Michelle Levy, and Jim Oakden played an assortment of medieval instruments for them (including vielles, harps, bagpipes, drums, recorders, and voice) as students learned about life and culture in Medieval Europe.

IMG_0048 The artists made a special effort to make the 1000-year old music relevant and interesting to Middle School kids. “If you ever want to make music for movies and video games,” Levy explained,  “you need to learn an instrument, and you need to know about Medieval Music.”

The artists showed a powerpoint presentation which illustrated concept art and music for movies like “The Hobbit” and video games such as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Braid”, and described how this media is influenced by Medieval art, music, and mythology. “To create a realistic instruments for an imaginary time that takes place long ago,” Levy explained, “artist John Howe drew Medieval and Renaissance instruments for Dwalin & Bofur to play in The Hobbit.” Students saw actual medieval illuminations of people playing instruments from important  Medieval manuscripts such as the Codex Manesse (Germany) and the Cantigas de Santa Maria (Galicia), followed by live demonstrations of those IMG_0054same instruments.

Through this multi-media demonstration, focusing on the main social structures in Europe during the Middle Ages and their impact on music and everyday life, students learned to identify where a piece might have been played in Europe and what role it served in the community, and they developed critical thinking skills and vocabulary while experiencing the music of the time on historical instruments. It was a history class they will never forget!

Renaissance Drawing at Davidson Middle School

By Mentor Artist Gabrielle Gamboa

As part of the Travel the World program, I conducted a fun and challenging Renaissance Drawing workshop for the 7th Grade History students of Davidson Middle School in San Rafael. This two day workshop was a hands-on lesson in Renaissance artists and their unique innovations. After a discussion of the apprenticeship system of the era, students chose a Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci master drawing to copy on tinted charcoal paper. I talked about how copying a master drawing was an important exercise in an apprentice’s studio education!

Each master drawing came with a transparent grid that we then copied on the charcoal paper. Next, we discussed the types of drawing tools used during the Renaissance era, and students practiced using vine and compressed charcoal, and sanguine and umber Conte crayons (soft, earth toned colored pencils.)

I then demonstrated the technique of making a more accurate copy by drawing only one small grid square at a time, copying the contours of shapes and lines, and then adding shading. I demonstrated how turning an image upside-down can sometimes make it easier to copy clearly. Some students chose to start in pencil and then switch to charcoal or conte, others chose to draw entirely in charcoal and/or conte.

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This lesson directly connected to their history studies, and the students were impressed at how well the old grid drawing technique worked to make more accurate drawings!

Culture Shock in Socks!

By Mentor Artist Sheila Berotti

It was with a bit of surprise recently that I realized that 7th graders might have an issue with the custom of removing one’s shoes.

When I teach workshops in Noh and Kyogen theatre with Theatre of Yugen, we ask students to remove their shoes as a matter of course. We work in tabi, which are a special kind of footwear that is a bit more than a sock, but much less than a shoe. In some recent workshops, the students were instructed to take their shoes off and many were willing, but many were plainly defiant and some flatly refused. The point was not over-labored, but it brought me to make a brief explanation of foreign customs and the graciousness of honoring them. I pointed out that there is a practical reason as well: the space, whether it is someone’s home or the sacred arena of the Noh stage, keeps cleaner.

We went on to have great class, wrapping students in beautiful silk kimono and exploring the classic 15th century beauty of the Noh ko-omote mask. We tried on the postures of a few of the Kyogen stock characters – master, servant, priest, woman – and discussed their status in Japanese feudal society. We explored the extreme and fairly silly vocal stylization of the riddle dance, “Usagi,” and asked the students if they had ever experienced a kind of beauty they might call Yugen.

Yu: deep, quiet, otherworldly
Gen: subtle, profound, dark

(This was all part of the lesson plan. I did not expect to include a lesson on observing manners and having respect for other cultures, but when it just came up, it presented the ideal opportunity to make the point.)

Renaissance Drawing at Davidson Middle School

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.

 

Davidson Students Travel the World with Youth in Arts!

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!

Students and Families Celebrate Young Artists

[singlepic id=442 w=320 h=240 float=right]Students, families, friends and community members enjoyed the Bay Area’s warm September weather and celebrated the artistic accomplishments of Davidson students at a special Friday evening event in downtown San Rafael.

Held in front of Youth in Arts home at 917 C Street, the event included the dedication of a historically themed mural created in 2011-12 by Davidson students with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski. Youth in Arts Gallery was also open, featuring an exhibit on the mural, curated and installed in part by Davidson students. The event was featured as part of ArtWorks Downtown’s 2nd Fridays Art Walk.

[singlepic id=427 w=320 h=240 float=left]Visitors had a chance to see the gallery exhibit and enjoy refreshments and hands-on arts activities. Musical accompaniment and dance demonstrations were provided by Joti Singh and Bongo Sidibe of Duniya Drum & Dance Company. Joti also teaches students at Davidson, through Youth in Arts.

San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips was on hand for the dedication ceremony, along with Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams. The Davidson mural project was supported in part by the County, and also by the Fenwick Foundation, the Marin Community Foundation and the MacPhail Family, which has owned the building currently housing Youth in Arts since the 1800s.

Youth in Arts also presented the 2012 Pamela Levine Arts Education Leadership Award at the event, to Carol Cooper, founding Head of School for Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito/Marin City and a strong supporter of arts education. (For more information on the Pamela Levine Award and Ms. Cooper, please visit the Youth in Arts website).

Students from the Davidson Mural team spoke as part of the mural dedication ceremony, along with Mayor Phillips, Davidson Principal Harriet MacLean, and Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski. Many spoke of how impressed they were by the students’ work and by their dedication to the mural project. Brooke pointed out how the young artists had chosen to include images of themselves painting in the center of the mural. The painting explores many themes from San Rafael’s past, she said, but “they are the future–and the future is so bright.”

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The Mural Team, comprised of 17 students (now 8th and 9th graders), worked throughout the Fall and Winter of 2011-12 to research, plan, design and create the mural. Hundreds of Davidson seventh graders also worked for a shorter period of time with Brooke on “mini-murals” which were also on display.

A plaque installed by Youth in Arts at the site provides passers-by at 917 C Street with a sketch of the mural, explaining the history behind each of the features included.

Click here for more event photos

Davidson Mural Celebrates San Rafael History

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

In this section of the mural the El Camino theater is the main feature. Next to the movie theater in this part of the panel is an ice cream store that used to be a main attraction on Fourth Street, which is now the location of the restaurant Sabor of Spain, down the block from Youth in Arts.

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.

More History Behind the San Rafael Mural

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 third post in that series. Historic images from the Marin History Museum collection.

Section of mural by Davidson students

San Rafael in the late 1800s

In the far right panel of the mural, a horse is depicted standing in front of the Bay View Livery and Sales Stables, the building that is currently Youth in Arts. The building has been owned since the 1870s by the MacPhail family, who now leases the space to Youth in Arts. In the front of the building is a Tally-Ho wagon with Neil MacPhail, the original owner of the livery, riding in the front.

Louise Arner Boyd

Above the building are three historic famous San Rafael residents. On the far left is Louise Arner Boyd, famed heiress, Marin native, and Arctic Explorer. She inherited her fortune from her father, who made his money as a mining tycoon. After her parents’ death, she began to spend her millions on lavish parties hosted in her home in San Rafael. She then began using her money to explore the Arctic region, and at the age of 64, became the first woman to fly over the North Pole.

The man in the middle is Billy Shannon, who owned a famous boxing training gym on Fourth Street from 1906 to 1914. It was called Billy Shannon’s Villa, and it was the choice destination for celebrity boxers at the time, such as Joe Gans, the first African-American boxing champion. Shannon provided lodging and training for the boxers while his wife would cook and feed them. On the weekends and holidays, boxing matches would be held and crowds would take the West End train to come see the fights. When boxing was outlawed temporarily in California, Billy Shannon’s Villa was forced to close, but he left San Rafael residents with the memories of the fights and the celebrity boxers, and he became a cherished memory of San Rafael at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Eleanor Garatti

The third member of the trio is Eleanor Garatti, who was Marin’s first Olympic gold medalist. She trained at San Rafael’s Municipal Bath House, and broke records across the country at swim meets, with the trips funded by local merchants. She won the gold medal in the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam for the U.S. freestyle relay team, as well as a silver medal in the 100 meter freestyle. Four years later, she once again won the gold medal in the relay and this time won the bronze in the 100 meter freestyle at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. When she returned home, huge crowds came to celebrate along the train route from Sausalito to San Rafael. She became a local hero, hailed by the mayor of San Rafael as “Marin’s sweetest daughter.”

At the left of this mural panel are also two well-known San Rafael architectural landmarks–the historic Falkirk Mansion and the Marin Civic Center, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

This part of the mural shows the past of San Rafael and all that has made it what it is today. Youth in Arts building itself can be seen, growing from a livery to a center that gives children the opportunity to explore the history of their city and express themselves through an artistic medium.

Read “History Behind the Mural, Part 1”
Read “History Behind the Mural, Part 2”

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.

Continued: The History Behind the Mural

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 by Davidson Middle School students recently installed on Youth in Arts refurbished facade at 917 C Street. This is the second post in that series.

Section of Mural by Davidson students

The next section of the mural includes the Spanish Mission, the cattle and dairy farming, and the changes in regime from Spain to Mexico to United States.
Read more…

The History Behind YIA’s San Rafael Mural

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 first post in that series.

Section of YIA Mural created by Davidson students

Youth in Arts’ newest project allowing students to explore the history of Marin in an artistic medium is a mural placed on the outside of their building. The mural was created by students at Davidson Middle School with the help of Brooke Toczylowski, an artist who works with Youth in Arts.

The mural works inward from two ends chronologically, with the center panels representing the present and future of San Rafael. The beginning of the history of Marin and San Rafael is the Native American Miwoks, and that is what the first panel of the mural depicts.
Read more…

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