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Going Virtual: Madera School Embraces the Arts

As schools scramble to find virtual ways to reach their students, Madera Elementary School stands out as a model for continuing to provide its students access to innovative arts programs.

Youth in Arts teaching artists had just started an 11-week music program at the El Cerrito elementary school when the coronavirus pandemic forced Madera to close temporarily.

That didn’t discourage Madera leaders. The Madera Elementary Foundation, comprised of school families, met with Youth in Arts staff and teachers via Zoom to work out the details of how to create a virtual program. Thanks to those efforts, music programs in nearly 20 classrooms resumed after Spring Break. Instead of being together in a classroom, students tune in online.

“Madera has really gone the extra mile to ensure their students continue to receive the arts they deserve,” said Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “We’re not giving up and neither are they.”

Youth in Arts has three teaching artists at Madera. They are: Brian Dyer, who teaches vocal and beginning percussion in kindergarten and first grade; Aaron Kierbel, who teaches percussion and drum in second grade; and Antwan Davis, who teaches body percussion and rhythm in third through sixth grades.

Youth in Arts Program Director Kelsey Rieger, who coordinated the move to digital teaching, said she hopes more schools will follow Madera’s lead.

“This is really the way of the future,” Kelsey said. “When schools partner with us, we find innovative ways to provide meaningful programs. It’s more important than ever than students have healthy and creative ways to express themselves.”

Youth in Arts has another Madera connection as well. Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman attended the school in second and third grade.

“Madera was a great place to go to school,” Cathy said. “It’s nice to know that hasn’t changed.”

Cathy had fun at Madera!

Traveling the World at Harding Elementary

Dancing Samba Reggae

Dancing Samba Reggae

Recently, families from Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito joined Youth in Arts Mentor Artists in a Passport Art Event.  Participants received a paper “passport” and traveled to various countries and exploring their art forms during this evening event.

Outside the Multipurpose room we danced to the beats of Brazilian Samba Reggae with YIA Mentor Artist Stephanie Bastos.  Stephanie has been teaching dance in the K-3 classrooms throughout the school year and during this event students, parents and siblings got the opportunity to dance together with her.

Persian Classical Dance

Persian Classical Dance

There were many moments of dance solos that were not to be missed! Inside, we swayed to the melodies and rhythms of Persian Classical Dance with YIA Mentor Artist Shahrzad Khorsandi.  Dancers got to use beautifully decorated scarves to highlight the dance movements.  We also learned about the instrumentation with live music provided by Pourya Khademi.

Chinese Brush Painting with Julia and Miko

Chinese Brush Painting with Julia and Miko

Utilizing special rice paper and bamboo brushes, YIA Mentor Artists Julia James and Miko Lee led participants in Chinese Brush Painting techniques to create beautiful paintings of bamboo.  Artists also learned how to make their special “chop” or, signature in the corner of their painting.

We also created tin medallions representing our Mayan Nahual or, birth sign.  Using the Mayan Calendar, each person calculates their Nahual, which indicates the “essence” of their spirit according to Mayan beliefs.  We used wooden stylus to etch in the outline of our Nahual and colored them with markers.

Youth in Arts is thankful to all of the families staff and friends who showed up

Making Nahuales with Angela and Sophie

Making Nahuales with Angela and Sophie

and traveled the world with us!  We look forward to continuing our day-time programs in K-6th grades which will culminate in sharing events later this month.  YIA Mentor Artist Thomas Arndt is teaching theater classes during school as well as in a special after school group dedicated to writing, producing and performing an original theater piece that addresses issues of acceptance, friendship, appreciating differences and being true to yourself.  Stay tuned for a performance date!

Thank you to the Thomas J. Long Foundation for making this program possible!  With their support, we are able to provide financial aid for year-long arts programming at Harding Elementary and celebrate our diversity and expression in many forms!

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