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.
How should a dancer teach online? How does clown perform without a live audience? How can a metal artist heat up materials without her studio?
More than 50 teaching artists from around the Bay Area joined a Zoom call recently to explore how to continue working with their students, now that schools and businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Youth in Arts held a similar call the same day with its own teaching artists.
The Bay Area wide event was supported by Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and Oakland Unified Arts Partners. It was facilitated by Mika Lemoine, a mentor artist who teaches hip hop and street dance with Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, and Rachel-Anne Palacios, a multicultural artist and activist who works in the Oakland schools.
Participants began by coming up with a word to describe how they were feeling. The answers were telling: Hopeful. Weary. Isolated. Groovy. Challenged. Excited. Unwashed.
With work inside schools halted, teaching artists discussed ways to engage with their students online. Several expressed their concern about how to reach kids who don’t have access to a computer, and how hard it is to be creative when you feel anxious.
“I realize how much social connection feeds me and motivates me,” said one dance teacher. “Not being able to fully move is hindering my well being.”
Teaching artists also talked about the strain of trying to figure out how to survive financially. Can they file for unemployment? Which is the best online platform to use to reach the widest audience? When will they be able to earn a living working in classrooms again?
Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson held a similar Zoom call with Youth in Arts’ teaching artists and staff. Kristen shared that Youth in Arts is talking to funders, donors and school partners to find ways to continue programming and support teaching artists.
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!
At this month’s Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area (AEABA) education policy roundtable Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson, who serves on the Board of Directors for the alliance, joined other arts leaders from the Bay Area to present on and discuss strategies for bringing more arts education to students throughout the Bay Area.
The convening was an opportunity for arts leaders from Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Contra Costa and Alameda counties to share their work on developing arts education master plans to improve accessibility for arts learning. Youth in Arts has been a leader in the development of Marin County’s Arts Education Plan. Its purpose is to provide a road map to ensure that every student in the county has access to a quality arts program. Other partners involved in the development of the plan include public schools, the county Office of Education, the Marin Community Foundation and community based organizations.
“After my long history as an arts educator and as well as recent experience as part of San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan Advisory Committee, it’s been exciting as a Novato parent to join the team at Youth in Arts and dig into the momentum behind Marin County’s arts education plan, initiatives and partnerships, ” Kristen said. “An opportunity to have arts leaders from across the Bay Area in the same room to discuss successes, challenges and questions is an immense gift in my new leadership role.”
Kristen said the perception of Marin is that it is a place filled with resources and progressive policies. In reality, she said, there is a great inequality among its 18 school districts. Although she is glad the county has an arts plan, it does not include a timeline for implementation or accountability.
The Arts Education Alliance, which meets bimonthly to collectively address issues in arts education, is important because educators can discuss the challenges they face in light of budget cuts and changing policies. In discussing her work with the alliance, Kristen also stressed the importance that all arts advocates have a seat at the table. She adds, “Asking tough questions and pushing difficult discussions are both important to the process. Though I’m new in my role I am thankful for my seat at the table; a fresh perspective can often bring to light new solutions and ideas,” she said.” I am looking forward to working in collaboration with the Marin Arts Education Plan team to continue to move the needle on arts provision for ALL of Marin’s students.”
By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman
This year, I decided to start all of my art classes with a Brain Dance, a series of movements developed by dance educator and author Anne Green Gilbert to wake up the brain and improve focus. Often I see students at the end or beginning of the day, when they are restless or tired. My five-minute version of the Brain Dance helps reinvigorate them while focusing on re-mapping of brain-body connections.
Inevitably it’s the wiggly students, the ones who need it the most, who are the most resistant. As an introduction activity, the Brain Dance acts as a daily assessment tool for my students. Who is having trouble calming their body or mind? Who has trouble with cross lateral movements? Who confuses left and right? Even, how is their sense of self today? Watching them move gives me valuable information about what skills they may find challenging when it comes to art making or the level of engagement I may need to address.
The dance includes eight patterns of movement, starting and ending with the breath. Deep breathing is essential for all healthy bodies. When children are stressed, it’s no coincidence that they take short, shallow breaths. Starting and ending with belly breaths means more oxygen for young brains. From breath, the Brain Dance moves through the developmental patterns of movement (the movements we take in our first year after birth) to the most integrated pattern, cross-lateral connectivity. Cross-lateral is the pattern that crosses the four quadrants of the body (upper, lower, right, left) which supports higher thinking and even eye tracking used for reading and reading-readiness.
Recently I had a kindergartener who always wore a serious expression. Adrian solemnly watched his classmates do the Brain Dance, week after week, without joining in. On the seventh week, he spontaneously started participating in the warm up with a big smile on his face. Instead of saying “good job” or “well done” (vague) I looked for something specific in Adrian’s movements that I could point out, and others could follow. He found confidence in his kinesthetic learning that day; and my acknowledgement of his effort (by name) reinforced his effort and ability. He became a positive role model for the rest of the class.
When I started doing the Brain Dance it felt uncomfortable for me, since I see myself as a visual artist rather than a dancer. But as we learn more about how children learn and absorb information in multiple ways, integrating different art forms makes sense. When Laurel Dell 2nd graders visited the YIA Gallery recently, they learned an extended version of the Brain Dance from Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. I picked up some tips as well.
The Brain Dance also helps teachers stay centered and focused. Who doesn’t need a belly breath during the day? You can learn more about the Brain Dance by viewing this video, Brain Dance, which is a part of Youth in Arts Digital Tool Kit.
Thank you to our very generous donors, sponsors and partners:
We are excited to announce that architect Shirl Buss, who has helped develop Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program for elementary school children in Marin, has won the 2019 Pamela Levine award!
The Pamela Levine Arts Education Leadership Award was presented at the opening of the Inspire art exhibit at the YIA Gallery. Now in its fifth year, the Inspire exhibit showcases the personal work of teaching artists that was inspired by their work with students. Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented the award to Shirl on behalf of the Youth in Arts board and staff. The award is given to individuals for exceptional accomplishments in arts education in memory of Youth in Arts’ former Executive Director Pamela Levine.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Shirl for the past four years, when she began teaching architecture at Laurel Dell. I have learned so much from her,” Suzanne said in an address to Shirl. “She clearly embodies Youth in Arts’ goals for learners: Creativity, Compassion and Confidence through arts learning. It is clear to all who work with you, Shirl, that you love what you do, and you love your students.” Suzanne continued. “The respect you have for creatives of all sizes is clear in every interaction you have with people.”
Shirl is a designer, planner and educator whose work focuses on children, youth and the built environment. She holds a masters in Early Childhood Development and an M.Arch and Ph.D from the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Shirl is the Y-PLAN Elementary Director at the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley. At Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael, she is a key member of a team of Youth in Arts Mentor Artists teaching design and build skills to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
More than 60 people turned out for the celebration, many of them friends and colleagues who work with Buss in the East Bay. Also in attendance was Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson and Pepe Gonzalez, principal of Laurel Dell and Short elementary schools.
“If you guys saw the artwork that these kids have created – 3 Dimensional, to scale, not to scale … it’s everything that the Common Core was supposed to be,” Pepe said. “These kids are living it and breathing it and doing it every day.”
Suzanne also read comments from Laurel Dell students who have studied with Shirl:
“Dear Ms. Buss, you taught me and my class how to speak in public, also how to be a creative scholar. You gave me the opportunity to think about my future chances,” wrote one student.
Another wrote: “Dear Ms. Buss, you taught me to never give up. You make me happy.”
Some students talked about how much Ms.Buss inspired them when they made model tree houses.
“Dear Ms. Buss, thank you for teaching me to be creative and bringing my imagination to another level,” one student wrote. “You are like a bird in the sky teaching kids to use their imagination.”
The Inspire exhibit is on display through Jan. 17 at the YIA Gallery, located at 917 C St. in the beautiful Downtown San Rafael Arts District. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 11 am. to 4 p.m. The Art Lab is always open when we are: children and grown-ups can come in and make art for free.
Nearly 50 arts lovers stopped by the Youth in Arts’ gallery recently to celebrate our current show and meet new Executive Director Kristen Jacobson.
Imagine Our World: In My Neighborhood runs until Dec. 6. The show features second grade art from Laurel Dell and Short elementary schools, including two large collages in which students envisioned their ideal neighborhood. Students connected to the idea that working together builds a stronger community. The show includes work made by young artists in response to the recent power outages and fires.
The show also features collaborative artwork from Youth in Arts’ booth at the West End Village Celebration on November 4. Over 100 artists of all ages contributed to two large-scale murals, and a community collage. Participants were encouraged to express their feelings about the Power Safety Shutoff through art making.
Jacobson thanked everyone for their support and said she was looking forward to getting down to work.
“I’m so moved and inspired by the work of the incredible artists and the legacy that is here in Marin,” Jacobson said. “I’m excited to focus on access to arts education, and equity for all” she said.
With the continued support of the California Arts Council, Laurel Dell’s PTA, UC Berkeley’s Y-Plan and RileyStreet Art Supply, Youth in Arts has designed a sequential arts program for students to build their skills over time. Every student receives 12 weeks of visual arts in the Fall and 12 weeks of dance in the Spring.
Youth in Arts has provided Mentor Artists to Laurel Dell Elementary School for almost 20 years. For the past four, however, Laurel Dell has been home to our demonstration project: a sequential, scaffolded arts program focused on the core competencies of Youth in Arts: Creativity, Compassion, and Confidence through arts learning. The program was designed by our Director of Visual Arts Suzanne Joyal. During their 12 weeks of visual arts in the Fall and 12 weeks of dance in the Spring, students learn to express themselves verbally, visually and physically in multiple art forms.
Youth in Arts is thrilled to announce the hiring of Kristen Jacobson as its new executive director. Jacobson, who has a wealth of experience and a background in the performing arts, is expected to start in early November.
Jacobson is an arts leader, educator, and program designer dedicated to the accessibility of arts education for diverse populations. She comes to Youth in Arts from Alonzo King LINES Ballet, where as managing director of education, she has led initiatives to expand LINES’ programs that promote individuality, creativity and communication through dance and movement learning. Under her leadership, LINES education programs experienced significant expansion, growth, success and impact.
She also serves on the board of the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area as well as San Francisco Unified School District’s Arts Education Master Plan advisory committee.
“We are excited to have Kristen join us,” said Youth in Arts Board President Naomi Tamura. “Her leadership style, and dynamic personality is well-suited to build off of the great strides Youth in Arts has made in arts education and advocacy. We are eager to have her lead us to even higher levels in developing young artists of all abilities.”
Prior to her time at LINES and in the Bay Area, Kristen served as the youth & community programs manager for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, where she was responsible for developing and implementing Hubbard Street’s Youth Dance Program from its inception. She was also instrumental in developing the Adaptive Dance Program, leading the Parkinson’s Project, managing school partnerships and residency program, teaching artist development, family programming as well as community partnerships with the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Botanic Garden, Museum of Contemporary Art and cultural institutions across Chicago.
With a long history as an arts educator, Kristen’s experience prior to Hubbard Street includes work for Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Free Street Theater, Chicago Human Rhythm Project and LABCO Dance Company in Pittsburgh. She also worked as a dancer and choreographer for a number of companies and organizations in Chicago, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Musical Theater and Dance from Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts and a master’s degree in arts in Youth and Community Development from Columbia College Chicago.
Photo credit L to R: Stephen Texeira, Quinn Wharton, LINES Ballet