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!
Now that you’re staying at home, there’s no better time to visit museums and galleries in London, Tokyo or Paris.
Or San Rafael.
Like art institutions across the nation, Youth in Arts is putting its exhibits online. Our annual “Imagining Friendship” Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Show, which opens April 17, will feature more than 70 colorful self portraits created by kindergarten and first grade students at Laurel Dell Elementary School.
We are exploring innovative ways to engage with viewers who visit this show, so stay tuned! Visual Arts Director, Suzanne Joyal is putting together a slideshow of the artwork and other activities to encourage community members to engage and connect.
“This is one of our favorite exhibitions. It’s important that we find a way to reach viewers even if we can’t use our gallery walls,” Suzanne said. “These portraits are full of joy, and we need that now more than ever.”
The Walker Rezaian show is generously supported by the Rezaian family in celebration of Walker’s life and how much he loved making friends and art. This program teaches young students visual arts fundamentals, and also helps them develop compassion, empathy and other social-emotional skills.
Once you’re online, the YIA Gallery isn’t the only place you can visit. Kids can travel to museums or watch theatre shows in Amsterdam, Rome and New York – all in the same day.
“These virtual tours are an excellent way to keep kids engaged with art, and to draw inspiration from what they see,” Suzanne said. “You never know what image will inspire a child to create their own work.”
Museums are generously making their collections online for viewers to enjoy. Need ideas? Take a look at this excellent PBS Newshour article.
Is dancing more your speed? Check out Dancing Alone Together for a list of online dance classes around the Bay Area.
Miss going to the theatre? Visit WhatsOnStage for stage shows, musicals and opera you can see online.
“You may feel stranded at home, but you don’t have to be alone,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re here to help you engage.”
At Youth in Arts, our goal is to build creativity, confidence and compassion in all learners. But how do we do that?
A self-portrait is the perfect place start.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program focuses on Social and Emotional Learning through the arts. Students develop friendship skills and empathy as they learn to look closely and reflect on their world. Kindergarteners and first graders explore making different expressions, then look in the mirror at their own faces to draw what they see. After several weeks of skill building, students have practiced looking closely, and the self portraits they create are amazingly accurate.
Over and over again, we see students using art as a safe space for risk taking. Art gives them a chance to try things they might not try anywhere else and also use those new skills in other areas.
One first grader, who is in her second year of the scaffolded, sequential program, had this to say about her Youth in Arts’ experience.
“I felt happy, because people tell me I’m not pretty, so I don’t look in the mirror,” she said. “I looked in the mirror to draw myself, and I see that people are lying. I love the way I look.”
Have you ever made a frame from cardboard? Or painted on matboard? Or built a tower from wood scraps? Or played in a maze built out of furniture boxes?
At Youth in Arts, we repurpose and reuse as many materials as we can, both to keep items out of the waste stream and teach young artists that art can be made from anything. That way when we have to buy materials like paint and pastels, we can afford to choose durable, high quality products. This is also because of the generous support of our favorite art store around the corner, RileyStreet Art Supply. Using buttery pastels or highly pigmented paint makes for a sensory rich experience. In other words, it feels good!
RileyStreet is one of several local businesses that support Youth in Arts with discounted materials. From Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo, we get matboard scraps that are cherished by teaching artists working with young artists experiencing disabilities. Artists like the sensory response of working on a firm surface that isn’t soft and flexible like canvas. We also get foam core pieces from Lo Forti that we cut into tiny shapes for sculptures.
“For me, it’s about seeing people in the community and making connections,” said Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “That happens through the making of art and the sharing of materials.”
From AC Graphics and Blue Dot Picture Framing in San Rafael, we get wood scraps that are used to make Towers of Power in our Architects in Schools Program. Sunrise Home in San Rafael, whose warehouse shares our parking lot, gives us large pieces of cardboard. Thin pieces are used as frames for children’s self portraits. Children love to draw on the cardboard and share their stories. Large boxes that once held sofas and chairs become giant play structures for our YIA Gallery. Both the self portraits and the cardboard play structures will be on display this spring as part of Imagining Friendship, our annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Exhibition.
The exhibit, which opens April 10, features lively and engaging self portraits from kindergarteners and first graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. The work was created last fall during a Youth in Arts’ residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.
If you are a local business interested in making a donation to our nonprofit, please give us a call at (415) 457-4878 or stop by at 917 C St. in San Rafael. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.
The San Rafael elementary school recently celebrated its reopening with a joyful ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew dozens of students, staff and members of the community. Youth in Arts was there to celebrate its Architects in Schools program and to showcase the amazing work made during residencies last Fall while the school was being rebuilt.
Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented Principal Pepe Gonzalez with the this year’s Pamela Levine award for his outstanding support of arts education. It was evident how much he is loved by the thick book Suzanne made that was filled with hundreds of cards and drawings from students, teachers and specialists. There were so many cards from well wishers that the book couldn’t hold them all.
Although Suzanne has never seen Pepe draw a picture, dance or sing, she considers him a kindred spirit who thinks like an artist.
“He enjoys the success that comes from solving problems as much as I do,” she said. “Mr. Gonzalez understand that the arts are about so much more than the pretty object we draw. The arts offer students a safe space to explore their world, to stand up to speak out and to believe in themselves.”
The day included visits to a special exhibition of work made with Youth in Arts’ architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Visitors were encouraged to look closely at how Youth in Arts teaches a sequential program in which skills are built upon from one year to the next. The lines and curves in a kindergarteners’ self portraits, for example, leads to a third graders’ colorful model of what Fourth Street in San Rafael could look like. That model gives fifth graders the skills they need to design spaces for the city’s future library.
Pairs of students from each class served as docents, giving tours, answering questions and explaining their work. Practicing speaking in public supports one of Youth in Arts’ goals: that students reflect upon making art and can speak confidently about their work. Third graders who worked with Shirl (creative director at UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN) will present their design and policy proposals for downtown San Rafael the city’s 2040 general plan steering committee on March 11.
The daylong celebration ended with a Family Art Night with Youth in Arts. Children in after school care, as well as families and friends, stopped by to make tiny bridges for crossing the canal. It required them to find a place where they thought a bridge was needed, then to measure the spot to make sure the bridge was long enough. They used buttons, embroidery hoops, clay, bumpy paper and wood scraps to bring their models to life.
Family Art Nights are a great way to involve families in the art their children are making and are usually a part of all Youth in Arts’
Artists in Schools residencies. For more information about art nights and Youth in Arts’ residencies, please contact Program Director Kelsey Rieger at (415) 457-4878 ext 110.
By Mentor Architect Shirl Buss
Laurel Dell Elementary School third graders recently hosted Transit Practice Leader Bob Grandy in their newly renovated school in San Rafael. Bob, an engineer and principal at Fehr & Peers, introduced students to a possible career in engineering while sharing his expertise with them. He also presented a wonderful slideshow with images relating to transportation planning and design.
Architect Shirl Buss has been teaching at Laurel Dell through Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program, which she helped develop. Shirl is also the Y-PLAN elementary director at the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley.
Bob familiarized the students with the opportunities and constraints along Fourth Street in downtown San Rafael with a special focus on mobility and access. Shirl reported that his presentation was both inspiring and instructive, and will help students as they take on the challenges of how to make Fourth Street safe, welcoming, fun and hopeful for everyone.
“These children are continuing to build upon the work from the past two years that Laurel Dell students and teachers – in collaboration with Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN – have been doing on issues related to sea level rise and the San Rafael 2040 General Plan,” Shirl said. “We expect these students to generate some exciting policy and design recommendations to offer to the Downtown Precise Plan.”
Thank you, Bob, for donating your time and expertise to our future civic leaders!
What do we need to play? How can we make it? How can we work together? Kindergarteners at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael spent a wonderful day building imaginary playgrounds.
Using large pieces of black foam core board at each table, students applied skills they had previously learned about shaping paper. Twisting long strips around pencils made spirals; making feet with folds allowed them to make swings. Folding accordion style made the stairs they needed to climb to a slide.
The young artists also explored pattern but using paper with patterns and creating their own patterns on plain paper with pastels. Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we talked about other patterns we saw in the classroom and what connections we could make. How could we work together? How could we connect our ideas to make one playground?
The project offered rich opportunities for Social Emotional Learning through collaboration and sharing. When one little boy wanted shiny paper, several of his classmates offered him some. In another class, a student happily translated the instructions for her table mate, an English Language Learner. Teacher Alejandra Vazquez helped students connect the project to their real world experience by pointing to the blacktop outside their temporary classroom. If you could design the playground of your dreams, she asked, what would it look like? If you needed shade from the hot sun, how would you find it?
At Youth in Arts, we work hard to scaffold projects, building each week on skills learned earlier in the residency. The project was the second time students created playgrounds. Two weeks earlier. they made smaller, individual playgrounds; the following week they drew their own and a friend’s playground on paper, figuring out how they could connect them.
At the end of class, students went on a gallery walk with their hands behind their back to look at each other’s art. We had a rich discussion about similarities we saw in color, shape and line and all the ways we can make connections.
The program is part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Fund created by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family and generously supported by the Rezaians. It celebrates Walker’s life and love of the arts and is built around friendship and social emotional learning. How do we make and keep friends? What happens if we both want to build a slide in the same place? It gives children a chance to explore those and other questions in a safe, artistic place.
How do we build a tower? What makes us powerful? How can we build a bridge to connect our current and future selves? Fourth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School considered these and other questions as they practiced design and build skills through Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program.
Through a 12-week residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, students measured, designed, built, and drew. They began the residency by coming up with five words to describe themselves and building “towers of power.” Each student received a four-inch square base and had to build within the constraints of that size. After building individual towers, they formed pairs and brainstormed ways to connect the towers as a single bridge.
The residency ended with the creation of tiny bridges within a wooden box, connecting their current and future selves. Students spent time brainstorming about what they wanted to be, any obstacles they needed to overcome, and what career they wish to pursue. They looked at bridges from around the world and considered how they were designed, taking into account strength and aesthetics. They developed visual images for each, such as books for a career as a librarian and a camera and globe for a future world traveler. The building materials were simple: toothpicks, buttons, Q-tips, paper scraps and other found objects.
“It was really exciting to see students improve from week to week, tackling each project with curiosity,” Cathy said. “It’s important to find as many ways as possible to support young people as they try to find out who they are and who they want to become.”
With the pilot project now in its fourth year, Youth in Arts placed mentor artists or teaching architects in K-5th grade classes at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Each grade’s curriculum builds on the previous year’s skills. As with all our programs, we strive to foster confidence, creativity and compassion in all learners by offering innovative programs and teaching multiple ways. The Architects in Schools program was launched in 2016 with Youth in Arts in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN/Center for Cities + Schools .
We hope to expand this program to more sites in the future.Older Entries »