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Laurel Dell Celebrates Artists and Architects

Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.

Principal Pepe Gonzalez and Administrative Assistant Anabella Reyes

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.

Laurel Dell Third Graders Host Transit Consultant

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!

Kindergarteners Build Playgrounds of the Future

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.

 

 

 

Fourth Graders as Architects and Designers

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.

Engaging Students through Movement: Why I teach the brain dance

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:

Mixing Skin Tones

How do I make brown? How many different shades of brown can I make? Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools practiced mixing colors using only the primaries red, yellow and blue plus white.

We worked with tempera paint, waxy black markers and mat board. First we traced our own hands and the hands of our table mates, overlapping to create interesting shapes. We mixed different browns carefully and painted in each area. It was fun to see how purple and yellow make a brown that is different from the brown that blue and orange makes. We used donated mat board instead of paper to give students a velvety and durable service on which to work. Mat board is especially helpful with children with learning differences as it offers a strong sensory response, and won’t crumple with lots of paint.

Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we have been exploring identity and our role in our communities and neighborhoods. The lesson followed a multi-week project in which students created richly detailed murals using collage papers, pastels and glue. In each class, we designed and envisioned our dream neighborhood after looking at artists Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold and others.

Thank you to Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo for the generous donation of mat board.

Youth in Arts Celebrates New Show, New Executive Director

 

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.

In 2016-17, 15% of Laurel Dell students identified as Latino were performing at proficient or advanced in Language arts. In 2018-19, that number jumped to over 51%!
While everyone at Laurel Dell works very hard to make Laurel Dell the wonderful school that it is, Joyal believes it’s not a mistake that the demonstration project coincides with this growth.
“Through the arts, students find their voice, express themselves and find success in many different ways,” she said.  “We know that arts bring joy. When kids come to school happy, they are inspired to work harder.”
The YIA gallery is open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last Friday’s event coincided with the 2nd Friday Art Walk in downtown San Rafael.

 

 

Powerful Collaboration at the West End Village Celebration!

On a warm November afternoon, Youth in Arts welcomed over 120 community members to participate in collaborative artworks at the West End Village Celebration in San Rafael. Artists of all ages created large-scale group paintings using primary colors – red, blue and yellow (plus white). Following the “Power of Sharing” lesson model from our visual art residency at Laurel Dell Elementary, we encouraged participants to share their colors and blend on the canvas to make any secondary colors.

The recent Public Safety Power Shut-off closed San Rafael City Schools for several days, so we felt it important to help community members, especially children, process their feelings through art. We presented the prompt: “Did you lose power in your neighborhood? How did it make you feel?” We then asked the artists to paint their response on the community murals. It was wonderful to see everyone working together to create something so beautiful.

In addition, community members who visited Youth in Arts’ booth responded to our prompt: “What makes your neighborhood powerful?” We asked participants to draw or write their response with Sharpie pen on colorful squares of hand-dyed watercolor paper, and later turned them into a community collage.

You can add to our collage, see the collaborative paintings, and more wonderful artwork from our 2nd grade residency at Laurel Dell Elementary in our current exhibition, Kids Imagine Our World: In My Neighborhood. The show will be on view in the YIA Gallery through December 6th!

Suzanne Joyal Begins Master’s Program

This summer, Youth in Arts’ Director of Visual Arts Suzanne Joyal began her study toward a Master of Arts in Arts Education with a focus on special populations from Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA. The only program of its kind in the country, the program was founded by Lynn Horoschak, a pioneer in the field of arts education for special populations. For the students of Moore, and arts educators at Youth in Arts, “special populations” means anyone who does not thrive in the linear, neurotypical classroom. This could mean students experiencing disabilities, newcomer and english language learners, students experiencing the effect of trauma, or anyone with an IEP (Individual Education Plan).

“I decided to pursue the Moore Masters program after attending several workshops led by Lauren Stichter, the graduate program director at Moore. I have been working with students with special needs for 11 years at Youth in Arts, and after listening to Lauren, I knew I could do more. I know that what we are doing at Youth in Arts is necessary and needed and the right thing for all students. We all need to be able to express ourselves with confidence, and for many people (myself included), it’s through the arts that this is possible. For students experiencing disabilities, every day can be painful or scary or exhausting, and infusing the arts into learning is what can help them thrive. We want every student to want to come to school and to feel proud of their accomplishments, and I have witnessed how the arts helps many students get there.”

Suzanne spent six weeks this summer participating in the intensive program, is working remotely for the school year, and will return to Philadelphia next summer to complete and present her thesis.

2nd Graders Build Thriving Neighborhoods

Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools in San Rafael created vibrant collages showing what a healthy neighborhood needs.

We began by looking at the work of artists like Faith Ringgold and the late Romare Bearden. Working with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we used the “wax resist” method to write our names on watercolor paper and mixed blues and greens to paint a “cool” background. We talked about what a neighborhood needs to be strong and healthy, and what we need to be strong a healthy. Both classes included schools, libraries and homes of different sizes and shapes. There were some surprising additions too. At Short, one student suggested a carnival. At Laurel Dell, a student created a community art studio.

We then created collages, using only warm colors for our structures. That made them stand out when they were placed on the cool colored background. This gave us a chance to review what colors are warm, and what colors are cool. Once they were dry, we flipped them over and cut out our shapes. Details were added later with pastel and more paper. We looked at doors and windows from around the world, and noticed they are not always square or rectangle.

“This was a complex project with many layers, and students did an amazing job,” Bowman said. “It was wonderful to see them make connections between their own lives and their neighborhood.”

Some of the paper that students used was made by rubbing crayons and pastels across textured templates, creating brick patterns and other designs. More connections were made as the textured paper was shared between the two schools.

The projects will be on display as part of the upcoming Youth in Arts’ upcoming exhibit: Kids Imagine Our World: In My Neighborhood. The show of 2nd grade work from both schools runs Oct. 28 through Dec. 6. The opening reception, which will be hosted by the Youth in Arts’ Board of Directors, will be held on Nov. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m.

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