Youth In Arts San Rafael logo

917 "C" Street
San Rafael, California 94901
(415) 457-4878

Exploring Art at San Jose Middle School

Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman says of her Arts Unite Us Residency at San Jose Middle School: “The students explored art in very creative ways!”

“Texture Collage Boards” —  Our first class project was all about textures. Each student was given contact paper with the adhesive side up (secured to white foam board) and choices of textured materials to add. We discussed what the materials felt like and described the feeling it gave, (i.e. soft, bumpy, rough, smooth, noisy/crunchy, hard, etc.). We then took oil pastels and drew across many of the textures. As the last step, we covered the remaining sticky areas with magic gold transfer foil. Some of the classes removed the white foam board from the back of the artwork and displayed them in the window, while others left them with the white background and hung them on the wall.

Our second class project was making stained glass window kites, which focused on creating shapes, working within borders and cutting with scissors. The students were given the same set up of contact paper placed on a white foam board, but with different instructions. Each student was given four strips of black construction paper to create a diamond shape on their contact paper and were given additional strips to add anywhere within the diamond’s borders. Within the spaces of the black strips, the students placed square pieces of colored and patterned tissue paper to further decorate their kites. The students then smoothed on a top layer of contact paper to seal the pieces in place and then cut them out, staying on the outside of the black diamond borders. Most students needed assistance and/or adaptive scissors, which were provided by the classroom teachers. Lastly, the students taped a yarn tail with a tissue paper bow to complete their kites. All of the students held up their kites and pretended to fly them around the room before they were hung in the windows.

During this residency program, we also focused on creating various marks on watercolor paper with tempera watercolor cakes and an array of adaptive tools. The tools ranged from paint brushes with variously shaped handles, sponges, roller sponges, silicone stamps, etc. Prior to adding paint with the adaptive tools, the students drew on their paper with oil pastels to create resistance artwork. Together, we talked about oil and water resist each other and how the oil will fight with the watercolor to show through. The students improvised on making marks with different parts of each tool. One student even used the foam roller as a hammer and made small circles on his page. We used these skills to work on three-dimensional and two-dimensional projects throughout the residency.


These programs were made possible with support from the following sources:

The Importance of Names

by Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

Names are an integral part of who we are–as artists, as people. Using papier mâché, Students at San Jose Middle School in Novato made 3-D giant letters representing the first letter of their first names. First they scrunched up wads of paper and taped them to cardboard forms. Using paint and glitter, students then explored creating stripes and various thicknesses and textures. The objective was to explore the texture and sounds of newspaper, and what happens with paint and pattern.

IMG_6462 IMG_6461 IMG_6457-2 IMG_6456-2 IMG_6455 IMG_6454 IMG_6453-2


The Many Faces of Art


by Mentor Artist Sophie Cooper

Working with 9 students in a special day class at San Jose Middle School, students were guided through using multiple visual arts mediums to explore the themes of the face and identity. Our artistic journey culminated with the creation of colorful, long-lasting, hardened-fabric masks. Each new artistic medium was an opportunity for students to engage in a different sensory experience of art.  While some students may not be particularly interested in painting, they may find they love working with clay. My primary focus was to meet the students where they are at and encourage their own creativity to find expression.

We began by drawing self-portraits. Students were given self-standing mirrors and invited to draw their own faces with pencils and oil pastels. Prompts were given to encourage the students to study their own faces, identifying their various features as they drew them. One student, who often had a difficult time engaging in desk activities, lit up when seeing herself in the mirror – suddenly becoming an active participant.

IMG_0968 IMG_7764 IMG_7726

Our next step was to assemble collage portraits using cutouts from magazines in the shape of facial features. This very simple activity introduced the students to a new art form while re-enforcing the identification of the facial features covered in the previous lesson.

IMG_0999 1 IMG_8131 IMG_1014 1

We were then ready to explore the face in the third dimension and sculpted portraits out of clay. Students were invited to consider not only the 2-dimensional placement of the eyes, nose and mouth, but also what parts of the face are indented and what parts protrude. Many of the students loved the sensation of working the  clay between their hands and the session was filled with giggles and laughter!!

IMG_0812 IMG_1062 IMG_0817

In the following session, we cast fabric masks using the ceramic sculptures as molds. The paverpol medium we used introduced students to yet another texture that many of them enjoyed getting their hands into.

The final step was to paint and decorate the masks, inspired by examples of ritual and performance masks from various parts of the world including Chinese Opera Masks and those from the Rasta people of Ethiopia and the Huichol tribe in Mexico. These examples encouraged the students’ creativity in bringing many colors and designs into their masks.

IMG_8674 IMG_1090 1 IMG_1120 1

The beauty of art is that there is never a wrong way of doing it. The students at the special day class at San Jose Middle School reminded me of this each and every day. In meeting them where they truly are and listening to how their creativity wants to move, I found many opportunities to move beyond my own previously conceived ideas about how art happens. I will miss them and am very grateful for all we created together this Spring!

IMG_1126  IMG_1116 IMG_1112