We just got some great news! The California Arts Council has announced multiple grant awards totalling more than $50,000 to Youth in Arts to support various initiatives to reach students, teachers and families with arts education.
The largest grant award was $20,000 for Youth in Arts’ Artists in Schools program in partnership with San Rafael City Schools bringing visual arts, architecture and dance directly into classrooms. Youth in Arts also received a $12,540 Arts Exposure grant supporting assemblies with professional artists during the school day; $12,350 for Youth Arts Action grant in support of `Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning teen a cappella group; $4,750 for Arts Integration Training for professional mentor artists; and $1,250 for staff professional development regarding the development and training of STEAM programs (Science, Technology, Arts, Math).
“We are honored and thrilled to receive such recognition by the California Arts Council,” said Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “It enables us to provide vital programs in the schools, including direct service to students and ongoing support for teachers at the forefront of developing new STEAM curriculum in Marin. During these unprecedented times, we are thankful for the innovation and flexibility encouraged by the CAC to continue this work even through the lens of social distance learning. Our communities need access to creativity now more than ever, and Youth in Arts is working hard to answer that call.”
Youth in Arts was featured as part of a larger announcement from the California Arts Council of more than 1,500 grants awarded to nonprofit organizations and units of government throughout the state for their work in support of the agency’s mission to strengthen arts, culture, and creative expression as the tools to cultivate a better California for all. The investment of nearly $30 million marks a more than $5 million increase over the previous fiscal year, and the largest in California Arts Council history.
Organizations were awarded grants across 15 different program areas addressing access, equity, and inclusion; community vibrancy; and arts learning and engagement; and directly benefiting our state’s communities, with youth, veterans, returned citizens, and California’s historically marginalized communities key among them. Successful projects aligned closely with the agency’s vision of a California where all people flourish with universal access to and participation in the arts.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the California Arts Council recognizes that some grantees may need to postpone, modify, or cancel their planned activities supported by CAC funds, due to state and local public health guidelines. The state arts agency is prioritizing flexibility in addressing these changes and supporting appropriate solutions for grantees.
“Creativity sits at the very heart of our identity as Californians and as a people. In this unprecedented moment, the need to understand, endure, and transcend our lived experiences through arts and culture is all the more relevant for each of us,” said Nashormeh Lindo, Chair of the California Arts Council. “The California Arts Council is proud to be able to offer more support through our grant programs than ever before, at a time when our communities’ need is perhaps greater than ever before. These grants will support immediate and lasting community impact by investing in arts businesses and cultural workers across the state.”
The California Arts Council is committed to increasing the accessibility of its online content. For language and accessibility assistance, visit http://arts.ca.gov/aboutus/language.php.
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.
Reaching all students through the arts was the focus of a professional development workshop taught by Youth in Arts’ mentor artists Suzanne Joyal and Cathy Bowman. San Rafael teachers who attended learned how arts can facilitate a richer experience for students and support skill building in social emotional learning.
“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” (CASEL, 2019).
There are five core competencies associated with SEL including self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. The workshop focused on self-awareness. Self awareness is the ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior; and the ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset.” At Youth in Arts, we frame this core competency with the question: “Who Am I?”
We began with the Brain Dance, a way to warm up our bodies, fire synapses, and get students ready to learn.
Observational drawing teaches students to look closely and to record what they SEE, not what they remember or think. We start by drawing familiar objects, then move into self portraits. Observational Drawing also applies to projects in science (recording experiments), math, social studies and language arts (descriptive writing)
Self portraits can be realistic or abstract: we drew lines that represented adjectives describing us, and then experimented with mirrors and Emotions Cards: what happens to our eyebrows when we are excited? Our mouths when we are sad? What do we do when we see these expressions on our friends? What can we do to change them if needed? We used the Emotions Art Cards and Booklet to help us imagine emotions we could show.
We also introduced teachers to the Student Strengths Assessment: a tool we designed to help teachers, parents and students find their best ways of learning.
Youth in Arts has also produced a Digital Toolkit, which includes six videos on inclusive teaching practices for artists, classroom teachers and parents. We have also developed a free ARTS Bank. The database, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, allows educators, parents and students to type in an IEP goal or grade level and find an arts activity that matches.
This workshop was made possible through the California Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant that the Marin County Office of Education received.
Youth in Arts is excited to be teaching summer school at several sites and mentoring teachers to incorporate STEAM learning. As with all of our programs, our goal is to help students find their voices and share their stories. At Davidson Middle School, Mentor Artist Tracy Eastman is making murals with nearly 100 students. “They are student-driven murals created around the idea of community art as a change-making tool,” said Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger. “Students brainstormed about world issues and what message they wanted to share with their community, and will be creating their murals based on the solutions they come up with.”
At Bahia Vista Elementary School, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman is teaching literacy to incoming first graders through the arts. Using visual arts, movement and sound, the goal for students will be to increase their knowledge and understanding of certain words and sounds, and to ignite a passion for reading that will inspire them throughout the school year. Some projects include making letters with our bodies and creating letter monsters in special sketch journals, where students reflect on and write about their work. Each session includes a book with a story that reinforces words learned that day.
“Our summer work is an exciting outgrowth of the programs we provide year round, ” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Miko Lee. “We know students learn in multiple ways, and we are using the arts to find innovative ways to reach all learners.”
We are also working in partnership with Agency By Design to mentor nearly 20 teachers who attended the STEAM professional development workshop recently with Youth in Arts, the Marin County Office of Education and other STEM experts. Those teachers are working this summer at Davidson, Lu Sutton Elementary School and San Jose Middle School.
The teachers were among the more than 60 educators who attended the weeklong STEAM program, which looked at how the environment impacts people and how people impact the environment. We asked K-12 teachers to envision how they could teach the California Environmental Principles and Concepts.