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!
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.
Laurel Dell 5th graders spent a few days happily painting one of San Rafael’s utility boxes as part of the “emPower Utility Art Box” project. If you’re heading to the 101 freeway, you’ll see the box at Second Street and Lincoln Avenue on the right side.
This spring, the students participated in a 12-week residency program that was a unique collaboration between Youth in Arts and UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN. The program featured local architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford and artists working with 4th and 5th grade students teaching design and build concepts. Students created bridges, towers and maps looking at important issues facing San Rafael, such as climate change, affordable housing and access to the Canal community.
“It’s great that the students were so engaged in the work, ” said Mentor Artist Suzanne Joyal. “They really wanted people to think seriously about San Rafael’s 2040 plan and what the city needs for the future.”
To paint the utility box, a small group of 5th graders worked with Joyal and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. In selecting the design and color, it was important to consider how different colors make us feel. Students practiced writing their important words big so they would be visible. Despite the heat, the painting was fun! We didn’t blend colors completely to maintain a painterly effect. We added floating houses, trees, birds and clouds. When we were done painting, we added more detail and pattern using paint markers. It is an important visual reminder of what we all need to be thinking about.
The grand unveiling of the six boxes that were painted will be held on June 14 in conjunction with the 2nd Fridays Art Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. The boxes are located in the city’s downtown corridor and transit center.
The 2019 San Rafael Leadership Institute started the utility box project as a way to bring more art to downtown San Rafael. The institute is a San Rafael Chamber of Commerce program made up of public and private professionals, nonprofit leaders and business officials.
On January 24, the Marin IJ published an article written by fifth graders working with Shirl Buss, YIA Mentor Architect and educator with UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN.
On Thursday night, Laurel Dell hosted a Family Art Night for second and third-graders. Families were able to visit the gallery of works created over the Fall, and to participate in a hands-on art-making experience.
YIA Mentor Artists Cathy Bowman and Suzanne Joyal asked students and families to respond the IJ story: What do YOU want for San Rafael’s future? What important words can you read? Circle them. Now, choose the MOST important word, and turn it into a piece of art that fills your whole page.
Each student and family member found a word in the article that was important to them, and turned it into one of the mini-artworks you find here.
Lastly, we glued all of the pieces together into this one cohesive collage.
The students ranged in age from TK (PATHS), to third grade (ELECTRIC from a kid who says he doesn’t feel safe walking in his neighborhood at night). We saw parents translating for each other, children reading to their parents, and even tiny little pre-readers able to pick out letters and begin their journey to reading.
Here is a link to a member of the community in Fairfax who wrote a letter to the MarinIJ entitled: “Inspired by Youngsters ideas on Sea-Level Rise”.
Thank you California Arts Council for your generous support!
Fifth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School have written an opinion piece for the Marin IJ based on their residency with Youth in Arts. Impressed by the students’ focus and hard work during a 12-week residency, architect Shirl Buss extended the learning by mentoring the students as they wrote their piece. In the end, it was the students’ own words.
Youth in Arts partnered with UC Berkeley’s Y- PLAN (Youth – Plan, Learn, Act, Now) to create an innovative program exploring the connection between art and architecture. We worked with fourth and fifth graders at the school.
“We wrote this newspaper column so we could get people’s attention, so they can listen to our ideas,” the fifth graders wrote. The piece was written by students Kim Mandujano, Gerardo Valencia, Genesis Perez and Janely Mendieta.
The artists described what they think San Rafael should look like in the future. They hope officials working on San Rafael’s 2040 General Plan will take their advice seriously for dealing with issues like sea-level rise, flooding, safety, housing and other concerns.
Laurel Dell teacher Marc Belmont said working with Buss and the Youth in Arts residency was a great experience.
“Thank you for working with the students. They love you and enjoyed every second with you,” Belmont wrote to Buss. “They were so happy and proud when we read the article in class. Wish you could’ve seen their pride and smiles on their faces.”
Read more about what the students had to say here.
or check it out here:
Thank you to UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and the California Arts Council for helping to make this possible.
More than 100 parents, students and civic leaders attended a presentation of fourth and fifth grade art at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Through an innovative partnership between Youth in Arts, UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and the California Arts Council, mentor teachers taught a 12-week course that explored the fascinating relationship between art and architecture. It was a wonderful way to introduce students to the field of architecture.
Visiting architects who generously participated were led by architects and educators Shirl Buss of UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, who taught fifth graders how to measure, design and build. Other architects who worked with the classes were Sally Dominguez and Dustin Foster.
Fifth graders worked hard to contributed to San Rafael’s 2040 plan, trying to imagine a city of the future and what sort of bridges it will need. We looked at pressing issues such as climate change and the need for affordable housing. We looked at the Canal Community, where many of them live.
Fourth graders engaged in a variety of projects, such as building Towers of Power using wood scraps and found objects and tiny bridges in a box. Throughout the course we refined our design skills along with practicing cutting, measuring and designing for small spaces. Using symbols, we bridged our current selves with ourselves and dreams of the future. Students also made beautiful paintings of their towers and worked collaboratively to bridge them together. Often students worked in their sketchbooks, designing projects before construction.
“As a trustee AND community planner, I was thrilled to see the results of this work, and the voice of the students. The Y-plan program is renowned around the country, and it’s fun to see it in San Rafael, at Laurel Dell. This kind of project covers all the common core aspects – congratulations to the teachers and Youth in Arts, and gratitude to the students for sharing their ideas.”
-Linda Jackson, San Rafael School District Board Trustee
Ms. McCarthy’s Fifth graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School have been working with Janine Lovejoy Wilford (a practicing architect and educator). They, along with Shirl Buss and Mr. Belmont’s fifth grade class, have been working on the question, “What Do You Imagine for San Rafael in the year 2040?
Thank you so much for your support: Laurel Dell PTA, teachers and students, UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN, Janine Lovejoy Wilford, and the California Arts Council