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San Rafael, California 94901
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yia@youthinarts.org

YIACre8tes Conversation

Poster made during a Youth in Arts residency at Bayside MLK Academy

In response to recent events, we at Youth in Arts recommit to lifting up the voices of the unheard and underrepresented. Access to creativity empowers youth to share their voices and ask difficult questions of themselves and of the world.

Equity is at the center of our work. Starting this week, we are launching YIACr8tes Conversation, looking at race, identity and racism. Teaching artists presenting these free digital lessons include Jessica Recinos of Rising Rhythm SF, Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger and other Mentor Artists from the YIA roster. Each lesson will end with guiding questions for parents and educators to ask children. The lessons will air on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube at 1 p.m. PDT today (June 8), Wednesday, June 10, and Friday, June 12.

“We will continue to facilitate art and put creativity in the hands of those often left out of critical dialogue,” said Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We will drive discussion of implicit bias, policies that support equity and unobstructed access with educators, administrators and parents. We will not shy away from pushing the conversation surround privilege and power, especially in our community. We will continue to build a network of advocates that look to arts education as a vehicle for social change.”

As many schools look at slashing the arts because of budget shortfalls in light of the pandemic, we urge them to look for free and affordable resources and partners. Along with shifting to online learning, many students are trying to find their paths amid trauma, economic uncertainty, isolation and the chaos of world events. Access to art and creativty is more important than ever for offering ways to support mental and emotional health. Creativity can be also be used as a catalyst for discussions about anti-racist parenting and classrooms.

“Covid-19 pushed educators and parents to find innovative ways to engage creative exploration through digital/virtual means – Youth in Arts was ready and present with online learning.  Now, as the trauma of Covid-19 is compounded by intensity of racial justice protests, Youth in Arts is again ready to join parents, educators and schools to inspire conversation and dialgoue on critical issues,” Kristen said. “Youth in Arts’ work has long centered on equity and we feel empowered to step forward as a leader and resource for our community.”

We urge you to join Create CA’s statewide effort to promote the Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning. This resolution outlines students’ rights to a high-quality public arts education, regardless of background, culture, language or where they live.  Youth in Arts has already signed on. In the coming weeks, we will be looking at more ways to create digital programs to address racial and social justice.

In the meantime, here are some resources:

From the New York Times, books that help explain racism to kids

From National Public Radio, Raising White Kids: How White Parents Can Talk About Race

Also from The Times: 26 short films for exploring race, bias and identity

For book recommendations: The Conscious Kid and The Brown Bookshelf.

We are grateful to be able to do the work that we do at this important time. Please join us and please reach out with any suggestions or resources for continuing racial justice work through the lens of arts programming.

 

 

Learning About Mentor Artist Hannah Gavagan

HGavaganSince Youth in Arts completed our new strategic plan this spring, we wanted to properly introduce our Mentor Artists to our more in-depth model, and to each other.  Our artists work directly in the classrooms, so they rarely have a chance to interact.  We hosted an “all artist meeting” in August, and it was wonderful to see them talk to, listen to, and learn from one another.  Our icebreaker activity was a worksheet that asked the artists to identify a problem in the world today, and how they would use their art form to solve it (using words and/or pictures).  The prompt was WITH MY ART I CAN…

Here is theater artist Hannah Gavagan’s thoughtful response and accompanying artwork:

“A problem I see in the world today is a cycle of hate spurred by fear of difference.  With my art I can…bring youth together from different backgrounds to share their experiences and stories.  I can create theatre with youth that teaches an adult audience how to step outside of their comfort zone to stop oppression.
Hannah Gavagan ArtworkI can create worlds where sexism and racism do not exist, and show what our world can look like with equity.  I can teach youth about oppression and how to be “upstanders” in their community.”

Hannah is doing wonderful work in two Youth in Arts residencies this fall: Devised Theater for an after school program at Canal Alliance, and Theater for Social Change at Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts.  She will return to Cornell Elementary to teach her Civil Rights Storytelling & Theater residency this spring.

BIO: Hannah Gavagan is an actress, teacher, and mentor whose heart lies in social justice. She is passionate about devising issue-based theatre with youth so they may gain personal awareness and understanding of the issues in our world today. This awareness leads to students creating a positive impact through performances and social-action. Through her skills-based drama classes, she works to help unlock students’ personal power so that they may learn, grow, and thrive. Building trust with students, helping them trust each other, and practicing social-emotional skills through play are the foundation of her classes. She earned a BFA in theatre performance at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She is inspired by the teachings of Sanford Meisner and Michael Chekhov. She acts in plays and films, directs student-devised plays, creates films with a social-justice lens, and stars in a YouTube series called the Go-To Go Girl! which aims to inspire girls to be the change they wish to see in the world.

Get to Know Mentor Artist Katie Issel Pitre


Since Youth in Arts completed our new strategic plan this spring, we wanted to properly introduce our Mentor Artists to our more in-depth model, and to each other.  Our artists work directly in the classrooms, so they rarely have a chance to interact.  We hosted an “all artist meeting” in August, and it was wonderful to see them talk to, listen to, and learn from one another.  Our icebreaker activity was a worksheet that asked the artists to identify a problem in the world today, and how they would use their art form to solve it (using words and/or pictures).  The prompt was WITH MY ART I CAN…

Here is Mentor Artist, Katie Issel Pitre’s response and accompanying artwork:P1180036

“A problem I see in the world today, is many people being uncomfortable with their own emotions – escaping/avoiding difficult feelings, reactive disempowered people lacking a deep knowledge of self.  With my art I can…create a space to explore the self, face, dimensions of human experience and emotion, and gain confidence and compassion to build community.  I model moving through emotion using all my actor’s tools.  I craft experiences that ask students to step into others shoes, as actors for each other (classroom) and for communities (family).”

Katie teaches various forms of theater and creative movement for Youth in Arts, both in our Arts Unite Us and Artist in Schools programs.  She is currently teaching Devised Theater at Davidson Middle School, and at the Canal Alliance’s after school program.  Katie Issel Pitre Artwork

BIO: Katie Issel Pitre is a Berkeley native who recently returned to the Bay Area after 11 years based in Brooklyn.  There she worked as a teaching artist in spoken word, devised theatre, mural arts and playwriting throughout the boroughs of New York and New Jersey for Urban Word, Community Word Project, New Victory Theatre, BAM, and New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  Katie expresses her artistry as a facilitator as she works to bridge the gap between personal and cultural experiences by creating community-building opportunities via the creative process.  Her background in dance, voice, theatre and poetry shape her focus as an artist and educator.

Most recently she starred in two short films written and directed by Christopher Wells of Kaleidoscope Pictures called Cynthia and My Fondest which can be found on YouTube.  She also participated in an online writing course for women facilitated by Caits Meisner where she produced several new works of poetry.  Her writing was featured in a site-specific play series Play/Date, produced by Blake McCarty. As a devising actor she worked with the Trusty Sidekick company, and on two interview theatre pieces, The Class Project, directed by Joe Salvatore, and Layer Cake(actor and writer) performed at the Looking Glass theatre.  As a singer in Shell, she wrote and produced an EP.  Katie has also performed in multidisciplinary projects featuring her dance training.  She designs jewelry for City Seed.  Katie holds a MA in Educational Theatre in Colleges and Communities from NYU Steinhardt.