How do you open a show when your art gallery is closed temporarily? By hosting a virtual celebration for your community with a drawing lesson, story time and fabulous self portraits.
Youth in Arts joined families, friends and staff at Laurel Dell Elementary School to celebrate Imagining Friendship, our annual show that honors Walker Rezaian. The online exhibit featured a slideshow of more than 90 self portraits and emotions studies by kindergarten and first grade students
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was at Laurel Dell and Short schools last Fall. The visual arts residency builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills through art making. It also helps children learn how to make and keep friends while practicing sharing and empathy.
Friday’s celebration began with a bilingual drawing lesson with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Joining us were kindergarten teachers Alejandra Vazquez and David Peterson, and first grade teacher Vanessa Nunez. Together we explored what it’s like to make and then draw different expressions. How does your face look when it is happy? What about angry?
Principal Pepe Gonzalez delivered a sweet and funny message with help from his young sons and talked about the importance of creating visual art, music and dance while sheltering in place.
“If we weren’t creative, we’d be pretty bored right now because we’re usually in our pajamas,” he said.
Gonzalez, who heads both Laurel Dell and Short schools, praised Youth in Arts for making sure “creativity stays alive” while students are forced to stay home. He noted that Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal assembled art kits for every student at both Laurel Dell and Short schools.
Our thanks also go to author Susan Katz, who read her book “All Year Round” in English and Spanish. It was fun to know the Principal Gonzalez had her as a teacher when he was in school!
We wrapped up the evening with a slide show of the self portraits accompanied by music from ‘Til Dawn, Youth in Arts’ award-winning a cappella troupe.
Suzanne encouraged viewers to check out the cool coloring pages made from the students’ self portraits. The portraits will be viewable online until May 31. They can be printed out, colored and put in your window to share with your neighbors, and you can find them here:
Suzanne also thanked the Rezaian family for making this wonderful program possible.
“You can say thank you to them in your own way by being a good friend to those around you and creating something every day,” she said.
A special thanks to Tracey Wirth Designs for turning the portraits into coloring pages; to our translators: Alejandra Vazquez, Vanessa Nunez and Peter Massik; and to Principal Gonzalez and the staff at Laurel Dell for making this program such a success.
By now you’re probably wearing grooves in the pavement when you get out for fresh air. We’ve seen the blocks around our houses plenty of times! Need ideas to get creative? Here are a few: Morning altars. Please check out morningaltars.com with artist Day Schildkret to learn more about the healing power of nature art altars. You can gather fallen petals, twigs and leaves as you walk around. For more inspiration, check out British artist Andy Goldsworthy. When you get home, think of how to make your own design. What are you grateful for? Signs of Beauty. Thankfully, the flowers aren’t quarantined. What signs of beauty do you see? What’s different from the last time you walked? Look at the colors, shapes and lines to get you started. How is Spring waking up the earth? Sound Walk. How have the sounds changed in your neighborhood since shelter-in-place began? What do you hear now – or not hear? Are there more birds? Less traffic? Nature Rubbings. Watch Youth in Arts’ Program Director Kelsey Rieger’s Facebook lesson how how to make an amazing landscape using rubbings. Or tear up your rubbings and make a collage of your street. What shapes do you see? Where do you see warm colors like red and yellow, and where do you see cool colors, like blue and green? How do they mix? Fill a Neighborhood Need. Many neighbors are sewing face masks for others. What do you see that you can do? Sweep up a neighbor’s leaves by the driveway? Wave hello? Safely reach out to someone who may need checking on. We love to hear from you! Please share your ideas of how to walk creatively.
At Youth in Arts, our goal is to build creativity, confidence and compassion in all learners. But how do we do that?
A self-portrait is the perfect place start.
The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program focuses on Social and Emotional Learning through the arts. Students develop friendship skills and empathy as they learn to look closely and reflect on their world. Kindergarteners and first graders explore making different expressions, then look in the mirror at their own faces to draw what they see. After several weeks of skill building, students have practiced looking closely, and the self portraits they create are amazingly accurate.
Over and over again, we see students using art as a safe space for risk taking. Art gives them a chance to try things they might not try anywhere else and also use those new skills in other areas.
One first grader, who is in her second year of the scaffolded, sequential program, had this to say about her Youth in Arts’ experience.
“I felt happy, because people tell me I’m not pretty, so I don’t look in the mirror,” she said. “I looked in the mirror to draw myself, and I see that people are lying. I love the way I look.”
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.
Art has the power to engage and inspire students of all abilities. Whether it is the visual arts, theater, dance, music, or new media, creative exploration has been known to help students reach learning and behavioral objectives in productive and innovative ways. In early October, Youth in Arts Staff Miko Lee and Kelsey Rieger travelled to the Quartz Mountain in Oklahoma to lead a 17-hour professional development with teachers from across the state through the Oklahoma Arts Institute. Together, we explored arts integration strategies and techniques for addressing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) goals with students informed by student-centered frameworks such as Culturally Responsive Teaching and Universal Design. Over the course of three days through visual arts, dance, music, and theatre, educators learned about the five competencies of SEL framed by the following asset-based questions:
Participants began by thinking about our personal identities and how they are informed by our experiences and our chosen and inherited family values. Following our daily warm-up and introduction, we created accordion culture books to give us a baseline for thinking about self awareness, and continued working on these books throughout the workshop. In order to take time to appreciate the process of learning and consider our work so far, we participated in a group gallery walk and reflection.
During our unit on Social Awareness, we performed our oral family histories through storytelling and embroidered mapping. After ruminating on the ways in which our divergent and personal stories gathered together at our point of contact – Oklahoma – teachers choreographed their collective family stories and performed them for the rest of the group. It became clear during reflection that building a culture of community becomes possible through the sharing and receiving of stories, and that we learn how to connect in the process of realizing what makes us different and what makes us similar. Additional theatre and movement-based activities were utilized throughout the workshop in order to offer kinesthetic and embodied ways to reflect on and engage in the core competencies of SEL.
Over the course of our sessions on self management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making, we explored multiple techniques for self portraiture using methods such as recycled collagraph prints, transparency portraits using lines that make our faces unique, and empathy portraits on vellum. To help build our visual arts skills, we practiced observational drawing techniques and considered the ways in which visual signals like lines could be characterized using all of the senses. At the end of the workshop, we layered our portraits in different mediums together to create a cover for our culture books.
On the final day of the workshop, participants reflected once again on the characteristic of storytelling utilizing graphic novels and Visual Thinking Strategies, as well as theatre activities such as The Moment Before. We then participated in a large-group Circle Story, pulling vocabulary from value words and personal characteristics that we had shared previously in the workshop. We added depth and meaning to the story by re-telling our narrative and introducing colors and emotions. We completed the workshop with an experimental painting activity in which participating educators were asked to create abstract, mixed-media artworks by following a series of instructions without knowing the expectations for the project’s end result. Following the activity, we reflected on what the process had felt like by discussing how decision-making is impacted by circumstances, and how we can help to empower and prepare our students to make impactful decisions knowing that they will not always know where those decisions may lead.
We closed the activities with a final group performance, utilizing performance-based techniques and strategies learned throughout the institute in order to communicate their closing thoughts and experiences. The process of learning and engaging was captured by facilitators and participants collaboratively through a Learning Wall, Youth in Art’s adaptation of the Making Learning Visible (MLV) process. Participants left the institute with access to arts-based resources created to help engage educators in practical skills for developing and fostering communication and collaboration, thereby creating more opportunities to empower student voice and identity in any classroom.