Shahrzad Khorsandi, a seasoned teacher and performer in Persian Dance, stepped out of her comfort zone into a new area this semester! She worked with two special day classes at Terra Linda High School through our Arts Unite Us program, teaching Persian dance and music. Though a bit nervous on the first day, she soon fit right in. With the help of the wonderful teachers at Terra Linda she engaged students, encouraging them to take part in playing percussive instruments and dancing and cheering each other on during the performances.
Shahrzad says of her experience, “Throughout the residency, we researched Persian culture, learning about various Persian instruments by watching videos of professional musicians playing the instruments”. Shahrzad was even able to bring in several instruments for the kids to see, touch, and play with. She adds, “We looked at the map of Iran and talked about the various regions of the country, and learned a sampling of various dance styles from each region. In the following weeks each of the two classes focused on one particular region, learning the choreography. While learning the movement patterns, we were exposed to concepts like making floor patterns with circles and line, and directional cues like facing our partner, or facing back or forward, etc.”
The residency culminated in a student performance. Parents were invited and both classes got to see each other perform. Shahrzad shares, “We had a great time and everyone did a wonderful job. It was interesting to see that some kids who seemed shy at first really hammed it up when faced with an audience. After the performance the audience was asked to join the performers in an improvisational social dance with Persian music. All in all, it was a hit!”
Thank you to VSA Kennedy Center, Marin County Office of Education, and the Marin Community Foundation for making these programs possible for our youth and community!
Youth in Art’s Mentor Artist, Risa Dye lead creative movement with the students at the Early Childhood Intervention Center at Marindale School in a ten week residency as part of the Arts Unite Us Program.
In this residency, we started with the basic structure of the brain dance created by Anne Green Gilbert through songs and movement. As Risa got more familiar with the children, she adapted her program to fit their needs and applied her creative and theatrical touches. Risa loosely explored dance concepts such as speed, levels and size through playful movement guiding songs. As the ten weeks progressed, the students became more and more familiar with her structure and expectations. They gained more ownership over the movement and everyone became more able to play within the structure of the songs.
Students at Novato High School and Sinaloa Middle School explored issues of identity and representation through mask making during 10-week residencies with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.
We began by painting glue onto a plastic mold taped to a piece of mat board, being careful to work to the edges. Then we chose scraps of tissue paper is colors that spoke to us. Some students chose a single color, while others preferred to use several colors. Every piece of tissue paper we touched, we had to tear.
We pressed the tissue paper onto the masks and added another layer of glue then let them dry. The following week we used metallic Sharpies. For this lesson we referred back to a project we did at the beginning, where we transformed five words about ourselves into different lines. We used those lines as inspiration, repeating them on the masks.
Students at Novato High School explored identity with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. To start a 10-week residency, we created self portraits with lines and shapes. First, we came up with a list of five adjectives and adverbs to describe ourselves. Then we turned each word into a line. What kind of line is “curious”? What kind of line is “awesome”? How do we draw “grumpy”? These were some of the questions we explored.
We started by sketching in pencil. Using gold and silver Sharpies and black canvas boards, we made patterns using our lines. Some of us covered the entire canvas with linear patterns while others worked in a more freeform way. We talked about issues of identity and what we choose to reveal about ourselves in our work.
Students at Short Elementary School in San Rafael explored color and cutting by making shape sculptures inspired by glass artist Dale Chihuly. First we cut a single piece of paper into three pieces. Then we used oil pastels to add pattern. Finally we used watercolors to add more color. Once everything was dry, students cut notches in the paper so everything fit together. It was hard work to get to balance but we managed and it was a fun way to learn how to do it. The lesson built on previous lessons exploring pattern and shape.
At Willow Creek Academy and Short Elementary School, Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman worked with students to make wonderful collages using textures of different shapes and colors. Many students in special day classrooms experience sensory defensiveness, so Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal developed this as one technique to address this issue. Joyal explains, “For kids with special needs there is so much beyond their control that can be frightening and art is a safe way to take risks. Using textures in art provides children with a safe and fun way to confront potential anxiety around new experiences.”
Cathy describes the process, “Instead of glue, we used self-stick paper to hold down our shapes. We had to use at least five different shapes and colors. We felt each piece carefully before we placed it on our collage. Some shapes were rough and bumpy, while others were smooth or shiny. The soft feathers were especially fun! After pressing down our shapes we drew around them or on top of them with oil pastels. It felt unfamiliar to draw directly on the sticky paper. The final step was rubbing on the magic gold foil. It was hard to wait for the shiny foil but we did. We finished with a group discussion reflecting on the choices we made. It was a good chance to practice our speaking and listening skills”
The program was part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program, which serves students in special day and severely handicapped classes throughout Marin County. Thank you to the contract from the Kennedy Center and the funders who helped to make this happen:
by YIA Mentor Artist Cynthia Pepper
What a wonderful day we had with the Terra Linda Special Day Classes led by Rachel and Abby. We had 9 adults assisting the 12 students on the final sharing day of my residency last week. I thought it would be nice to start our day off with a warm up to Bob Marley. The man! He cuts to the chase with his lyrics of “Is it love?”. It must be love because everyone was smiling while we moved all our bodies in unison to get ready for the big dance called KUKU. It is from Guinea West Africa and it involves fishing with nets, sharing our catch, becoming fishes and having a full on party at the end. The African based cultural dance day eased in with our sharing of energy around the room both in clockwise and counter clockwise directions. We cleaned up the day with Keb Mo and Michael Jackson and my all time favorite get funky dance song “Green Onions” by Booker T. and The M.G.’s. It just takes it away. The paras and the aides all danced a solo in the middle of the room which they all accomplished with flair. Each wheelchair got a pirouette opportunity and the students crushed it with smiles. I love sharing with so many students the joy of movement and music. It seems like it keeps getting better the more we do it. Each time feels better than the next.
By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman
Students at the College of Marin have been working with clay, beads, buttons and paper foil to create beautiful mosaics inspired by the work of Iranian artist Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian. Farmanfarmaian forms 3-dimensional works using pieces of mirror cut into geometric shapes.
Using a Kennedy Center lesson titled “Looking in the Mirror,” Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman discussed the use of mosaics in art and showed students a short film about Farmanfarmaian’s work. Students in the special day class started with lumps of white Model Magic, a nonsticky, nontoxic clay. They learned how to roll, twist and manipulate the clay, and how it softens the more you work with it. Some artists made abstract forms, while others enthusiastically used thumbs and fingers to form bowls, baskets and other objects. Students were encouraged to consider how they felt about making art and what they wanted to say. If their bowls were “wishing bowls,” for example, what were their dreams? The class also talked about how mirrors reflect and how the word “reflection” can refer to a physical image as well as deep contemplation.
One artist spoke about about kindness and joy. Others saw their art as gifts. A woman made a bowl for her father “because he is kind to me;” a man made a tiny basket for his aunt expecting a baby.
Instead of mirrors, artists used silver Origami paper, gold foil and other brightly colored paper that was cut into geometric shapes. Artists also used recycled beads and buttons. They were encouraged to think about making patterns in their work, considering both the negative and positive space. It was interesting to consider how different art feels when a single color and material is used v.s. when multiple colors, textures and shapes are used.
Students at the Short School in San Rafael experimented with paint, paper and various materials as part of a grant from the Kennedy Center. Using a lesson plan titled “Motivated to Create … HARMONY,” Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman helped students translate jazz into paint.
The purpose of the lesson was to give students the experience of drawing on the inspiration of sounds as a foundation for their art. Working individually and in pairs, they listened to excerpts from “West Side Story” by composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein. Key vocabulary artists reviewed included “harmony,” “tone” and “abstract.” Using tempera paint, paper and canvas they listened, and painted what they heard. We considered how sound affects our feelings. Students were given an array of materials to use, including toothbrushes, corks, rollers, plastic packing material and forks. They practiced making marks, covering marks and making more marks. Working together was a good lesson in collaboration and respect … Is it ok to cover another artists’ marks?
Working in pairs allowed students to create multiple layers of color.
In the final session artists were given an 18 by 24 inch canvas. They tore up their smaller works on paper and reassembled the pieces into a collage on the canvas. They applied more paint and color while listening to music. Working outside for the final painting freed the young artists to move in ways that can’t happen in a carpeted classroom.
The last artist to work on the painting added a tiny touch of black, noting that she was thinking about her favorite fruit – blackberries. Can you find her mark?
Ian Dogole’s Thoughts:
“These have been profound and unforgettable experiences. One lasting impression will be the heroic commitment that the educators, nurses and aids make to each one of these students and the exuberance and joy that accompany each positive outcome.
In Kim Cochrane’s class, the students have very limited mobility. I had some trepidation prior to my first class as to whether I could have a positive impact with them. After 7 classes, my perspective has undergone a complete transformation! I feel deely connected to these students and when a breakthrough occurs … even at the most subtle level … there is a celebratory feeling in the classroom and I feel so uplifted. Kim and all of the nurses and aids have been unbelievably supportive and appreciative and I am deeply grateful. From my perspective, they are all heroes for their devotion to these students and for their consistently positive attitude.
Katie Peter’s class presents a different type of challenge — her students are mobile and capable of holding and playing percussion instruments to varying degrees. The goal for me is to attempt to keep them engaged and look for ways to raise the bar for them in the most supportive and fun way that I can. Like Kim’s class, Katie and her support staff have been quite helpful in this endeavor. We did experience mini-breakthroughs with a few students this past week using repeated spoken words to convey specific rhythms. Quite powerful.
Many thanks to Youth In Arts for offering me this opportunity. It has been revelatory.”
Thanks to the Buck Family Fund of MCF and Marin Charitable for making this program possible.
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