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Arts Unite Us at Terra Linda High School

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!

Painting to Music at Rancho Elementary School

Pre-K students in the Ready, Set, Grow! program at Rancho Elementary School explored various tools while painting to music. Part of a sensory-rich arts experience for students with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, this 10-week Rancho residency is part of the Arts Unite Us program.

Cathy says of her classes: “Recently, we painted to different pieces of music. We talked about how different music makes our bodies feel different things. First, we listened to  “Gymnopedie No. 1” by Erik Satie. Then we listened to a lively bit of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” Finally, we heard Duke Ellington play. It was fun to try different things to paint with, from creamy crayons to toothbrushes dipped in tempera paint. How does a sponge make marks differently from a roller? We used two colors of paint, pink and yellow-green, to explore mark making on sturdy mat board generous”.

 

 

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Mask Making at Novato High

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.

 

 

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Lynwood Students Build Sculptures and Learn Pattern and Form

 

 

 

 

As part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program at Lynwood Elementary in Novato, Pre-K to 2nd grade students worked with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman to practice identifying and building with different shapes.

Cathy explains, “We used circles, squares, and rectangles to make 3-dimensional sculptures. This was a great way to reinforce geometric patterns that they are learning at school.”

Students used regular glue mixed with cornstarch to create an extra-sturdy bond that enabled shapes to “stand up” on the mat board base. Together, Cathy and her students worked through creative solutions to challenges such as balancing forms exactly the way they wanted them to sit.

Taking inspiration from artists such as Louise Nevelson, students finished their projects with monochromatic painting the following week.

“We used white or black paint to finish their sculptures,” Cathy says. “We used our paint brushes carefully to get into all the corners.

“The following week, students made observational drawings.  We looked carefully and closely at our shapes to draw what we see instead of what they think is there. After we used thick, water-soluable pencils, we applied a bit of water to make the lines come alive. This was a great way to practice using brushes gently – like a cat’s tail. We finished by writing our names at the bottom.

The lesson continued the next week with students practicing color mixing with tempera paint in red, blue and yellow and  creating paintings of their shape sculptures.

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Exploring Identity through Lines and Patterns

 

 

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.

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Clay Sculptures

 

 

 

Students at Short Elementary School in San Rafael made clay sculptures inspired by the work of artist Monir Farmanfarmaian. Inspired by curriculum provided the Kennedy Center, students looked at patterns in art. Like Farmanfarmaian, they worked with geometric shapes. We continued our discussion of patterns from a previous project and how to make patterns (a shape that repeats itself). Using air dry clay, students added color by coloring the clay with markers. We formed large shapes and pressed them into mat board. Then we made patterns using shiny paper, beads and found objects in the shapes of circles, ovals, triangles, squares and other forms. It was great to watch a short film about Farmanfarmaian and learn about her work! We finished the project with a reflection in which each student presented to the entire class.

 

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Paper Sculptures at Short Elementary School

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.

A successful semester of art at Compass Academy

 

Compass Academy is an alternative elementary/middle/high school for students who experience underlying mental health challenges. Marty Meade, a certified Art Therapist  who works year-round with Compass Academy, says of her goal is to have the students “connect with the creative process, and to know that it is a safe space to inhabit when they are feeling powerless.”

She expands on their projects over the last semester, explaining: “We have painted with watercolors and acrylics, decorated sugar skulls, and made fused glass pendants and small plates.  The students have experimented with marbling paper and some print making as well. We play with concepts like scale, sometimes working big and sometimes in miniature. For some, it’s a process of learning to live with mistakes and let go, and for others it’s a time to slow down.”

Every day brings new adventure, and sometimes new challenges. Students who are new to the class in particular can experience understandable hesitation. Marty explains “I have new students who come in feeling unsure and occasionally defensive. One particular high school student painted a beautiful apple on her first day, but when I complimented her, her response was that she ‘didn’t like art’. I backed off, and as the following weeks went by she became more and more engaged. Her Sugar skull was delicate as was the trinket box that she carefully painted. Last week we did marbling and I gave them straws to blow the paint around in the water. She soon was dropping the dyes into the bubbles and then experimented with dish detergent. On Halloween as they were painting masks I read two stories from Grimm Fairy Tales. She immediately knew the version of Cinderella, and giggled as I read the vivid descriptions of the stepsisters trying on the shoe. All the while, I’m watching the hard-edged woman become a playful child again.”

However, time has had a positive effect on many of her students. Now in his second year, one student has transformed from being disruptive to the class leader. Marty notes that “his art is wonderful, and I’m trying to think of a creative way to gather his images of cats.” Another student, who Marty refers to as “I”, can hardly contain himself during art class and loves making things for his mother. Marty builds on these experiences to help students think about who they are and how their work might reflect their character, beliefs, and values. During the trinket box project, Marty brought in uncut rocks with opals inside and asked everyone to pick a stone that they felt reflected them most. She adds, “They were all very careful as they examined the stones.”

Marty credits her time in the classroom to the collaboration of the Marin County Office of Education and Youth in Arts. She is grateful for the opportunity to be with the children for the entire school year, and adds: “It has made such a difference in my relationship to the students.”

Thank you to the contract from the Kennedy Center and the funders who helped to make this happen:

 

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Willow Creek Academy and Short School Students Make Texture Collages

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:

Oak Hill Students Explore Painting and Sculpture

By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

For the past year, Oak Hill students have been exploring painting and sculpture. We ended the year with a student exhibit that featured several exciting projects. The display featured masks, paintings, drawings and two collaborative works based on the number paintings of artist Jasper Johns. It was important for students to get a chance to survey their own work as well as the art made by their friends. It was hard not to touch the art!

One of the projects the students liked best was using tape to separate space on pieces of canvas. The artists applied oil pastels and paint; once dry, they removed the tape. Some students enjoyed pulling off the tape more than painting! There were surprises of color and lines everywhere, and decisions to be made about whether to leave parts of the canvas bare. We finished off the project by using letter stencils. The artists were very creative and used the stencils randomly, rather than spelling out recognizable words or names.

Another popular project was making sculptures based on the work of Alberto Giacometti. Students began by making wire forms and then covering them with foil and clay. Once the clay dried, the sculptures were painted. Some students made human forms while others created animals.

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