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Young Artists Spring Into Action

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Marina Middle Schoolers ready for summer!

Spring is bouncing into summer and hundreds of young artists around the North Bay are finishing class projects and creating exhibits, performances and other artful events for family and friends with Youth in Arts.

Recent posts have highlighted Spring projects by K-Dub Williams’ students at Marina Middle School and Angela Baker’s students at Harding Elementary, in addition to the amazing work created by Suzanne Joyal’s kindergarteners at Loma Verde as part of the Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program. Youth in Arts also produced a special “Passport Art Event” at Harding, and Nydia Gonzalez and Shawna Alapa’i concluding performing arts residencies at Ocean View Elementary in Albany and Sonoma Mountain Elementary.

Students of all abilities perform together at Tam High

Students of all abilities perform together at Tam High

In late May, Arts Unite Us “collaborative residency” projects at Harding and at Tam High School in Mill Valley wrapped up with terrific performances by all the students. Collaborative residencies bring together special education and general education students for shared arts experiences. At Harding, students wrote, directed and performed an original play “Lydia and the Land of Gee-Jo” around themes of Pollution, Bullying, Self Acceptance, New Beauty Standards and Taking Care of Each Other.  At Tam High , the original pilot site for the collaborative residency program, students from the Special Day Class and advanced Conservatory Theatre Ensemble worked with Mentor Artists Suraya Keating and Melissa Briggs to write and perform their original play, “By my Side,” which opened the school’s popular One Acts Festival.

Hip Hop at Bahia Vista with Kaitlin

Hip Hop at Bahia Vista with Kaitlin

Tommy Shepherd’s students at Wade Thomas put an exclamation mark on their rap and beatboxing residency with a performance of their original rap for their peers at school, and Kaitlin McGaw’s kindergarteners at Bahia Vista will soon perform a vocal music and hip hop show for their fourth grade buddies.

At Laurel Dell in San Rafael, Djenane Saint-Juste has been teaching students Caribbean dance around the theme of Kanaval (Carnivale), using costume pieces the students created this Fall with visual artist Gabby Gamboa. The students will perform in a grand parade with family and friends at the school’s big Fiesta del Sol event this weekend. And at Mary Silveira, Mentor Artist Julia James finished a successful year with a big art show featuring work by all her K-4 students in the program.

Youth in Arts award-winning `Til Dawn a cappella ensemble performed their annual Spring Concert at San

`Til Dawn 2014 Graduating Seniors

`Til Dawn 2014 Graduating Seniors

Domenico Hall of the Arts this past weekend–a big congratulations to all the performers for a wonderful show and a special shout out to our graduating seniors. We will miss you!

Also at San Domenico, Youth in Arts workshopped a new performance of “Goodnight Gorilla” on May 23 with music by Dee Spencer performed by a terrific band of Bay Area music educators and musicians who are working with us to develop the work into an educational performance piece for youth jazz bands.

Workshopping Goodnight Gorilla at San Domenico

Workshopping Goodnight Gorilla at San Domenico

You can see it’s been a very busy Spring, full of fabulous art and fabulous young artists. Watch this blog for more detailed reports on many of these projects in the weeks ahead and get ready to celebrate summer with Youth in Arts! Come see `Til Dawn at Youth in Arts night with the Pacifics, visit our Everything Under the Sun YIA Gallery exhibit, sign up for a unique summer camp program, check out the Mountain Play and benefit Youth in Arts with your ticket purchase, or join us for our gala Summer Solstice celebration at Studio 333 on June 21. We’d love to see you in person and share our work with you. Happy summer!

Arts Unite Us – Across Marin

“Arts Unite Us” is a special initiative at Youth in Arts that brings students from Special Day classrooms and their General Ed peers to learn and create art together.  “Arts Unite Us” was first envisioned in 2008 by VSA Director Nydia Gonzalez, as a way to bridge gaps in understanding and interaction between students of different abilities and combat the isolation that many of them feel on their school campuses.  Youth in Arts has been developing the idea ever since, creating pilot projects that provide amazing opportunities for young people to learn about each other and work together like never before!


This year, “Arts Unite Us” classes are in full gear at Tam High, Terra Linda High, Redwood High and San Ramon Elementary.  Students from Special Day Classrooms are working together with their peers from General Education classrooms, learning art and performing together.  The first culminating event from this year’s classes will be held at Tam High School, where students from Mr. Lovejoy’s Special Day Class and Ben Cleaveland’s Conservatory Theater Ensemble have been working with YIA Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs in Theater. They will be performing their original play “Camping Out in Nature with Friends and Family and Animals” on Friday, May 17th and Saturday, May 18th as part of the Spring One Act Festival.

Students at Terra Linda High have been learning Samba Reggae with Mentor Artists Stephanie Bastos and Nydia Gonzalez and will hold a celebratory presentation dance/party during lunch time on June 4th.  At Redwood High School, students working with YIA Mentor Artist William Rossell will perform their original percussive composition, opening for the Advanced Performance Workshop Concert on May 29th at 7PM.  At San Ramon Elementary, students from Gen Ed and SDC classrooms have been working together with YIA Mentor Artist Suraya Keating, working on their interpretation of a folktale, “The Laughing River”, focusing on Community and Inclusion.

Youth in Arts has raised the funds to provide these programs in our community from a mix of institutional and individual donors.  We thank the Green Foundation, Marin Community Foundation, Kenneth A. Lester Family Foundation, Macy’s and Target for their generous support of this program, as well as our many individual community supporters. If you have any questions about this program, or would would like to support programs such as this one, please contact Nydia Gonzalez at


Something exciting is happening in Mill Valley! Students at Tamalpais High School are collaborating to write, direct, produce and perform their own play for the school’s Winter One Act Play Festival in January 2012.

Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs is leading this joint effort between students from Mr. Lovejoy’s Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) Special Ed class and the school’s excellent Conservatory Theatre Ensemble (CTE). This arts integration program is the first of its kind in the district, created as part of YIA’s Arts Unite Us program, which aims to bridge gaps between students of differing abilities. Read more…

The Super Sensational Nine!

“We can work together!” wrote the students, and work together they did!

Mr. Lovejoy’s Special Day Class at Mt. Tam High School devised, wrote, directed and performed an original play called The Super Sensational Nine with guidance from VSA arts YIA Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs.

LEARN – About Theatre
The adapted Drama course began with theatre games through which they learned the elements of performance and playwriting. Students loved warming up their bodies, voices and imaginations every session and remained enthusiastic and flexible throughout this intensive and fast-moving residency.

IMAGINE – The Message
Together they chose the message, or central dramatic theme, for their piece, “its important to be a good son/daughter & role model.” The class was excited to voice how we all “get mad and stressed” but that “we can grow”. Sometimes we are influenced by constraints placed on us, and sometimes by those we place on ourselves but we have to “work together” to be “role models” for each other, our families and our own selves.

WRITE – The Play
In their play, this class of dynamic teens of different abilities confronted those constraints and created a story about seven superheroes who work together to show two supervillians how to “look inside” for the “good inside” them.

Students learned about character development by analyzing their own strengths as well as their unique personality and physical traits. They created superhero Alter Egos built on those strengths.  See the Mt Tam Heroes Student Worksheets.

The two supervillians emerged from the story’s need for conflict, the defining element of dramatic playwriting. In the resolution of this short play, the supervillians choose to stop using their “powers for bad” and begin “using them for good” becoming Superheroes! Take a look at the Super Sensational Nine script.

DESIGN – The Production
After crafting detailed character descriptions and awesome names for their superheroes, the Mt. Tam High students chose music and choreographed an energetic superhero movement dance to introduce each character.

A student in the class who is a gifted artist created a cape template; his classmates used this drawing as the foundation of their costume design. With more resources these detailed sketches could have become actual costumes!

The actors blocked their play, with Melissa’s direction, and memorized their lines, created props and chose clothes to wear that matched their superhero colors. Mr.Lovejoy is an amazing teacher and his help throughout was integral to the project. He connected us with Ben Cleveland in the Drama Department at the school who allowed us to perform at the campus main stage, the Daniel Caldwell Performing Arts Center.

The Super Sensational Nine was a huge hit! Every student was committed and participatory. This group of teenagers with diverse abilities brought passion and patience to their collaboration, ultimately encouraging us all through their play to “Look again. Look again. See the good. Inside you.”

As amazing as this experience was… it is just the beginning!  Next year, this class of talented young artists will be working with the Tam High School theater department to create a collaborative theater peice through our Arts Unite Us program.  Stay tuned!!