How should a dancer teach online? How does clown perform without a live audience? How can a metal artist heat up materials without her studio?
More than 50 teaching artists from around the Bay Area joined a Zoom call recently to explore how to continue working with their students, now that schools and businesses are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Youth in Arts held a similar call the same day with its own teaching artists.
The Bay Area wide event was supported by Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area and Oakland Unified Arts Partners. It was facilitated by Mika Lemoine, a mentor artist who teaches hip hop and street dance with Destiny Arts Center in Oakland, and Rachel-Anne Palacios, a multicultural artist and activist who works in the Oakland schools.
Participants began by coming up with a word to describe how they were feeling. The answers were telling: Hopeful. Weary. Isolated. Groovy. Challenged. Excited. Unwashed.
With work inside schools halted, teaching artists discussed ways to engage with their students online. Several expressed their concern about how to reach kids who don’t have access to a computer, and how hard it is to be creative when you feel anxious.
“I realize how much social connection feeds me and motivates me,” said one dance teacher. “Not being able to fully move is hindering my well being.”
Teaching artists also talked about the strain of trying to figure out how to survive financially. Can they file for unemployment? Which is the best online platform to use to reach the widest audience? When will they be able to earn a living working in classrooms again?
Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson held a similar Zoom call with Youth in Arts’ teaching artists and staff. Kristen shared that Youth in Arts is talking to funders, donors and school partners to find ways to continue programming and support teaching artists.
Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.
The San Rafael elementary school recently celebrated its reopening with a joyful ribbon-cutting ceremony that drew dozens of students, staff and members of the community. Youth in Arts was there to celebrate its Architects in Schools program and to showcase the amazing work made during residencies last Fall while the school was being rebuilt.
Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented Principal Pepe Gonzalez with the this year’s Pamela Levine award for his outstanding support of arts education. It was evident how much he is loved by the thick book Suzanne made that was filled with hundreds of cards and drawings from students, teachers and specialists. There were so many cards from well wishers that the book couldn’t hold them all.
Although Suzanne has never seen Pepe draw a picture, dance or sing, she considers him a kindred spirit who thinks like an artist.
“He enjoys the success that comes from solving problems as much as I do,” she said. “Mr. Gonzalez understand that the arts are about so much more than the pretty object we draw. The arts offer students a safe space to explore their world, to stand up to speak out and to believe in themselves.”
The day included visits to a special exhibition of work made with Youth in Arts’ architects Shirl Buss and Janine Lovejoy Wilford, and Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Visitors were encouraged to look closely at how Youth in Arts teaches a sequential program in which skills are built upon from one year to the next. The lines and curves in a kindergarteners’ self portraits, for example, leads to a third graders’ colorful model of what Fourth Street in San Rafael could look like. That model gives fifth graders the skills they need to design spaces for the city’s future library.
Pairs of students from each class served as docents, giving tours, answering questions and explaining their work. Practicing speaking in public supports one of Youth in Arts’ goals: that students reflect upon making art and can speak confidently about their work. Third graders who worked with Shirl (creative director at UC Berkeley’s Y-PLAN) will present their design and policy proposals for downtown San Rafael the city’s 2040 general plan steering committee on March 11.
The daylong celebration ended with a Family Art Night with Youth in Arts. Children in after school care, as well as families and friends, stopped by to make tiny bridges for crossing the canal. It required them to find a place where they thought a bridge was needed, then to measure the spot to make sure the bridge was long enough. They used buttons, embroidery hoops, clay, bumpy paper and wood scraps to bring their models to life.
Family Art Nights are a great way to involve families in the art their children are making and are usually a part of all Youth in Arts’
Artists in Schools residencies. For more information about art nights and Youth in Arts’ residencies, please contact Program Director Kelsey Rieger at (415) 457-4878 ext 110.
We are excited to announce that architect Shirl Buss, who has helped develop Youth in Arts’ Architects in Schools program for elementary school children in Marin, has won the 2019 Pamela Levine award!
The Pamela Levine Arts Education Leadership Award was presented at the opening of the Inspire art exhibit at the YIA Gallery. Now in its fifth year, the Inspire exhibit showcases the personal work of teaching artists that was inspired by their work with students. Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal presented the award to Shirl on behalf of the Youth in Arts board and staff. The award is given to individuals for exceptional accomplishments in arts education in memory of Youth in Arts’ former Executive Director Pamela Levine.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Shirl for the past four years, when she began teaching architecture at Laurel Dell. I have learned so much from her,” Suzanne said in an address to Shirl. “She clearly embodies Youth in Arts’ goals for learners: Creativity, Compassion and Confidence through arts learning. It is clear to all who work with you, Shirl, that you love what you do, and you love your students.” Suzanne continued. “The respect you have for creatives of all sizes is clear in every interaction you have with people.”
Shirl is a designer, planner and educator whose work focuses on children, youth and the built environment. She holds a masters in Early Childhood Development and an M.Arch and Ph.D from the UCLA Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Shirl is the Y-PLAN Elementary Director at the Center for Cities + Schools at UC Berkeley. At Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael, she is a key member of a team of Youth in Arts Mentor Artists teaching design and build skills to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
More than 60 people turned out for the celebration, many of them friends and colleagues who work with Buss in the East Bay. Also in attendance was Youth in Arts Executive Director Kristen Jacobson and Pepe Gonzalez, principal of Laurel Dell and Short elementary schools.
“If you guys saw the artwork that these kids have created – 3 Dimensional, to scale, not to scale … it’s everything that the Common Core was supposed to be,” Pepe said. “These kids are living it and breathing it and doing it every day.”
Suzanne also read comments from Laurel Dell students who have studied with Shirl:
“Dear Ms. Buss, you taught me and my class how to speak in public, also how to be a creative scholar. You gave me the opportunity to think about my future chances,” wrote one student.
Another wrote: “Dear Ms. Buss, you taught me to never give up. You make me happy.”
Some students talked about how much Ms.Buss inspired them when they made model tree houses.
“Dear Ms. Buss, thank you for teaching me to be creative and bringing my imagination to another level,” one student wrote. “You are like a bird in the sky teaching kids to use their imagination.”
The Inspire exhibit is on display through Jan. 17 at the YIA Gallery, located at 917 C St. in the beautiful Downtown San Rafael Arts District. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 11 am. to 4 p.m. The Art Lab is always open when we are: children and grown-ups can come in and make art for free.