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Artist Tracey Wirth Lends a Hand

Tracey Wirth

Artist Tracey Wirth

At Youth in Arts, we get by with a lot of help from our friends. One of them is artist Tracey Wirth.

Tracey wears many hats: textile designer, seamstress, handbag creator, graphic designer, fine artist and more. She also happens to be a neighbor of Youth in Arts Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal.

When Suzanne started working on “Imagining Friendship,” our annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts show now online at Youth in Arts, she dreamed of turning kindergarten and first grade portraits into coloring book pages.

Enter Tracey, who generously agreed to help. Suzanne sent her more than 80 portraits and emotions studies created by students at Laurel Dell Elementary School last fall. Through Tracey’s magic computer skills, each portrait was transformed into a black and white line drawing.

“Those pages would not exist without Tracey’s help,” Suzanne said. “It meant the world to us.”

Tracey is no stranger to coloring book art. When the coronavirus shelter-in-place order took effect, she asked herself what she could do to help. Using her own artwork, she created 30 free and beautiful coloring pages available on her own website. Each one carries an uplifting message, like “not all heroes wear capes.”

“I like the idea of being a visual storyteller,” Tracey said. “It was good therapy for me.”

The feedback has been positive. One acquaintance gave some pages to her mother, who has dementia. The recreation director for her late mother-in-law’s assisted care facility in San Rafael printed out several pages for elderly residents there to use.

“I’d love to see more adult artists reinterpreting students’ art, ” Suzanne said. “There’s something very therapeutic about just coloring.”

Hug_A_House.png

One of Tracey’s coloring pages

If you haven’t seen the student self portraits in our online Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts show, please check them out here. (The portraits can be printed out, colored and put in your window for your neighbors to enjoy.)

The portraits were the final project of a 12 week residency with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program builds fine motor, literacy and social emotional skills through art making with a rich variety of tools and materials. It also helps children learn how to make and keep friends while practicing sharing and empathy.

The program was created in 2013 with the Rezaian family in honor of the life of their young son, Walker.

 

 

Families, Fun and Art at Walker Rezaian Show Opening

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:

Emotions Sketches Coloring Pages 1st Grade
Portraits Coloring Pages 1st Grade
Portraits Coloring Pages Kindergarten [Rm 3]
Portraits Coloring Pages Kindergarten [Rm 4]

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.

Walker Rezaian Show Opens April 17

 

Please join us for our first virtual art exhibit! Youth in Arts is proud to present Imagining Friendship: Portraits of Young Artists at the YIA Gallery.

The exhibition features a slideshow of art created through our Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. Viewers can see more than 70 colorful portraits created by kindergarteners and first graders. The online gallery opens this Friday, April 17, with a celebration on the Youth in Arts’ Youtube channel at 5 p.m.

A coloring book page has been made of  many of the self portraits. Viewers of all ages are invited to print out the black and white images, choose one to color, and tape it in a window for others to see and enjoy. With families staying home due to the coronavirus, we invite you to celebrate these young artists in your own way. People are encouraged to post their art on social media and Youtube. Don’t forget to share with us at @youthinarts.org!

The Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts program was created by Youth in Arts and the Rezaian family to celebrate Walker’s life and his love of the arts. You can learn more about this amazing program here. We invite you to participate and explore (safely) what being a good friend means during the quarantine. 

The portraits were the final project of a 12-week residency taught by Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman. Using innovative lessons that allowed students to use a range of tools and materials, children explored ideas about compassion, empathy and friendship. Youth in Arts’ programs celebrate creativity, confidence and compassion in ALL learners – and we need that now more than ever.

Cathy said each class did their portraits slightly differently. One kindergarten class made watercolor portraits with cardboard frames colored with black and white pastels. The other kindergarten class did the opposite: they created black and white portraits and used colors on the frames. This decision turned out to be fortuitous as those pages (as well as several from first grade) were transformed into coloring pages that could be downloaded.

Adapting is a way of life at Youth in Arts. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate, explore and create so we can reach students of all abilities with innovative art programs. Let’s infuse our community with joyful art in as many ways as we can!

Imagining Friendship: Join the YIA Gallery Online!

Now that you’re staying at home, there’s no better time to visit museums and galleries in London, Tokyo or Paris.

Or San Rafael.

Like art institutions across the nation, Youth in Arts is putting its exhibits online. Our annual “Imagining Friendship” Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Show, which opens April 17, will feature more than 70 colorful self portraits created by kindergarten and first grade students at Laurel Dell Elementary School.

We are exploring innovative ways to engage with viewers who visit this show, so stay tuned! Visual Arts Director, Suzanne Joyal is putting together a slideshow of the artwork and other activities to encourage community members to engage and connect.

“This is one of our favorite exhibitions. It’s important that we find a way to reach viewers even if we can’t use our gallery walls,” Suzanne said. “These portraits are full of joy, and we need that now more than ever.”

The Walker Rezaian show is generously supported by the Rezaian family in celebration of Walker’s life and how much he loved making friends and art. This program teaches young students visual arts fundamentals, and also helps them develop compassion, empathy and other social-emotional skills.

Once you’re online, the YIA Gallery isn’t the only place you can visit. Kids can travel to museums or watch theatre shows in Amsterdam, Rome and New York – all in the same day.

“These virtual tours are an excellent way to keep kids engaged with art, and to draw inspiration from what they see,” Suzanne said. “You never know what image will inspire a child to create their own work.”

Museums are generously making their collections online for viewers to enjoy. Need ideas? Take a look at this excellent PBS Newshour article.

Is dancing more your speed? Check out Dancing Alone Together for a list of online dance classes around the Bay Area.

Miss going to the theatre? Visit WhatsOnStage for stage shows, musicals and opera you can see online.

“You may feel stranded at home, but you don’t have to be alone,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re here to help you engage.”

I Love the Way I Look

 

I love the way I look

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.”

 

Sharing and Caring

By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

At Youth in Arts, we strive to instill creativity, confidence and compassion in all learners.

Creativity is supported through sensory rich materials and innovative projects – and learning to work together. Confidence comes from making choices and reflection, and being willing to share your feelings with your peers. But how do you build compassion?

One of the ways is through the sharing of materials. As a teaching artist, I put out only a few materials to encourage students to share, learn to ask how to share, and what to say when a friend wants the same pastel.

I’m always amazed at how art making supports this crucial social emotional skill. I’ve watched the student who knows how to tie help another student with his apron strings. I’ve watched students wash the paintbrush of a friend. And I’ve watched first graders discuss what different facial expressions say – and how to be a good friend to someone who looks sad.

Another important piece of Youth in Arts’ programs involves conscious choice making. Children can’t grow up to be good decision makers unless they get some practice.  Throughout much of their school day, they are told what to do and how to do it.

That’s where a Youth in Arts program can make a difference. Our lessons are sequential and scaffolded, meaning we build upon skills learned from week to week. We make conscious choices about when to introduce drawing or sculpture so that students can be successful. When students are encouraged to make choices and also to explain them, they develop confidence, independence and voice.

Even a seemingly small choice, like whether to use a blue or orange pastel, builds confidence in bigger decisions. Helping to clean up at the end of class also supports executive function skills. Our art programs support the same skills students need across their young lives, from fine motor skill practice to math facts. Who doesn’t want that?

Laurel Dell Celebrates Artists and Architects

Why do the arts matter? Look no further than Laurel Dell School.

Principal Pepe Gonzalez and Administrative Assistant Anabella Reyes

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.

Kindergarteners Build Playgrounds of the Future

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.

 

 

 

Engaging Students through Movement: Why I teach the brain dance

By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman

This year, I decided to start all of my art classes with a Brain Dance, a series of movements developed by dance educator and author Anne Green Gilbert to wake up the brain and improve focus. Often I see students at the end or beginning of the day, when they are restless or tired.  My five-minute version of the Brain Dance helps reinvigorate them while focusing on re-mapping of brain-body connections.

Inevitably it’s the wiggly students, the ones who need it the most, who are the most resistant. As an introduction activity, the Brain Dance acts as a daily assessment tool for my students. Who is having trouble calming their body or mind? Who has trouble with cross lateral movements? Who confuses left and right? Even, how is their sense of self today? Watching them move gives me valuable information about what skills they may find challenging when it comes to art making or the level of engagement I may need to address.

The dance includes eight patterns of movement, starting and ending with the breath. Deep breathing is essential for all healthy bodies. When children are stressed, it’s no coincidence that they take short, shallow breaths. Starting and ending with belly breaths means more oxygen for young brains. From breath, the Brain Dance moves through the developmental patterns of movement (the movements we take in our first year after birth) to the most integrated pattern, cross-lateral connectivity. Cross-lateral is the pattern that crosses the four quadrants of the body (upper, lower, right, left) which supports higher thinking and even eye tracking used for reading and reading-readiness.

Recently I had a kindergartener who always wore a serious expression. Adrian solemnly watched his classmates do the Brain Dance, week after week, without joining in. On the seventh week, he spontaneously started participating in the warm up with a big smile on his face. Instead of saying “good job” or “well done” (vague) I looked for something specific in Adrian’s movements that I could point out, and others could follow.  He found confidence in his kinesthetic learning that day; and my acknowledgement of his effort (by name) reinforced his effort and ability. He became a positive role model for the rest of the class.

When I started doing the Brain Dance it felt uncomfortable for me, since I see myself as a visual artist rather than a dancer. But as we learn more about how children learn and absorb information in multiple ways, integrating different art forms makes sense. When Laurel Dell 2nd graders visited the YIA Gallery recently, they learned an extended version of the Brain Dance from Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. I picked up some tips as well.

The Brain Dance also helps teachers stay centered and focused.  Who doesn’t need a belly breath during the day? You can learn more about the Brain Dance by viewing this video, Brain Dance, which is a part of Youth in Arts Digital Tool Kit.

Thank you to our very generous donors, sponsors and partners:

Mixing Skin Tones

How do I make brown? How many different shades of brown can I make? Second graders at Short and Laurel Dell elementary schools practiced mixing colors using only the primaries red, yellow and blue plus white.

We worked with tempera paint, waxy black markers and mat board. First we traced our own hands and the hands of our table mates, overlapping to create interesting shapes. We mixed different browns carefully and painted in each area. It was fun to see how purple and yellow make a brown that is different from the brown that blue and orange makes. We used donated mat board instead of paper to give students a velvety and durable service on which to work. Mat board is especially helpful with children with learning differences as it offers a strong sensory response, and won’t crumple with lots of paint.

Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, we have been exploring identity and our role in our communities and neighborhoods. The lesson followed a multi-week project in which students created richly detailed murals using collage papers, pastels and glue. In each class, we designed and envisioned our dream neighborhood after looking at artists Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold and others.

Thank you to Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo for the generous donation of mat board.

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