Youth in Arts is thrilled to welcome Kylee Ortiz to our board. Kylee, has always been creative, and she had great support from her family when it came to pursuing her passion. Although she had access to visual art and music in school, much of her arts education was self-led. She explains, “I was lucky enough to have visual art in the classroom regularly although…I was not taught technique or guided to connect to the source of my creativity. Using my intuition, I did those things on my own, in school and out.” Her motivation to pursue the arts ultimately led her to get a Masters in Transformative Arts from John F. Kennedy University. It was there that she realized how omnipresent creativity can, and should be in education. “It wasn’t until I was at JFK that I realized everyone has a creative source, we’re all creators in our own right. Creativity is messy and sometimes dark and that’s ok.”
Kylee recognizes just how important arts education is to developing well-rounded, and confident leaders, “I recognize the transformational power of art and know that when young people are provided a safe space for art making and guidance accessing their creative source, their potential is limitless. With that belief, five years ago, my husband and I conspired a semester long, after-school pilot program. We facilitated transformational research-based art making, non-judgmental dialogue, and exhibited their art in a local gallery. Proceeds benefited a local non-profit.”
Kylee, is a Manager System Administrator at Kaiser Permanante by day, and a renegade prose and multi-media visual artist by night. She lives in San Geronimo with her husband and three children.
We are very thankful to have Kylee’s wonderful energy, compassion and creativity on our board. Thank you, Kylee!
We are very excited to welcome, Kathryn Hasson, as the new student representative on the Youth in Arts board. Kathryn, an incoming senior at Marin Academy, has been a member of ‘Til Dawn since her sophomore year. In addition to being an incredibly talented vocalist, Kathryn has seriously pursued acting, and creative writing throughout her high school career.
She appreciates and creates art in ALL of its forms, dabbling in photography, drawing, and painting as well. “So much happiness in my life comes from creating things,” she exclaims, “I consider myself a proud and extremely passionate artist.”
Kathryn has had access to excellent arts education throughout her life, but realizes that everyone isn’t as lucky. While she wouldn’t change anything about her personal arts education experience, she would like to open up the dialogue around the importance of the arts in education. “If I could change anything it would be students’ and teachers’ perception of arts education. I feel that many people hold the belief that arts education and opportunities are unimportant, or at the very least a last priority. I want to improve this and show people that having a space for creativity in school is incredibly beneficial.”
We look forward to Kathryn bringing her bold creativity and enthusiasm to the board. “I’m incredibly driven and passionate, and that shows when I speak about things that I love,” she explains, “Additionally, I’m very eager and willing to learn.” That positive attitude extends to her willingness to learn more about the condition of arts education in Marin County. “I would like to have a greater understanding about the current state of arts education in Marin…my ideal goal as a board member, is to be an example of someone who has been greatly influenced by the arts and thus help people understand just why the arts are so vital to both education and life.”
Thank you, Kathryn!
We are thrilled to welcome long-time Youth in Arts supporter, Janine Simerly to our board! Janine’s youngest son, Sean Simerly of Happnstance joined Youth in Arts’ Til Dawn A Capella group when he was a sophomore in high school. Janine remembers his experience fondly, “Sean had a lot of interests. He was a busy kid. Without doubt, the thing that ‘lit him up’ like no other was ‘Til Dawn. It was, from my vantage point, the most transformative experience of his high school years. He learned so much, not just about music and voice and harmonies (and beat boxing). ‘Til Dawn embodied everything that is wonderful about a team sport — without the orthopedic injuries.
One of the greatest joys in my life was attending ‘Til Dawn performances and watching these kids grow and blossom over the years, from nervous, awkward kids into seasoned professionals, so comfortable on stage with a mic in their hands.”
She also has a tremendous amount of respect for ‘Til Dawn director and mentor, Austin Willacy. “Austin Willacy is incredible. The man is a genius. He not only taught these kids about music and discipline. He also taught them to support and love one another. I could go on and on.”
Janine, a partner at the Miller Law Group in San Francisco, plans to bring her incredible energy, enthusiasm and commitment to the YIA Board, as well as, “an irreverent sense of humor. Sometimes that comes in handy.” Her goals as a YIA board member are to be, “a productive and valuable member of the board. To contribute. And hopefully pay back a little of what YIA has given to me (and Sean) over the years.” We feel very lucky to have her on our team!
Growing up in New Orleans, Janine had access to a well rounded arts education that included visual art, theatre, and music. Though she doesn’t consider herself an “artist” today, she is an avid gardner, champion Chili-maker, and she loves to sing and perform. “In my high school and college days, I had a blast performing in musicals. I’m told that I really nail ‘Big Spender’ from Sweet Charity.” We’re hoping she’ll grace us with a performance very soon.
Thank you, Janine!
Youth in Arts is delighted to welcome ‘Til Dawn member, Rose Myers, as our new student board member. In addition to being an incredibly talented singer, Rose strongly believes in advocating for art in schools, and looks forward to bringing her passion and integrity to the YIA board. Rose knew she wanted to be a member of ‘Til Dawn when she was only 9 years old, so she has long felt connected to the organization. “I was inspired to become involved with Youth in Arts by seeing and experiencing, first-hand, the amazing ways that YIA provides for our community,” she explains. “I would like to be a part of spreading that art and creativity around our community and hopefully, one day, even further.”
As a current student at a Marin County public high school, she revealed there are definite areas for improvement with regard to arts education. “I wish that the arts educators I had were available to public schools. I wish my school made it possible to spend more time learning about the arts. I think if more adults understood the importance of art, there would be more opportunities for kids to develop their art, whatever it may be,” she notes.
The intensive arts mentorship Rose has received from ‘Til Dawn director, Austin Willacy, in addition to the peer mentorship of fellow ensemble members, has enabled her to really grow as an artist. “I was very fortunate to have people around me that cared about the arts,” she says. “The educators that have taught me the most about art were outside of my school. Almost all of the people who have taught me about the arts are ’Til Dawn alumni.”
When Rose isn’t busy singing, writing creatively, or attending school she is doing mentoring of her own…with preschoolers! She writes songs with the young students, and helps them perform. “It’s the best part of my day!” she exclaims. We are very proud that Rose is sharing the arts mentorship she has learned here at YIA with the next generation of artists.
Thank you, Rose!
Youth in Arts is thrilled to introduce our newest board member, Maura Tokarski. Maura brings innumerable skills to Youth in Arts, from her background in industrial design, to her experience teaching students in Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to her extensive volunteer work with the Special Olympics, AMFAR and The American Cancer Society.
Maura has long been promoting better arts education not only for her own children in Marin County, but throughout California. She has actively sought out legislators and district leaders to enact real change. “We have had a privately funded arts program in my community since 1982,” Maura notes, “but little has changed in the state and District’s commitment to ensure consistent quality…I’m convinced that parental involvement is an essential component in keeping [arts programs] strong.”
Working with the Getty Museum and Los Angeles Unified School District, Maura has developed lesson plans integrating academics with art. By digitizing the entire permanent collection, the Getty made it possible for all students to experience the artwork, and Maura designed programs that incorporated art into math and science classes.
Creativity is a way of life for Maura. “I need creativity like a fish needs water,” she explains. “I’d like to think I express my creativity in everything I do, from raising my children, teaching, baking, painting, drawing and dance.” Halloween is a particularly creative time for her. Maura’s family chooses a theme every year, usually related to a play they saw or a vacation they took, and she hand-makes all of their elaborate costumes! This year, they took at surf trip to Mexico, so the theme was Dia de los Muertos. [Check out the photo of her incredible creation!]
“The idea that all children, not just artistically gifted ones, can develop and increase attention and memory skills with exposure to the arts is what motivates me to advocate for arts education in our public schools and work with a beneficial force like Youth in Arts in my community,” says Maura.
We’re very thankful to have her on board!