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San Rafael, California 94901
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Teaching Artists Adjust to a New World

Kids Move with Youth in Arts

We can’t wait to reconnect with our students!

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.

“Reaching all kids with meaningful arts activities and supporting teaching artists is crucial during these challenging times,” Kristen said. “We are working as hard as we can to make this work.”

 

YIACre8tes

 With thousands of Bay Area kids at home due to the coronavirus closures, how can you keep them busy?

 By joining Youth in Arts on social media for art projects you can make with supplies from home.

For at least the next two weeks, Youth in Arts is offering free, 8-minute livestream tutorials at 11:08 a.m. PDT (2:08 p.m. EDT) Monday through Friday. At #YIACre8tes, daily tutorials include drawing your toys, movement exploration, building paper playgrounds and making sculptures.

“All of our programs emphasize creativity, confidence and compassion, and we need that now more than ever,” said Youth in Arts’ Executive Director Kristen Jacobson. “We’re excited to support our students, partners and their families during this crisis that is taking them out of their daily routine.”

The livestream sessions on Instagram and Facebook will feature Youth in Arts’ staff and emphasize art projects that students are able to do with what they have on hand at home. With families trying to create learning schedules at home, these lessons offer a guaranteed creative break during the day.

“Since we can’t work with students in classrooms, this is a new and innovative way to reach them,” Kristen said. “It’s proven that art reduces stress and helps people connect.”

Although Youth in Arts’ staff had planned to live stream every day, this week’s sudden shelter in place order required us to pivot – and quickly. We moved swiftly to pre-record a week’s worth of tutorials that could be released a day at a time. Next week, staff members will be live streaming again from their homes.

“Like everyone, we’re trying our best to adapt to a rapidly changing situation,” Kristen said.

Although Youth in Arts is based in San Rafael, these lessons are free and accessible to students in the Bay Area and beyond. Students and their families are encouraged to share their own ideas at #YIACre8tes or @YouthInArts.

“Since we can’t collaborate in person, let’s make our community virtual,” said Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “Creativity is the glue that holds us together. It’s something we all still have, and it’s free.”

Stay tuned for more in-depth lessons!

Following the Lines

Students at Oak Hill students explored themselves by making different lines.

Working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, they used black and white pastels on a beautiful brown paper. We looked at thick lines and thin lines, curvy lines and bumpy lines. Some artists worked precisely and methodically and made only straight lines; others used only curves and made spontaneous marks everywhere.

When we finished, we laid the work on a table and talked about connections.

At the next session, we looked at the portraits and then made different portraits using water soluble Lyra graphic crayons and white pastels. Students made more lines and shapes, then activated the pencil lines by tracing them with a paintbrush dipped in water. It was fun to look at the two portraits together.

“This is another example of how we scaffold,” Cathy said. “It builds confidence in artists when they can practice a familiar subject with new materials.”

Cathy is at Oak Hill as part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us program, which supports students experiencing disabilities.

 

Our Hands Tell a Story

 

Students at Olive Elementary School found an interesting way to make prints. They used their hands.

Working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, students in Joe Smith’s class began by creating small collages using at least five torn pieces of colorful paper. They arranged the composition first, then glued them flat onto mat board.

That’s when the real the fun began. Using black printer’s ink, students took turns rolling out the ink, listening for the “sticky” or “tacky” sound that indicated it was ready. Using the sides of their palms, their fingertips and other parts, they created self portraits.

Cathy likes to show students that a self portrait doesn’t have to be a realistic image of your face. Just as Van Gogh painted his shoes, young artists can show themselves through a painting of an object or image – or choosing what part of their hands to use for a print tool.

Cathy taught the same class at San Ramon Elementary School with Kelsey Olson. This project engaged many important skills, from rolling out the paint to tearing the collage papers into manageable pieces. For young artists in our Arts Unite Us program, which supports artists experiencing disabilities, these can be crucial skills to master.

While rolling out the thick black ink, one student sighed happily.

“I could do this all day,” she said.

Tints and Shades

 

How can you turn a colorful collage into a painting of blacks, whites and grays?

Students in Kelsey Olson’s class at San Ramon Elementary School used their collages from a previous class as inspiration for paintings that explored tints and shades.

Working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman, the young artists started with a plastic slide (view finder) to choose a tiny detail of their collage that they wanted to enlarge and turn into another painting.

After making a quick sketch, they worked with white and black paints on mat board. Some students made sure to keep the light areas light by using a little bit of white pastel, too.

In making the paintings, we had to look carefully. Which part is the darkest? Which part is the lightest? How do we mix white and black together to show a range of tints and shades?

“I wasn’t sure if they would find black and white paint boring, but they all liked it,” Cathy said. “It’s amazing what a variety of tints and shades students created.”

Class ended with students looking at the ways their own work connected to that of their classmates. It was good practice to talk about what we “see” instead of what we “like” and the value of giving precise, neutral feedback to each other.

 

Feeling the Rhythm of a Drawing

If you tap out the beat of a drawing, what sounds does it make?

More than 40 middle schoolers from the after school program at Trinity Lutheran Church in San Rafael stopped by the YIA gallery for a free field trip linked to our Rising Stars high school art exhibit. Youth in Arts’ Program Manager Kelsey Rieger asked students to search for lines as they looked at the paintings, drawings and sculpture in the exhibit.

Using scratch paper, students chose three different lines they saw and talked about patterns. Then using rough brown paper and white and black pastels, students used their lines to make an abstract drawing. When everyone was finished, Kelsey described the work of a curator, asked them to curate their own work. They started by spreading out their individual works and looking for connections based on line, pattern, color or composition. Students talked about the connections they saw to explain why they put their work where they did. In the end, they created a collaborative piece.

Kelsey also talked about rhythm in art. Using a piece of dried bamboo and a stick, students looked at the art on the table and created a rhythm to communicate what the art said. It was fun to hear different interpretations of the work.

“We learned about pattern, repetition and rhythm because they are all important aspects of learning how to build a balanced composition,” Kelsey said.

Field trips are a great way to explore an exhibit, and include a 45-minute program planned by Youth in Arts’s staff. There is no charge, but please call in advance to schedule. For more information, please call Kelsey at (415) 457-4787 ext. 110. And don’t miss Rising Stars, which showcases the best of Marin County high school artists. The exhibition closes on March 27.

Exploring Color Mixing is STEAM Education

How do you learn how to mix color? By dipping your brush in different paints over and over. Why should we teach students to mix colors? This is the beginning of STEAM for students: they practice the Engineering Design Cycle when they learn to mix colors: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve (which means repeat).

Students in Katie Kelly’s class at Olive Elementary School in Novato practiced color mixing while making paintings of sculptures they had already created. The students are working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman through our Arts Unite Us (AUU) program. Through AUU, YIA is the only provider of arts education programming to many students experiencing disabilities in Marin County.

It was fun to look at the black and white sculptures and transform them into vibrant, colorful paintings. We made beautiful secondary colors and learned that if we mixed everything together, we ended up with a muddy brown!

Color mixing is something you can only learn by doing. We practiced the basics –  red and yellow make orange, blue and yellow make green, and red and blue make purple. But through experimentation we learned that we could make myriad shades of oranges, greens and purples by adjusting how much red, yellow, or blue we used.

Students looked carefully at the shapes they had used in their sculptures and repeated them in their paintings. On some, the shapes were quite clear, while on others, the shapes were hiding under more freeform lines.

At the end of class we put our work together and talked about what connections we could see in the shapes, colors and lines that we used. It was interesting to see that even though we used the same paint, the way we made our marks was unique.

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?

We Love Our Local Businesses!

Have you ever made a frame from cardboard? Or painted on matboard? Or built a tower from wood scraps? Or played in a maze built out of furniture boxes?

We have.

At Youth in Arts, we repurpose and reuse as many materials as we can, both to keep items out of the waste stream and teach young artists that art can be made from anything. That way when we have to buy materials like paint and pastels, we can afford to choose durable, high quality products. This is also because of the generous support of our favorite art store around the corner, RileyStreet Art Supply. Using buttery pastels or highly pigmented paint makes for a sensory rich experience. In other words, it feels good!

RileyStreet is one of several local businesses that support Youth in Arts with discounted materials. From Lo Forti Fine Prints in San Anselmo, we get matboard scraps that are cherished by teaching artists working with young artists experiencing disabilities. Artists like the sensory response of working on a firm surface that isn’t soft and flexible like canvas. We also get foam core pieces from Lo Forti that we cut into tiny shapes for sculptures.

“For me, it’s about seeing people in the community and making connections,” said Youth in Arts’ Visual Arts Director Suzanne Joyal. “That happens through the making of art and the sharing of materials.”

From AC Graphics and Blue Dot Picture Framing in San Rafael, we get wood scraps that are used to make Towers of Power in our Architects in Schools Program. Sunrise Home in San Rafael, whose warehouse shares our parking lot, gives us large pieces of cardboard. Thin pieces are used as frames for children’s self portraits. Children love to draw on the cardboard and share their stories. Large boxes that once held sofas and chairs become giant play structures for our YIA Gallery. Both the self portraits and the cardboard play structures will be on display this spring as part of Imagining Friendship, our annual Walker Rezaian Creative HeArts Exhibition.

The exhibit, which opens April 10, features lively and engaging self portraits from kindergarteners and first graders at Laurel Dell Elementary School in San Rafael. The work was created last fall during a Youth in Arts’ residency with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman.

If you are a local business interested in making a donation to our nonprofit, please give us a call at (415) 457-4878 or stop by at 917 C St. in San Rafael. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

 

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