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.”
By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman
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?
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?
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.
Art making can happen many ways. Whenever possible, Youth in Arts visual art teachers like to work in small groups to give young artists more time and attention. Sometimes the rest of the class is doing academic work, on worksheets or an iPad. Occasionally we run an informal art center, where students can freely explore materials they will be using later in class with their Youth in Arts teaching artist.
Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman worked recently with several students at Oak Hill School in San Anselmo through our Arts Unite Us program, which supports students experiencing disabilities. As she started with a few students, teacher Nicole Albert asked if the rest of the class could make some collaborative art. Nicole covered the table with white butcher paper, and Cathy set out some of the pastels she would be using for her lesson a few minutes later.
Students were encouraged to explore making all kinds of marks, and each picture told a story. Some students got to practice their fine motor skills by cutting out cats, human-like figures and other shapes they had drawn.
After a quick hand wash, students visited Cathy at a different table. They made textured quilts on mat boards, pressing different colored shapes and textures onto a sheet of sticky shelf paper. They used the pastels to trace around each shape, practicing hand-eye coordination. Finally they applied magic gold foil they left a shiny imprint on their art when they pulled it off. All the pressing, rubbing, scratching and lifting helps strengthen the hand muscles that are needed for writing, cutting and other duties. And using pastels twice made the artists more confident. Scaffolding lessons is built into our lessons so students can build on skills learned from week to week. Even an art center can be linked to a lesson so that it supports the lesson being taught that day.
You can see art created by these very talented students this summer at our annual “Outside the Lines” art exhibit at the Youth in Arts Gallery.
Circles come in all colors and sizes. We can find them everywhere.
Students in Kathleen Haulot’s class at San Ramon Elementary School used Mason jar lids, tape rolls, tiny dishes and an empty yogurt container to make circles on black paper. Inspired by the work of Kandinsky, these young artists explored making circles big and small, loose and tight, thick and thin.
The students are working with Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman as part of a 10-week residency at Olive Elementary School in Novato. This is the second year she has worked with Kathleen, whose students range in age from kindergarten to second grade. She taught the same project at Olive Elementary School with Joe Smith.
The artists used thick, creamy tempera crayons that are easy to hold and use for students experiencing disabilities. Instead of working on white paper, they drew on black. The stark contrast created visual interest, and students had to think about what happens when yellow is applied to black paper (more green) than white paper (more yellow).
“I want my students to know the joy of making art with anything, and working on black paper produces exciting, dramatic art,” Cathy said. “This is a great way for students to practice fine motor skills because they have to hold the lid with one hand and trace with the other.”
Cathy likes Mason jar lids because they are sturdy and easy to hold. Artists had fun using different objects to make different circles. When we finished, we put them together on a table and talked about how each piece connected with the others. Reflection on art making is a key part of our Youth in Arts’ programs, and it’s wonderful to witness the many ways students share their voices.
Youth in Arts is the only provider of arts classes (visual, dance or music) to nearly 40 self-contained classrooms of students experiencing disabilities in Marin County. You can see art created by these very talented students this summer at our annual “Outside the Lines” art exhibit at the Youth in Arts Gallery.
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.
By Mentor Artist Cathy Bowman
I love it when students ignore my directions.
I don’t mean the important rules: be kind, share, and respect yourselves, others and materials. But following the directions for how to do a project? It’s not on my list.
Making art intuitively is common among students with different learning styles. They care far more about process than result. They rarely ask if you like what they create, because frankly, they don’t care – and they shouldn’t. Often they use tools in new and unexpected ways, such as the handle of a brush (instead of the bristles) to scratch into wet paint.
Recently I taught at an elementary school through our Arts Unite Us program. I asked each student to come up with three words to describe themselves, and then turn each word into a line to make an abstract self portrait.
I met a young boy who slumped at the table, clearly disengaged. When asked for his words, he shrugged and said nothing. The kindly paraprofessional told him he either had to make art or go back to his desk and do school work, and he started to get up. I asked her to wait, feeling that if he was at least willing to stay at the table, some part of him might be interested. Even if all he did was sit there, I knew eventually he might make a mark … even if it took several weeks.
Suddenly, he wanted to draw Frankenstein. Great, I replied. What words would you use to describe him? His face lit up and he quickly came up with two words: creative and strong. Instead of an abstract line drawing, he created his own monster portrait. His work was different from everyone else’s – and just as engaging. I saw him a few weeks later, and he is still enthralled with making art.
As teachers, we are constantly reassessing how we define success. I see my job as being a trail guide – to point out the boulders rolling down the hill and which way the trail goes. The path artists take is up to them.
Dozens of young artists and their families celebrated at the Artists Awards Reception for RISING STARS, the annual Youth in Arts exhibit that showcases the best of public, private and alternative high school art.
Sir Francis Drake High School student Annabelle Sulprizio won Best of Show for her pair of beautifully carved vases. Other award winners included Alessandra Sutton for Best Painting, Helen Kun for Best Photograph, Keira Engler for Best Sculpture, Lily Gates for Best Drawing, and Ina Kim for Best Mixed Media. The full list of winners can be found HERE.
Nearly 300 people turned out in the bright sunshine and rotated through the show at a private reception on Sunday. The show features painting, drawing, sculpture, mixed media, photography, printmaking and digital media.
Annabelle said Geometric/Repeat Pattern Vase Set was inspired by videos she watched showing master carvers from Japan and China. Sulprizio takes honor ceramics with teacher Beth Cederstrom. “I call her my at school mom,” Annabelle said. “She make the ceramics room a space where you can feel comfortable and like you are at at home.”
“What really stood out about this piece was the intricate detail. It was the only work that the judges unanimously chose as the winner of a category,” said Morgan Schauffler, development associate at Youth in Arts who organized the show and manages the gallery.
The group artwork from TeamWorks program at Loma Alta School, an art education program that supports students involved in the juvenile justice system, won the new Rezaian Family Award given by Youth in Arts’ board president Naomi Tamura and her family. TeamWorks director Katya McCulloch said the work, titled C.H.O.I.C.E., is a mixed media piece that features many different keys; the “O” holds the keyhole. The title stands for Creating Healthy Choices In Challenging Environments. “I loved it,” Katya said. “I feel like we’ve touched on the soul of what TeamWorks is about. The choice is the key – making healthy choices.”
Dylan, an artist at Compass Academy who studies with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artist Marty Meade, won an award from AC Graphics for her untitled digital painting of a saber-toothed cyclops lynx. “I absolutely love cyclops,” Dylan shared.
College of Marin also awarded six scholarships to best of show and best in category winners, giving them a semester of tuition-free classes.
The show runs through March 27. The opening reception will be held Feb. 14 from 5 to 8 p.m., which coincides with the 2nd Friday Art Walk in San Rafael.
The exhibition was blindly adjudicated.This year’s judges included painter Kay Carlson from Marin Open Studios; sculptor and fine arts instructor Patricia Hulin from College of Marin; photographer and creative consultant Melissa McArdle; and Lynn Sondag, chair of Dominican University’s Department of Art, Art History, Media and Design. Thank you to our sponsors AC Graphics, College of Marin, Il Davide, Marin Open Studios, Perry’s Art Supplies & Framing, the Walker Rezaian family, RileyStreet Art Supply and the San Anselmo Arts Commission.
Artist Susan Diglioni founded Rising Stars in 1991, believing that young artists should be recognized for their talents.The exhibit travels to the Marin Center in April, where it will be on display in the Bartolini Gallery April 9 – May 31.
The YIA Gallery is one of the few in the nation devoted to showcasing children’s art. Regular gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Children’s art created during Youth in Arts residencies has been selected as part of San Rafael’s public art project to beautify the Third Street Garage.
The city’s Parking Services Division selected two works created during arts residencies with Youth in Arts’ Mentor Artists Julia James and Cathy Bowman. Each mixed media work will be temporarily transformed into a 3 by 6 foot sign at Fifth Avenue and C Street while the new public safety center is being built across the street.
City officials said once they started looking at the garage, they realized it was time for a facelift.
“We’re really excited about this out-of-the-box project,” said Sean Mooney, San Rafael’s civic design manager.
City Manager Jim Schutz said he wants the city to have more public art that people happen upon and are delighted by, rather than seeing art only in a museum. San Rafael has been designated as a Downtown Cultural Arts District by the state because of its vibrant arts community.
“One of my visions … is that that happens all over downtown,” Jim said.
A mixed media piece by students at Willow Creek Academy is currently on display at the garage. The art was created last spring in a self-contained class of kindergarten and first graders who worked with Cathy. The art will be up through May.
The city also selected a piece created by students who worked with Julia James at Magnolia Park School in San Rafael. Cathy’s and Julia’s classes were part of Youth in Arts’ Arts Unite Us (AUU) Program, which serves young artists experiencing disabilities. Some of the young artists who created the Magnolia Park piece attended the city’s celebration.
Each children’s art piece selected, is paired with work by an adult artist that appears on the opposite side of the sign, celebrating San Rafael. Adult artists chosen include “Under the Surface” by Travis Weller, which is paired with the collaborative work by Julia’s students; and “Visions of San Rafael,” by Isabel Hayes, which is paired by the collaborative piece by Cathy’s students.
Youth in Arts joined more than 70 other arts organizations from around the Bay Area at the 2020 Arts Education Resource Fair, held at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area Executive Director Todd Berman said it was the biggest fair since the event began 16 years ago. He added, “It was wonderful to have Youth in Arts there. We’re excited to be having more of a reach in the whole Bay Area,” Todd said. “So many people in the field work and live in different counties.”
The fair offered a chance to talk to prospective teachers, meet old and new friends, and share ideas and challenges that face all organizations. “We’re here in solidarity with all the local arts organizations,” said Noah Lopes, director of museum programs at the Museum of Children’s Arts in Oakland. Like others at the fair, Noah wants to see arts more integrated into public education.”Everything we do with our young people should be intentional,” he said.
Sedey Gebreyes, education program manager for the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, said she was at the fair to let people know about museum offerings in the classroom – as well as highlighting the need for more docents. Exhibits change every few months at the museum, she said, which has no permanent collection and “for kids it’s important to see themselves and their cultures represented.”
Todd said the event is a great resource for everyone working in the arts community to learn about upcoming events, such as the Feb. 26 curriculum slam at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco.The resource fair was sponsored by the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area, the San Francisco Unified School District, ArtCare and the Asian Art Museum.
The event included a land acknowledgement and a performance by the youth marching band from Thurgood Marshall Academic High School with teacher Damian Nunez.
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