Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski,
Program: Model Arts Demonstration Project
Six year-old Tigotae is working with Youth in Arts Mentor Artist Brooke Toczylowski through a year-round Model Arts Demonstration Project at Bayside School in the Sausalito Marin City School District. Through this in-depth visual arts program, Tigotae receives “fine arts” instruction, emphasizing arts skills and techniques, along with integrated arts learning that fuses arts content with other academic themes.
As Brooke explains, the program has had a big impact on this little boy:
Tigotae was quiet at the beginning of the year. He was sweet and kind, but didn’t say much. We had art class everyday for the first six weeks of the school year. As soon as our storytelling unit started, about three weeks into the year, he started surprising me with his complexity of thoughts and constant desire to talk about his artwork.
Ms. Banks, his classroom teacher, has also seen a change in Tigotae, especially with regards to his language arts skills.
He’s able to tell more stories since Brooke was in our classroom and I’ve been doing a lot more stories with the students, too. His art is detailed, and he’s able to add more detail to his stories. The drawings help to add vocabulary to his language.
The district-wide Demonstration Project is supported by the Marin Community Foundation. Youth in Arts has been a founding partner in the project, working closely with the District to consult on curriculum and provide training for classroom teachers and other staff participating in the project. Three Youth in Arts Mentor Artists (Brooke, Ascha Drake and K-Dub Williams) work year-round in the program.
For Tigotae, the arts classes he receives through the Demonstration Project give him a chance to express thoughts that might not emerge in other conversations at school—and they give others a window into how he thinks and what matters to him:
“I love drawing because you can make pictures. I like to make pictures of my family.”
Tigotae: “This is my sister and me. The big hand – that’s gonna grab people because it’s a grabbing world. Hands just punch the sidewalk and they punch the street. The people keep on trying to make the hands dead. My sister grabs the hands and breaks the finger.”
Tigotae: “That’s me – I’m happy because I can fly with my helicopter ears. I have those plugs in my ears.”
As Mentor Artist Brooke notes, “This is one of the most important things we can do for kids—to ask them questions and encourage them to search for their own answers…I wanted [Tigotae] to get the message that school is a place where his voice matters just as much as anyone else’s, and that his drawings and stories are just as special and important. I wanted him to feel like school isn’t a place where he’s just going to absorb, but it’s a place where he is going to be a part of the conversation.”
Ruth, Tigotae’s mother, hopes that finding his voice through art is something that will serve Tigotae long beyond his school days.
He gets in his moods to draw and it just comes out of him. I don’t know what he’s going to be when he grows up, but he needs that support around him. [Art] is a form of expression. I think he’s artistic and he’s expressing that.