Collaborating in the Art Room

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In the art room and on the dance floor, young artists are craving sensory rich experiences more than ever before. Youth in Arts is supporting students with programming that allows them to express themselves and share their voices through music, movement, and visual art.

“We’ve known all along that students use art to process what they are feeling and experiencing,” said former Program Director Kelsey Rieger. “What we are seeing now is a deep hunger for exploration. Students need art for their emotional well being.”

March is Arts Education Month! Youth in Arts’ current exhibition, Working Together: Celebrating Collaboration in the Art Room, displays the different ways in which students have been practicing collaboration through sensory rich art experiences. The show includes prints and paintings, a giant fish sculpture, self portraits, works on textured handmade paper and more. There’s still time to see it before it closes this Friday, March 11.

Collaboration is important for social emotional learning. When making marks or sharing tools, students are practicing flexibility and resilience through art making.

Youth in Arts provides in-person learning in visual arts, music and dance for more than 200 classrooms in Marin and the East Bay. That’s nearly double the number of students served before the COVID pandemic began.

Most of the schools new to Youth in Arts have had little to no art in recent years, Kelsey said. 

Mentor Artist Carmen Roman, who teaches Afro-Peruvian and Creative Dance, sees a lot of enthusiasm in her students. Dance is an opportunity to practice working together again in ways that weren’t possible at the start of the pandemic.

“With dance, naturally, you are making connections with your body and with other people around you,” Carmen says. “It naturally builds community.”

Visual Arts Specialist Cathy Bowman has had students working outside in the sunshine.

“It’s important to give them opportunities to share and make decisions together,” she said. “In the art room, that might mean talking about whether it is ok to make marks on top of another young artist’s drawing or sharing tools. Art is a great place to learn lessons that can be applied elsewhere.”

Working Together: Celebrating Collaboration in the Art Room runs through March 11 at the YIA Gallery at 917 C St. in San Rafael. The gallery is open 1 to 4 pm on weekdays, and admission is free.