Grand View Arts Festival 2017

on April 28, 2017 Comments Off on Grand View Arts Festival 2017

by Program Manager, Jaime Reichner

Last Friday, volunteers from Snap, Inc. joined P.S. ARTS staff at Grand View Blvd. Elementary for our annual Arts Festival. Excited students made their way through a series of booths, which included six visual arts activities and a drumming circle.

P.S. ARTS launched the festival a few years ago as an opportunity to celebrate the inclusive school culture at Grand View.  Students from both general education and special education classes all participate side-by-side, as they do in Ms. Tamie’s visual arts classes. Our beloved music teaching artist Marwan Mograbi led students and teachers in a drumming workshop, which provided a fun and festive background to the afternoon’s event.

With more than 700 students cycling through the event, it was most definitely a group effort.  Our amazing Program Assistant, Oscar Navarrete, made sure everything went smoothly as staff and volunteers helped to lead students through projects based on masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Louise Bourgeouis. The students had a fantastic time and proudly displayed their artwork.  Grand View teachers also commented on how much the students enjoyed the event and what a treat it was to experience so many creative projects.

Mask project, inspired by Picasso!


Associate Program Director Lora Cawelti helping set-up.


CEO Kristi Paglia leading students in a chalk art project.


Program Coordinator Gaby Hernandez prepping the Tie-Dye butterfly booth.


Deputy Director Elda Pineda and Program Assistant Oscar Navarrete made sure every student received a P.S. ARTS tote bag to collect their finished artwork.


Event Coordinator Clarissa Hampton showing off her Picasso mask.


Development Manager Allison Schaub assisting young artists with their Tie-Dye Butterflies.

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P.S. ARTSGrand View Arts Festival 2017

Art Exchange: Los Angeles – Atlanta

on April 26, 2017 Comments Off on Art Exchange: Los Angeles – Atlanta

by Teaching Artist, Malena Alzu

P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Malena Alzu discusses an art exchange partnership she initiated with New American Pathways where her students created art that will be sent to Syrian refugee students living in Atlanta.

They’re done! I just mailed a bundle of unfinished art work made by a group of second graders from Los Angeles to Atlanta!!! Each piece is meant to be finished by a pen pal from a group of Syrian refugee students who are living in Atlanta. Our students also included letters that were written with such care that I wanted to handle them with doctor gloves!

The activity is based on the lesson “Butterfly in Symmetry,” developed by another P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist, Leah Padow. The curriculum highlights the concepts of courage, refuge, and protection. In this lesson, students identify aspects related to line, color, symmetry, and pattern and internalize that knowledge to create an art piece.

 

The first day, the students created a butterfly inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s work, using colored paper, tempera and q-tips. They discussed the elements Kusama used in her work and explored the concept of symmetry as it relate to butterflies and other things found in nature.

The students then created the background for their butterflies using colored paper, oil pastels, and toothpicks. We explored the book Migrant by Maxine Trottier and Isabelle Arsenault. We talked about what Monarch butterflies achieve to find a safe place, what they need to make a home for themselves, and what human beings need to feel at home. We used what we have learned so far (dots, circles, and different kind of lines) to draw a perfect home for our butterflies: a garden full of flowers!

The final step in the lesson was a letter, which students wrote for their pen pals. With their classroom teacher, they discussed who their pen pal students are, where they live, and where they come from. I collected the letters and attached them to the back of each piece with the artist’s photograph.

Now, we just have to wait for the works to fly back and forth… What will our pen pals do? What will they send? What will they feel?

 

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P.S. ARTSArt Exchange: Los Angeles – Atlanta

Inside Out Theater Field Trip Spring 2017

on March 30, 2017 Comments Off on Inside Out Theater Field Trip Spring 2017

by IOCA Program Coordinator, KT Leuterio

This month, I had the great opportunity to join the Inside Out Community Arts students as they took part in the first of three major events that are a part of the 18-week program. Students from John Adams Middle School and Whaley Middle School attended our Theatre Field Trip, which included lunch in the Vista Hermosa Natural Park followed by a visit to The Mark Taper Forum to see Zoot Suit. We all enjoyed a day of bonding, games, and theatre!

We started off our day at Vista Hermosa Natural Park, where students from each school had a chance to mingle and play theatre games. Courage is one of the three major values that Inside Out students learn about and practice throughout the session, and this event was the perfect chance to be courageous and make new friends with students from another school. The students certainly started off a little shy and quiet at 10 o’clock in the morning, but soon warmed up once the sun came out from behind the clouds and after a few games.

Next, the students played a game we call the Tableau Challenge. In our past workshops, Inside Out students learn about a “tableau,” which is a frozen moment in time, often capturing an important moment onstage. In groups, students raced to unscramble several vocabulary words, received costume and prop pieces, and created a tableau using their collective imaginations based on characters and themes of Zoot Suit. Each group presented their creations, which ranged from tableaus entitled “The Diamond Dress,” and “The Quinceanera.” It was a really fun activity that showcased their creativity and collaboration!

After these activities, excitement began to build for the upcoming performance. After a quick lunch, students quickly boarded their buses and headed off to the Mark Taper Forum to see Zoot Suit!

The performance was incredible. It was everything I was expecting and more! It was filled with drama and humor, and was such a dynamic and relevant piece of work to see revived in 2017. The Inside Out students were engaged and thoughtful throughout the performance– it was quite a delight to hear the students laugh, gasp, and react while watching Zoot Suit. As we walked out of the theatre, I overheard some of the students debating over which character was their favorite.

For many of the Inside Out students, seeing Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum was their first experience at a professional theatre. It was so rewarding to be able to share this experience with them!

After the performance, Inside Out was lucky enough to meet actors Matias Ponce and Brian Abraham. Matias portrayed Henry Reyna, and Brian played the role of lawyer George Shearer. They generously spent some time with the Inside Out students for a Q&A. Matias talked about his journey as an actor, his experiences onstage, and gave the students some advice for their upcoming performance in May.

As I watched the students board their buses to go back to school, I could sense the excitement and inspiration in the air. I’m so excited to see this inspiration at work as they create their original plays. I can’t wait to see what they come up with at their performance in May!

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P.S. ARTSInside Out Theater Field Trip Spring 2017

P.S. ARTS Visits the Broad Museum!

on February 21, 2017 Comments Off on P.S. ARTS Visits the Broad Museum!

by Program Assistant, Oscar Navarrete

I recently had the pleasure of visiting The Broad museum with fellow P.S. Artists. It was a stormy Sunday morning, but one-by-one we gathered inside to meet and greet each other. Our visit to The Broad was guided by artist, teacher, and Board Member, Pam Posey.

Most of us had visited the museum’s main gallery beforehand, but some of us had yet to experience the museum’s Creature installation. The installation, found on the ground floor of the museum, is an impressive collection of work from various artists & media that both dabble with and delve into themes related to the self, nature, and living beings in general.  At the entrance of the exhibition, you are greeted by a note that reads: “We are all creatures: creatures of habit, of desire, of fear, and of necessity.”

From a 15-foot tall bronze statue of a Cyclops to a fiberglass sculpture of a dust particle, no piece in the collection was remotely similar. The ambiguity of the installation’s theme allowed for an incredibly broad (pun-intended) range of work and styles. However, what I found most remarkable were the conversations that the exhibition and the museum itself, inspired.

Being the tireless and dedicated educators that they are, our Teaching Artists’ thoughts were centered on their students. Throughout our visit, the group brainstormed ideas about how to take advantage of the many high-quality museums in Los Angeles and the opportunities they provide for students. How can we integrate field trips to institutions like The Broad into our curricula? How young is too young for politically charged artwork like Leon Golub’s? What’s the best way to introduce such work to our young artists?

The group also had an opportunity to share their experiences as educators with each other. Being that our group consisted of teachers who work in different districts with different communities, the group was able to reflect on anecdotes about the different classroom dynamics they experience and the way that they tailor their classroom projects.

Thank you to Pam Posey and to all the Teaching Artists who made it out. It was truly a pleasure to be in the presence of such inspiring minds.

 

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS Visits the Broad Museum!

Back to School 2016

on September 22, 2016 Comments Off on Back to School 2016

by Program Manager, Jaime Reichner

This summer, P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists participated in a two-day professional development training. While looking forward to the start of the new school year, they took a few moments to recall highlights from the previous year. Here are a few “magic moments”:

“During the Art Show, a student was just staring at his artwork. I felt that joy – that pride. This student was having trouble at the beginning of the year. Little by little he started to grow.”

“At the end of informances, I give students the opportunity to share with the audience what they learned in music. [One] students spoke up and said, “I learned that it’s okay to be myself. We are ourselves and we don’t have to be like anyone else. I think music helps me express myself. I love P.S. ARTS. It gives me confidence.”
Back to School with P.S. ARTS: Music

“Students designed Nick Cave “Soundsuits” in small groups. It was inspiring to see collaboration and problem solving amongst peers. What began as small conflicts between contrasting ideas and personalities resulted in resolution and incorporation of diverse ideas. Students learned to work together, delegate, and to take turns. Most of all, they were proud of their results.”

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“A third grade student who was afraid to speak (since 1st grade) volunteered to audition for a lead part! I asked her if she was ready to speak onstage in front of an audience and she said that she finally felt ready to do so. When I first met this student, the teacher warned me that she wouldn’t talk. I told the teacher all I would do is create a safe space and she’ll speak when she’s ready!”

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“Middle school students at my school have the opportunity to choose elective classes. I was just told by the principal that Art was chosen by every single student in the school. It was the only elective in history of having a unanimous vote.”

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We are looking forward to another fantastic year! Stay tuned for more programming updates, more #artsed projects, and more magic moments. To volunteer for P.S. ARTS this school year, visit psarts.org/volunteer.

 

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P.S. ARTSBack to School 2016

P.S. ARTS at the Broad, the Getty, & MOCA!

on June 10, 2016 Comments Off on P.S. ARTS at the Broad, the Getty, & MOCA!

P.S. ARTS is known for our high-quality in- and after-school arts programs, but we are so fortunate to partner with some of LA’s vibrant cultural institutions to extend arts-learning outside of the classroom walls. In this week’s blog, P.S. ARTS Teaching Artists Sandy Yamashiro, Matt MacFarland, and Heather Lowe share stories from their class field trips to the Getty, the Broad, and MOCA!


Getting Giddy at the Getty
by P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Sandy Yamashiro

It all started as a gleam in the eye of Program Manager Lora Cawelti who suggested we submit an application for a field trip to the Getty Museum. “The Getty?” I thought,  “What?…the Holy Grail of field trips?”  Well, there was no stopping Lora, who proceeded to fill out the forms online. After clicking the “submit” button, we looked at one another and said,  “So…we’ll see….”

Fast forward to the beginning of the school year when we discovered, to our amazement, that we were approved for a field trip with our two fourth grade classes! We were not only approved for the guided tour itself, but also for a bus — hallelujah!

Days prior to our departure, I saw my fourth grade students either in class or on campus, and it was common for one or more to say, “I’m SO looking forward to the Getty!” or “When are we going?” “Thank you for the Getty” one student said as he gave me a hug.

It appeared that students and adults alike thoroughly enjoyed our tour of the amazing Getty Museum. Students identified names of statues of Greek gods that they were studying in class and learned about the world outside of their own. I saw many studying — really studying — works of art, and I heard them asking very thoughtful questions.

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Kudos must be given not only to Lora, who spawned the idea and submitted the application, but to all the players who helped make this an outstanding outing. Thank you to fourth grade teachers Ms. Benitez and Ms. Griffin who did an excellent job preparing their students for this excursion. Thanks also to the students who conducted themselves like champs! Much gratitude goes to the Getty docents who were kind, dynamic, knowledgeable, and so kid-friendly; they inspired the students to learn. The parent chaperones including Joanne, Kim, Myra, and Theresa along with Classroom Aides MaBelle and Ms. Kim are all my sheroes; they were so engaged and supportive.

Besides viewing the pieces and exhibits that the docents took us to, we had extra time to rush to view Monet’s iconic “Wheatstacks, Snow Effect, Morning,” Van Gogh’s “Irises,” and the phenomenal Robert Irwin gardens — such a treat!

During the field trip, one of my students asked me, “How many times have you been here, Mrs. Yamashiro?” My reply, “Oh, about 4 or 5 times.” “And which was your favorite visit?” he asked. My response was immediate, “No question. It’s this one. All of you are being so great — plus, I get to see all of your faces as you view and study the art around you!”  Yes, to experience the Getty and life in general through the eyes of children — how incredible is that?

As we filed into the bus, one of the students said with a huge smile, “Best field trip EVER!” I must say, I think that many of us agreed with his declaration. For me, a seasoned field-tripper, it certainly does rank way up there as one of the best…. EVER.


Broad-ening Horizons at the Broad Museum
by P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Matt MacFarland

Recently, I took a group of fourth graders from Camino Nuevo Charter Academy — Kayne Siart Campus to the new Broad Museum in downtown. The field trip was sponsored by 826LA as part of their new Art & Story pilot program, which pairs a selection of artworks in the Broad Collection with a workbook that challenges students to put the work into a narrative context.

826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

The kids were excited from the moment they lined up to board the bus until the bus ride home.

When we arrived at the very unique, almost alien building the Broad Collection is housed in, they were escorted by one of the Art & Story guides to their first featured artwork “I…I’m Sorry!” by Roy Lichtenstein. Luckily for us, last school year we spent several weeks discussing Pop Art Artists like Lichtenstein and Warhol and making work inspired by theirs. At the time of our field trip, my students were developing a comic book in art class, so the subject matter and aesthetic were very relevant to our in-school curriculum. The students were encouraged to write some dialogue between the woman in the picture and an imaginary person that she would be apologizing to; a few students even acted out their scenes in front of the group!

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Next, my students were taken to Jeff Koons’ sculpture “Balloon Dog (Blue).” Predictably, the students’ minds were blown by this giant 3-D blue steel representation of a balloon animal. They were asked to write a story about a day with their balloon dog and draw a picture of what would transpire. The students excitedly discussed their imaginary day with their classmates and a few shared their stories with the group. One student drew a comic strip depicting several moments throughout the day with his balloon dog and another imagined how jealous her friends would be when she paraded him around the school.

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Those were the only two pieces we spent time with in the Broad Museum, but that was advantageous as the students were able to spend a significant amount of time with each piece and ponder the process and meaning of each work. Overall, it was an extremely enjoyable and informative experience for the students that allowed them to apply the arts skills we explore during the school day across disciplines and out of the classroom context.


Making Magical Memories at MOCA
by P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Heather Lowe

How often have you visited a museum or gallery and read the label beside the artwork before looking at the artwork?

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), an inquiry-based method, allows one to come face to face with a piece of art and experience it personally without prior knowledge. I was lucky to team up with Mrs. Treuenfels, a third grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School, to implement VTS in our P.S. ARTS classroom. Last summer, as part of the the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’ program Contemporary Art Start (CAS), we received extensive professional development in strategies for teaching and viewing art. Included in the program were two class visits to the museum led by MOCA staff educators, a core classroom curriculum sequence, and family events with unlimited use of family museum passes for our students.

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The professional development component of the CAS program was one of the most enriching experiences I have had as an educator. It had a profound impact on my own way of looking at art, which translated to an even more enthusiastic teaching practice this year. We used inquiry-based questions before each lesson such as, “What’s going on in this picture?”, “What do you see that makes you say that?”, and “What more can we add?” This method of inquiry opened up very thoughtful discussion between students, and they learned how to listen and respect one another’s perspectives.

When we arrived, MOCA’s expert staff guided discussions in small groups. It was obvious that the students could delve into topics and question art on their own. Looking at a drawing, one of the students began to describe how each layer of color may symbolize depth and that perhaps this was a plan or map of the artist’s imagination. Regarding Liz Larner’s sculpture “2 as 3 and Some, too,” a student remarked that it may be a magic cube that the artist is trying to unlock.

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It was a beautiful day in Los Angeles, and after the museum visit we sat under the trees and ate lunch together while sharing our experiences. I am so grateful that P.S. ARTS encourages its faculty to participate in these types of programs. I know that our students will not forget these experiences — they have become such sensitive and courageous viewers of art!

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS at the Broad, the Getty, & MOCA!

SMMUSD School Board takes no action on proposed cuts to P.S. ARTS programs

on June 3, 2016 Comments Off on SMMUSD School Board takes no action on proposed cuts to P.S. ARTS programs

In response to a yesterday’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) School Board decision to work towards continued delivery of district-wide elementary arts education programs provided by P.S. ARTS despite funding challenges, P.S. ARTS CEO Dr. Kristen Paglia released the following statement:

“I am inspired by the SMMUSD School Board’s deep commitment to educational equity. I’d like to extend my personal thanks to the board members that opposed cuts to the arts programs in SMMUSD and to Board President Laurie Lieberman for encouraging the SMMUSD community to unite in finding another way to close the District’s funding gap. This is leadership at its very best. P.S. ARTS whole-heartedly agrees that every child in SMMUSD, and everywhere, deserves the best chance at a prosperous, fulfilling future. We are proud to be a part of ensuring educational equity in SMMUSD by providing every school with a rigorous arts program that fosters the creativity and humanity that students need in order to thrive in school and life.”

P.S. ARTS Program Manager Lora Cawelti adds:

“The P.S. ARTS faculty and I are continually inspired by the creativity and artistic bravery of the students in SMMUSD. It is a great pleasure to work in a district that values both the arts and the importance of equity and access for all students. We are so grateful for the hard work that SMMEF and parents contribute in order to keep arts programming in SMMUSD schools, and I look forward to another year of excellence in visual arts, theater, and music.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Communications Associate Jacob Campbell at jacob.campbell@psarts.org

Student Performance at Edison Language Academy (SMMUSD) directed by P.S. ARTS Theater Teaching Artist Martha Ramirez-Oropeza.

Student Performance at Edison Language Academy (SMMUSD) directed by P.S. ARTS Theater Teaching Artist Martha Ramirez-Oropeza.


Excerpt from Malibu Surfside News article by Alex Vejar

“The Santa Monica-Malibu School Board on Thursday, June 2, took no action on a suggestion that would make up for a potential Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation fundraising shortfall.

In an update to SMMEF’s fundraising goals for this fiscal year, Terry Deloria, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, told the Board that as of May 23, it was staring at a fundraising gap of almost $500,000. If the Board wanted to fully fund all the SMMEF programs, Deloria said, it would need to find a way to raise that amount.

But if for some reason that money could not be raised by June 30 — the end of the fiscal year — Deloria gave the Board three suggestions on how to close the fundraising gap: a $300,000 supplemental grant to offset the cost of instructional assistants, a reduction of P.S. ARTS programs from 30 weeks to 20 weeks, and a reallocation of any stretch grants carried over from 2016-17 into 2017-18 programs.

The Board agreed with the supplemental grant and the reallocation of stretch grants. But a few members were vehemently opposed to cutting P.S. ARTS, the nonprofit organization SMMEF contracts for art in all of the District’s elementary schools. Cutting the arts program would save about $200,000, according to Deloria’s presentation.

Board members Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Craig Foster, a Malibu resident, said they would not vote for that particular cut.

“I think that the value of the programs and the value of the future of centralized fundraising is far more important than $200,000,” Foster said.

Board president Laurie Lieberman suggested that the Board figure out another way to raise the $200,000 it would save by cutting the P.S. ARTS programs.”

Read more here 

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P.S. ARTSSMMUSD School Board takes no action on proposed cuts to P.S. ARTS programs

College & Career Day

on February 5, 2016 Comments Off on College & Career Day

By Program Manager Lora Cawelti

Last month, Patty Duran and I organized a College and Career Day for the Inside Out Community Arts Alumni Mentors. Along with guest participants from The Gabriella Foundation, the teens spent the day talking with professionals in creative industries, participating in presentations with college admissions counselors, and interviewing a panel of current college students.

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We started the day with a presentation from Family Guy Producer Shannon Smith and Director John Holmquist. After they played a few theater games with the group, Shannon and John led us all on a journey through cartoon-specific artistic and production jobs. It was exciting to see all of the possibilities and hear about their own journeys to where they are today. Shannon and John highlighted career and study paths and the importance of maximizing every connection and opportunity.

Many of the Mentors are interested in pursuing careers in the arts, so interviewing a panel of arts professionals was particularly thrilling. Writer/Director Susanna Fogel, Actor Goreti da Silva, and Dancer Ernesto Galarza shared their career choices, successes, and challenges. The teens were able to personally connect with the panelists and get advice on studying their crafts and pursuing internships. Veteran Mentor Natalie Resendiz shared, “Susanna set up a really cool connection for me with an executive from Televisa. Networking opportunities are everywhere, and Inside Out has always given me such great connections! “

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After lunch, the focus of the day turned to college with a panel of current local college students. The teens were able to ask questions about choosing a major, living in a dorm, studying, and applying for scholarships. As a college student, Natalie participated in this panel and she noted, “I loved being able to give back and be a part of the college panel to offer any help or support to the Mentors. I remember being so confused during that time of my life and not really having anyone in my family to explain college to me since I was the first to attend.“

We finished the day with a bang — featuring presentations from Julie Fulton and Karen Bowlin, Senior Counselors at Mosaic College Prep and Claudia Gonzalez, Regional Associate Director of Admissions for Rochester University. The presentations provided information on what the teens should be doing to prepare for college in each level of high school. They learned about the importance of choosing the right college, taking SAT tests, and participating in extracurricular activities. Junior Ruby Hernandez said, “I’ve grasped more information and a deeper understanding of what to keep doing and start doing in order to stay on the correct path to college.”

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Thanks to the time and expertise these dedicated professionals generously donated and the support of our panel of college students, the day was informative and hugely successful. Sophomore Kaylin Jones explained, “College and Career Day was so useful! There was a lot that I didn’t understand about college and my future, and now I have a heads-up as to what’s ahead, which is amazing.”


We’re always looking for professional artists to speak to P.S. ARTS students as part of our Guest Artist series. To learn more, please visit psarts.org/volunteer

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P.S. ARTSCollege & Career Day

P.S. ARTS Awakens a Relic

on January 8, 2016 1 comment

By P.S. ARTS Teaching Artist Amanda Churchouse

There was a time when a number of schools had full-fledged ceramics programs. Due to lack of funding, most of those well-equipped studio classrooms have been sitting dormant for many years. That was indeed the case with the ceramics studio at Mark Twain Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District where the ceramics classroom has sat unused during school hours for more than 10 years. In its first program dedicated to the ceramic arts, P.S. ARTS has revitalized this ceramics studio, and it’s back up and running to serve the students of Mark Twain Middle School.

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This year, the sixth graders will get to work on a variety of ceramics projects that will allow them the opportunity to explore their creativity and make connections with their core academic classes. Ceramics study aligns seamlessly with sixth grade ancient world and earth science curricula.

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The ceramics studio at Mark Twain Middle School has seven potter’s wheels! I’ve developed my curriculum around traditional pottery techniques that include hand built coil pots and letting the students try their hand at one of the pottery wheels. While throwing on the potter’s wheel is no easy task, I love guiding my students through this hands-on (literally!) process that they might not otherwise experience in their everyday lives.

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Thanks to P.S. ARTS, the ceramics studio at Mark Twain Middle School is once again full of creative energy and eager students ready to learn about themselves and the world around them.

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P.S. ARTSP.S. ARTS Awakens a Relic

My First IOCA Camp!

on November 20, 2015 Comments Off on My First IOCA Camp!

By Sylvia Chavez, Program Manager

As a new member of the P.S. ARTS community, I recently had the privilege of attending my first Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) camping and rehearsal retreat at Camp Bloomfield, an experience I shared with dozens of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade student artists from the LA South Bay. This was the first time our three TakePART school sites—Dana Middle School in Wiseburn, Prairie Vista Middle School in Hawthorne, and Will Rogers Middle School in Lawndale—were able to participate in the IOCA camping retreat, and they were thrilled to join. We packed approximately 75 middle school students and about 16 student mentors (many of whom graduated from those very same schools) onto three yellow school buses and sent them on their way to live, play, and create theater together during three magical days in the Malibu mountains. Thus, I found myself on a cold Thursday night, boldly driving a van full of musical instruments and several boxes of rotisserie chicken up PCH for my very first night at IOCA Camp!

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The IOCA Mentors rock! They are a group of dedicated and talented student alumni, and they were an integral part of running camp and keeping all of our activities fun and safe. Mentors arrived on Thursday night and had the camp all to themselves to prepare for the big weekend. After a full dinner and quick orientation, we headed to the ropes course where each of us bravely strapped on a harness and learned to trust each other to catch our fall (for the record, I did not fall! Hooray!).

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Friday afternoon the IOCA students arrived with armfuls of luggage and heads full of ideas for the plays they would spend the next 48 hours creating. The rest of the weekend was packed full with a student talent show, sunrise hike, theater games, DJ dance, swimming, star hike, and A LOT of rehearsal with their play groups!

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On Saturday, we held a dress rehearsal of the six plays-in-progress, and the students performed for each other against a natural wooded backdrop.

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On the final day of camp, we packed the busses full with students, staff, luggage, sleeping bags, costumes, and props and departed the lovely Camp Bloomfield. However, we had one afternoon stop planned before returning to our homes and families — the beach! It was a perfect 74 degrees at Leo Carillo State Beach in Malibu, and promptly upon arriving, several students took off their socks and dug their feet in the sand. Others sat pensively on their beach blankets or hung out in groups making friendship bracelets with new friends. Some of us even braved the ocean waves (many thanks to Artist Leader Cleo for rocking her awesome wet-suit and lifeguarding for us!).

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My favorite magic moment of camp came during our closing circle. At the end of our beach day, each of the six play groups circled up on the sand to reflect on their experiences at camp. Students talked about their favorite activities, what they had learned about themselves, and what they looked forward to in the coming weeks as the program would draw to a close. As I looked around the beach, I was struck by the beauty of the changing colors in the early evening sky. Suddenly, a great cheer erupted from several of the circles at the same time. It took me a moment to figure out what had happened— the sun had just touched down on the horizon. The students had been watching the setting sun during their discussions, and without any planning or communicating, they all let out a great cheer as it disappeared below the water. Over my right shoulder I heard one student say, “Oh my gosh, I have never seen that before,” another said, “Neither have I,” followed by, “That is so cool!” It occurred to me that many of our students had never had an opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasure of watching a sunset or sunrise. The joy and wonder on their faces in that moment is something that I will carry with me always.

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P.S. ARTSMy First IOCA Camp!