Malinda Jackson Uses the Power of Dance to Boost Self-Confidence and Tell Stories

on December 16, 2019

Malinda Jackson teaches dance at Baldwin Hills Elementary. We are always blown away by her powerful choreography and her students’ energy during their performances. We chatted with Malinda about her favorite P.S. ARTS memory and how she sees the positive influences of dance reflected in her students.


Malinda's dancers reach out their arms as they perform a dance routine.

With dance, the students are the colors on the palette, the stage is the canvas

What inspires you as a choreographer? 

I am inspired by the ability to communicate feelings, a mood, a story, or a message through the universal language of dance. Personally, I never considered visual arts as my greatest strength; I’ve always considered myself a “stick-figure artist.” With dance, the students are the colors on the palette, the stage is the canvas, and I use my paintbrush of creativity to create a piece of art that is enjoyed by both dancers and audiences alike. Before I create, I ask myself how I want the audience to feel…later, while the students are actually performing, I look out into the audience and I read their faces to see if they share those feelings. I enjoy creating lasting memories for my students and their families. I also like how dance can allow a student, who may not shine as brightly with core academic subjects or whose behavior does not always coincide with expected norms, to stand out.

I had a teacher who saw something in me at the age of 12. I had never taken a dance class in my life, nor did I have the body type of a typical dancer. She helped me tap into my inner dancer and brought out the passion in me that exists to this very day. I hope that my students see my face when they think of the teacher who made a difference in their lives through dance.

If your students have one main takeaway from your class, what would you like it to be? 

In addition to boosting self-confidence, I would like my students to walk away with the joy that comes from dancing. Dancing has the power to boost happiness, reduce stress, and prompt emotional freedom. The release of feel-good endorphins has a way to influence their overall emotional, mental, and physical health.

I enjoy creating lasting memories for my students and their families.

Tell us about a memorable class/student/lesson. 

A few years ago, I choreographed a tribute to the singing group New Edition. As a tween, they were my idols. Fast forward 30 years, I decided to have a group of boys perform to their music and recreate the iconic choreography from one of their music videos. When the boys performed for our school, the power of social media took over as parents posted the students’ performance on their platforms. Within a day or two, they had over a million views! About a week later as I scrolled through Facebook posts, a message popped in from New Edition’s manager who asked my students to perform WITH THEM at a concert near Palm Springs. After clearing it with the parents and district, we were on our way. I had the hardest time maintaining composure as these were MY TEEN IDOLS. The students barely knew who they were, only what I had taught them during rehearsals. This was their first concert and here they were sharing the stage with this legendary group! We had a photo-op, enjoyed our own dressing room with all the fixings, and felt like stars! It was an experience that neither the students nor I will ever forget!


Thank you, Malinda! 💜 Teaching artists like Malinda Jackson are a vital part of what makes P.S. ARTS programs succeed. Support our teaching artists here.

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Gaby PalmadessaMalinda Jackson Uses the Power of Dance to Boost Self-Confidence and Tell Stories

Rebecca Potts is Making an Equitable Space for Creativity

on December 9, 2019

Rebecca Potts is a practicing artist who currently works as a visual arts teacher in our El Segundo schools. In addition to leading students in the classroom, she facilitates art activities at our faculty professional development workshops as well as at our annual fundraiser, Express Yourself. Her energy and enthusiasm are inspiring and we wanted to take the chance to let everyone get to know her more by asking a few questions about her artwork and students. 


I’m inspired by nature, my daughter, my students, and other amazing artists.

Tell us about your personal work and how it affects your teaching.

I’ve always been an artist and I remember being frustrated sometimes as a kid when the art teacher had strict assignments to complete without much freedom to make what I wanted to make. I had an amazing high school art teacher who supported me in making what I was interested in and that is the type of teacher I strive to be. I’m trying to set up my classroom and curricula and supplies so that I rarely have to tell students “no” about their ideas. So, I’m often picturing myself as a young artist when I’m thinking of how to inspire and encourage students. 

This past year, I’ve been working to get back to a consistent and serious studio practice.  I share my process with my students so they can understand how different artists, including the artists we study, use different techniques to create art. I also like to emphasize that I can be an artist without being naturally wonderful at drawing. Being an artist takes practice and work just like sports or any other endeavor.

I’d like students to enjoy the process of making art while also learning to think critically, generate their own ideas, and figure out the steps needed to create those ideas.

What are some consistent sources of inspiration for you/your artwork?

My artwork has always been about land, place, and environment. For about 10 years, I’ve been focused on climate change, although that has shifted from ice to fire recently. I’m also beginning to draw connections between the land and our bodies, especially women’s bodies and the effects of motherhood. I see the ecology of the planet as closely linked to the ecology of our society and our bodies. As hate is fostered, weather becomes more dramatic, anxiety, and depression surge. It’s easy to get lost. Seeking hope and seeing all the pushback keeps me found. I look for the universal through the personal. While I do engage in politics through my work, I see beauty as an entryway to the work. Colors and shapes take on symbolic meanings, hinting at figures in the landscape. Circles become wombs and curled up children, trees are personified, fire is both powerful and dangerous, water encroaches with slowly rising seas, waves crash as emotions conflict. 

I’m inspired by nature, my daughter, my students, and other amazing artists. I love searching for contemporary artists to share with students because it also helps me find inspiration.

If your students have one main takeaway from your class, what would you like it to be?

Just one? I made a shortlist of goals last summer and it’s hard to narrow it down to one. I’d like students to enjoy the process of making art while also learning to think critically, generate their own ideas, and figure out the steps needed to create those ideas. I try to teach students to persist, to fail and continue, to turn “mistakes” into part of their artwork. High on my list of goals was also making sure they encounter a range of art and artists to embrace the diversity of what art is,  what art can be, and who can be an artist (hint: anyone! everyone!). 

Tell us about a memorable class/student/lesson. 

One that comes to mind from this fall was a fourth grade boy who I remembered from last year as often off-task and distracting to others. Those students stand out to me as people for whom I haven’t yet introduced the right materials or possibilities of ideas — they’re not yet engaged. This fall, he wasn’t very interested in sculpture, made messes with paint and didn’t take it seriously, and got frustrated with drawing. The day I introduced printmaking everything shifted. Somehow switching to drawing on styrofoam and then printing it completely engaged him. He made amazing prints and was super proud. I told him he’d found his media. I love those moments with the harder-to-reach students, but I am also so inspired by what all students can do when given materials, a little guidance, and time and space to create.

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?

I would love to meet Greta Thunberg. She’s such a strong young woman who’s making a huge impact on our world.


Thank you, Rebecca! 💜 Teaching artists like Rebecca are a vital part of what makes P.S. ARTS programs succeed. Support our teaching artists here.

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Gaby PalmadessaRebecca Potts is Making an Equitable Space for Creativity

Volunteer Highlight | Teresa Raschilla

on December 5, 2019

Today is International Volunteer Day, and we want to celebrate by highlighting one of our amazing volunteers, Teresa Raschilla! Teresa started volunteering with P.S. ARTS this year and we are so grateful for all her help with classes at Franklin Elementary School in Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. We asked Teresa to tell us a bit more about herself and her volunteer experiences at P.S. ARTS. 


Tell us about yourself!

After two decades of working in motion pictures and graphic design, I decided in 2017 to return to school to earn a degree. I will be graduating from Santa Monica College in Spring 2020 with an associate’s degree in studio arts, and I will continue to work toward a BFA and graduate degrees in art education and art therapy. In addition to drawing, painting, and sculpting, I also sing,* volunteer, and advocate for causes such as social justice, the environment, LGBT+ rights, mental health, and, of course, education. 

*shameless plug: I am in the Santa Monica College Chamber Choir and we have a concert coming up on December 13 & 14 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. 

What made you want to volunteer with P.S. ARTS?

I love volunteering! Among other things, I’ve helped at my son’s school and mentored writers through Young Storytellers, but P.S. ARTS offers an opportunity to be in an art classroom, which has been so rewarding! Not only do I get to learn from our incredible teaching artists, but I also get to meet these amazing kids as they refine their craft and discover skills they never knew they had.

Not only do I get to learn from our incredible teaching artists, but I also get to meet these amazing kids as they refine their craft and discover skills they never knew they had.

What is your favorite part about volunteering with P.S. ARTS or what has been your favorite experience?

One of my favorite moments was when a student gave up on making pop-ups and started doodling. I asked how his pop-up was going and he shrugged and said he didn’t understand it. I asked if we could try it together, and he said okay but didn’t seem optimistic. When we got to the last step and tested it, he lit up and shouted, “It worked!!!” and started cutting out another one right away, eager to experiment. It was magical to see that moment and to know that without that extra little bit of encouragement he would have thought this skill was beyond him, but he now has this understanding of an engineering concept that goes beyond the project we were working on. As a teacher managing a class of 30, it can be difficult to take that time with each individual student, so I am savoring these hard-won epiphanies as a volunteer. 


Thank you Teresa Raschilla for all your help! To learn more about volunteer opportunities with P.S. ARTS click here.

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Gaby PalmadessaVolunteer Highlight | Teresa Raschilla

Jose Medrano Velazquez Found Courage Through IOCA

on November 22, 2019

Jose Medrano Velazquez is an Inside Out Community Arts (IOCA) alum who is now on their way to becoming an artist leader. IOCA is our after school theatre program that teaches students how to write their own plays, design sets, and perform their original works. We asked Jose to share more about how they found confidence and courage through IOCA and how they continue to use those lessons in their personal work.

Courage is powerful not only for you, but for inspiring others to be just as strong.

Who are you? Tell us about yourself! What do you do at Inside Out?

Hey there! My name is Jose Medrano Velazquez, and I’ve been with Inside Out Community Arts for nine amazing years. I was a student in the program at John Adams Middle School, a volunteer mentor throughout high school, a camp (and sometimes on-site) volunteer throughout college, and will be starting my artist leader training very soon. In middle school I was bullied on a daily basis and Inside Out was my escape—it provided a safe space for me to feel comfortable expressing myself and my creativity. It’s through my many years in Inside Out that I’ve gained confidence in myself and passion for the arts. I currently make/perform synthpop music and artwork under the stage name Lost Angeles and will be graduating with a B.A. in theatre arts from Cal State Northridge this fall. I’m also a member of the queer-Latinx community and believe that I have an obligation to create visibility and empowerment throughout both my art and daily life. In my opinion, the arts and creative self-expression are the keys to both personal liberation and meaningful human connection.

Share a little bit about your experience as an Inside Out student.

As a student of Inside Out in middle school, I was given an opportunity that people from my socioeconomic background typically don’t get to have. It was a massive privilege. I’ve always been an extremely creative and artistic person but never really had a proper avenue or resources to nurture that side of me. Inside Out’s curriculum is so great because it’s rooted in theatre and gives you the chance to explore many forms of art — from creative writing and poetry to painting flats and making props. For many of us who’ve been through the program, Inside Out was our first chance at being on a real stage and part of a production. I’ve since learned that, regardless of what the art form is, I truly thrive and belong on a stage and in the spotlight…as narcissistic as that may sound. Inside Out helped me realize I have something to say and my opinions and stories matter.

What is it like to be a part of the program now as an adult? How do you feel about working with students from your middle school?

Going from being a mentor to an adult volunteer has been an interesting and rewarding shift. When you’re in high school, the middle school students might not always take you as seriously because you’re closer to their age and you might have even been in the program together at one point. Luckily, I feel like I’ve always been pretty great at connecting with the students and having them see me as someone they can have fun with and laugh with but also be respectful to and listen to. The older I get the more I start being called “teacher” or “mister,” which definitely feels weird, especially since most of us in art like going by our first names. Although the cool thing about that is because I’m genderqueer I’ve taught some of the kids who feel uncomfortable calling me by my first name to call me “Mx. Jose” (pronounced mix Jose, Mx. being a gender-neutral prefix). Students from John Adams Middle School are the ones I get along with best, of course, because there’s always that school pride and comfort in working with someone who comes from where you come from and went through what you went through.

Tell us about your personal work and how it affects your work with Inside Out.

So it’s no surprise that I’m openly queer and proud of it. I strongly believe in the value of being your authentic self and that if you have the privilege to safely be out and open — it will inspire others. Although of course I can’t and don’t try to force my beliefs on others, Inside Out students consistently empower me and remind me how important it is for me to be as visible as I am. I’ve had so many students tell me every single year that they feel very comfortable being themselves around me and that I’ve inspired them to be more bold and courageous as individuals. To inspire bravery is something I take very seriously and am very honored to be able to do. My music isn’t too political but all my work is meant to create visibility and center the queer-Latinx community specifically. My whole lifestyle is centered around the idea of empowerment through visibility and kindness, so of course it reflects in everything I do. Unfortunately, it’s not always safe for every individual to express themselves as they’d like to, but if they see one person in the room who’s just like them — one person who they can look up to, someone who makes them think “one day I can be as free as they are,” — THAT. That’s powerful. That changes lives.

It makes me really proud to see the students grow and know that I played a role in helping them feel more confident and courageous.

What are some consistent sources of inspiration for you/your artwork?

My music and artwork draw inspiration from so many places. I grew up listening to oldies in my mom’s car and singing along to “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” with her. My dad and my Aunt Lety are also huge 80s heads, and I grew up surrounded by new wave pop and the sounds of The Cure, Soft Cell, Michael Jackson, and also freestyle music like Debbie Deb. I’m also really obsessed with dark industrial heavily synth-based music like Gesaffelstein. Also throw into the mix my huge pop obsession — I’m a major fan of Lady Gaga and spent my childhood loudly blaring the words to every single Hilary Duff song. I’ve often explained my music as “Bacchanalian synth death.” It has that crazy, dark primal energy with a danceable, colorful neo-80s synth flair and catchy but often complex pop songwriting. I also operate from the point of view of a “demon angel” sort of world that’s a reflection of my life experiences. I love Halloween and am into spooky occult and gothic vibes, but I am also influenced by my Catholic upbringing and both renaissance and baroque artwork and architecture. I also love science fiction and retros 80s aesthetics — I think two of my biggest inspirations in terms of film are Fifth Element and Constantine. I often use religious and sci-fi motifs in my work.

If Inside Out students can have one takeaway from the Inside Out Program, what would you like it to be?

If Inside Out students can have one take away from the program…as corny as it sounds — THE LOW DOWN IS FACTS. Courage, respect, and accountability are major keys to helping you in all aspects of life, regardless of whether you continue to pursue the arts or not. I think courage is the biggest one. Inside Out is going to challenge you a lot and you’re not going to fully reap the benefits without courage, and when you finally let go and give it your absolute best — it’s SO rewarding. Courage is powerful not only for you, but for inspiring others to be just as strong. It’s contagious. The ultimate takeaway is to not underestimate yourself; if you’re courageous, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Tell us about a memorable moment with an Inside Out student or at an Inside Out event.

My favorite moments with Inside Out students are always at camp. Every year the students catch onto my slang or queer vernacular and take it on as their own. I will never forget the camp where everyone couldn’t stop saying “yasss queen!” Also as I’ve stated so much earlier, it’s really important to be yourself and when the kids tell me personally that I make it easier for them to express themselves, that makes me really proud of myself. It makes me really proud to see the students grow and know that I played a role in helping them feel more confident and courageous.

What famous person, either dead or alive, would you choose to take out for coffee?

Maybe super cliché of me but I think I’d wanna take out Lady Gaga for coffee. She fully terrifies me because she’s so well versed and well-traveled and educated and such a genius artist, but also I feel like she’d be really inspiring and I’d love to have her as a mentor one day. I know that she’d get my quirks and understand my art.

Inside Out helped me realize I have something to say and my opinions and stories matter.


Thank you, Jose, for sharing this inspiring journey with us; we are excited to hear what the next chapter will bring! Read more about our IOCA program here.

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Gaby PalmadessaJose Medrano Velazquez Found Courage Through IOCA

December 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

on November 21, 2019

Arts Education RECAP

Read all the research, news, and policy in our arts education RECAP for December 2019.

Research

New Data: Who Is Taking Art Classes? The math assessment from NAEP can’t tell us much about how students performed in the arts, but it did ask students the following question: Are you taking an art course this school year (for example, drawing, painting, or studio art)? Education Commission of the States crunched the numbers and published the results in an interactive dashboard. Education Commission of the States

Calls-to-Action

Listen to this! Our CEO, Dr. Kristen Paglia, was featured on the podcast How We Run where she shared how we communicate value using evaluation and data, but also how we use our budget and financials to tell that story. How We Run

Advocacy

Arts, SEL collaboration boosts school climate, assessment options In the “whole-child” era, experts at a Turnaround Arts event described how the arts can help educators meet school goals and improve student learning. Education Dive


Thanks for reading our arts education RECAP for December 2019. View all our past RECAPS here.
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Stephanie McGrathDecember 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

November 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

on November 8, 2019

Arts Education RECAP

Read all the research, news, and policy in our arts education RECAP for November 2019.

Research

Study Finds Live Theater Enhances Student Learning and Empathy A research study conducted by a Purdue Convocations staff member has found that live theater can be used as a teaching tool to enhance student learning and retention of information — and even levels of empathy. The Exponent

Teachers Who Promote Creativity See Educational Results Gallup’s new Creativity in Learning report finds that teachers who combine creativity with assignments that make transformative use of technology see even better student outcomes. Gallup

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Stephanie McGrathNovember 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

10 Artist Inspired Halloween Costumes

on October 30, 2019

Looking for a great Halloween costume this year? Here are 10 artist inspired Halloween costumes that are based on artists we love! Check out our Pinterest Board for all the details and even more ideas.

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Gaby Palmadessa10 Artist Inspired Halloween Costumes

New State Arts Education Standards Designed to Drive Success in a Modern World

on October 28, 2019

P.S. ARTS was founded on a belief that public education is arguably the single most powerful engine driving social and economic opportunity equity. Research shows that access to high-quality arts education, in particular, fosters the development of the Four C’s – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and compassion – essential to thriving in the modern world. The California Department of Education (CA DOE) shares this commitment to supporting every child’s achievement and wellbeing regardless of family income, race, ethnicity, gender, or other barriers to success they may face, and has long acknowledged the arts as critical instruments in building world-class public schools. In fact, the California Education Code requires arts courses are offered to every student from kindergarten to twelfth grade. In addition to integrating arts education practices endorsed by top universities, P.S. ARTS programs have always aligned with California arts education standards to ensure that students are gaining the knowledge and skills they need in order to pursue higher education in the arts and be competitive for creative industry opportunities that make up one in ten jobs in our state. In 2019, the CA DOE released new standards for K-12 Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) standards that reflect a contemporary emphasis on social-emotional development, diversity, equity and inclusion in addition to technical knowledge and skills development. The new state VAPA standards also include the rapidly growing media arts discipline along with visual arts, music, theater, and dance, further preparing our students for today’s jobs and increasing their capacity to be cultural influencers.

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Stephanie McGrathNew State Arts Education Standards Designed to Drive Success in a Modern World

October 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

on October 7, 2019

Arts Education RECAP

Read all the research, news, and policy in our arts education RECAP for October 2019.

Research

Arts Educators Cite Needs for More Research on Academic Benefits The industry agrees. We need more research on the benefits of STEAM and arts integration! Education Dive

Selected Findings from a Longitudinal Study of Partnering Arts, Communities, & Education (PACE): 2015-2018 An assessment of the PACE program established by the Indiana Arts Commission on the impact of arts education on Indiana students. Purdue University

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Stephanie McGrathOctober 2019 | Arts Ed RECAP

Congratulations Lora Cawelti!

on September 13, 2019

We’re so sad to be saying goodbye to Lora Cawelti as she begins pursuing a Ph.D. at UC Irvine full-time. Lora first joined our family as an Artist Leader in 2014, when Inside Out Community Arts merged with P.S. ARTS. From there, she took on the program management of our newly rolled out Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District programs and quickly became an integral part of its growth and success. She was promoted to Associate Director, Classroom Studio and has been providing our in-school and teacher training programs with leadership and support. We want to thank her for her unwavering passion for equity in arts education, her professionalism and for helping us grow. She will be missed by all and we wish her the best of luck in her return to school! Congratulations Lora Cawelti!

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Stephanie McGrathCongratulations Lora Cawelti!