Youth Arts Spring blooming in Sonoma

This year, with the support of the mayor, a host of local organizations and the school district it will be celebrated in Sonoma Valley.|

March is National Youth Arts Month and has been celebrated in school districts across the country since the 1960s by showcasing students’ artwork. This year, with the support of the mayor, a host of local organizations and the school district it will be celebrated in Sonoma Valley.

Locally, Youth Arts Month will be more like a youth arts season because there will be shows running throughout the Spring highlighting students' work.

Mayor Sandra Lowe invited Creative Bridges to put together a student art show in the Sonoma City Council chambers, along with a proclamation in support of arts in the valley with a rotating display continuing in the council chambers.

The Council chambers will be opened early, on March 15 at 5:30 p.m., for 30 minutes so that the artwork can be viewed before the City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. Mayor Lowe will read her proclamation about supporting the arts and talk about the new and ongoing art shows that will be hung in the Council Chambers.

“Empowering youth in the valley is critical to the City of Sonoma, that is why we now have a youth member on every city commission. I can't wait to look out from the dais and see the art display. It's a reminder to all of us to be inclusive and welcome the contributions of our residents... at every age,” Lowe said.

The student artwork that will be hung in the council chambers is coming from Adele Harrison and Altimira middle schools’ and Sonoma Valley and Creekside high schools’ visual arts departments. It will be two dimensional work, drawings, paintings, photographs and prints. The City of Sonoma Cultural and Fine Arts Commission will take on the program and rotate artists each month.

At the end of March, the Arts Guild of Sonoma will be hosting their popular “Small But Grand” show of local student artwork. The Sonoma Valley Hospital has started a rotating bi-monthly art show of student artwork and the Sonoma Community Center has an upcoming student art show.

The museum will have an “ARTS” show later in the Spring and several other organizations are organizing performance and art shows as well. The high school will host a highly anticipated student show later in the Spring.

Connie Schlelein is a founding member of Creative Bridges, a nonprofit that has brought together 35 organizations, businesses, parents and the school district to support the arts for all local children. We spoke with Schlelein about the need for support of the arts and why it is important to have public viewings of students’ endeavors in the arts.

“Schools didn't have as much money after Prop 13, so arts education was one of the first programs that got cut,” Schlelein said. “So the culture of every community, including ours, has been affected by students not being able to have creative expression, or learning about visual or performing arts. It's probably permeated every aspect of our culture and citizens.”

Californians came together to demand support for arts education, culminating in the passage of Proposition 28 last November which will provide funding for additional staff and supplies for California school arts curriculum.

Schlelein explained that arts education encourages students to use their whole brains. “It encourages innovating, learning not just to take their first idea, but to really work on ideas and understand critical thinking skills. These can then be applied across disciplines and actually helps literacy and numeracy. Having a whole brain approach to educating our students is huge.”

Antonia Valente is an 18 year old senior at Sonoma Valley High School and is in her second year of photography. She will have a photographic print of her own drawing of a bison in the council chambers show. “I enjoy creating art because I love seeing how the effort I put into a project pays off,” Valente said. “Having my art displayed is very exciting. I’m happy that people will be able to see what I create.”

Lola Martin is also an 18 year old Sonoma Valley High School senior. She’s going to have a studio portrait photograph in the council chambers show. “What I like best about creating art is the ability to transfer your ideas, emotions and feelings to a physical state,” Martin said. “It feels very fulfilling to have my art publicly displayed.”

‘Small But Grand’

The Arts Guild of Sonoma gallery and the Sonoma Plein Air foundation are again coming together for the “Small But Grand” student art show featuring 8-inch by 10 inch works by local students.

The show will feature 100 pieces of artwork, 50 pieces from Sonoma Valley High School and 50 are from Adele Harrison and Altimira Middle Schools.

Some of the student artwork will be available for purchase with proceeds going directly to the young artist. The artwork is coming from Adele Harrison and Altimira Middle Schools’ art classes taught by Cheryl Coldiron and from Sonoma Valley High School art classes taught by Renate Kuprian.

Pat Meier-Johnson is a member artist with the Arts Guild of Sonoma. She was chosen by Sonoma’s Cultural and Fine Arts Commission as the Treasure Artist for 2022 and her work was the first to be hung in the City of Sonoma Council Chambers. We spoke with her about the Guild’s “Small But Grand” show.

“I think that art is as important to a child's development and soul and even intellectual development as all of the stem subjects are,” Meier-Johnson said. “The acknowledgment of their art is beneficial for everyone involved in that food chain, if you will. The Children, the teachers and the public at large, they need to see what these kids are creating.”

Meier-Johnson praised the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation’s dedication to the arts. The show is funded by a grant from the Foundation, a Sonoma nonprofit organization dedicated to funding creativity development and arts in education for Sonoma Valley children and youth. The Foundation will also be supplying frames for the show in the Council Chambers.

Support for the “Small But Grand” show also comes in the form of the canvases for the students’ works, which are donated by Sonoma Valley’s Fine Line Art Supply & Custom Framing.

The “Small But Grand” show will run at the Arts Guild of Sonoma Gallery on Napa Street from March 29 to May 1 every day but Tuesdays. The public reception will be Saturday, April 8, from five to 7 p.m.

18 year old Sonoma Valley High School senior Grace Atkinson has been working on a piece for the Art Guild’s “Small but Grand” show. Atkinson said she likes doing surrealist style artwork using acrylic paint and said she’s inspired by the work of artists like Greer Lankton.

“When I start doing art, it's like I get really focused, and it's almost as if I feel like I took a nap after I’ve done it,” she said. “It's very satisfying.”

Atkinson said it’s exciting to have her work displayed publicly. “That’s my favorite part,” she said. “It's a nice challenge too, to put my work with other people's and like, maybe have it be sold.”

She’s already sold some of her artwork and has created commissioned pieces.

We spoke with two Adele Harrison Middle School students with art in the “Small But Grand” show. 12 year old sixth grader Haven Valencia said that her piece in the show is a steampunk fantasy inspired acrylic painting with gears and dragons made out of machinery.

“What I enjoy is like the passion you put into your artwork, it can be from anything like your imagination or what you love,” Valencia said. “I just like creating artwork of what I love and it feels pretty good to know that other people are going to see what I’ve created.”

Helen Palacio is a 14 year old eighth grader who said her piece in the show was Art Deco style. “I first drew it on the canvas and then I painted it with acrylic paint,” she said. “It has designs on it that are like, geometric.”

“I like that you can paint your visions, like what you think in your mind and your ideas and being able to be creative with them and do what you want,” Palacio said.

Palacio said she is both excited and nervous to have her work featured in the show. “I feel honored but at the same time, it’s a little bit humbling, because having your work displayed is like people can be able to judge it, but at the same time, they can also appreciate it,” she said.

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