Moco Youth In Art
Programs recognize and encourage youth artistic talent.
Thursday, March 5, 1998
At 5:30 in the morning, five days a week, Ana Gonzalez wakes up to get ready for school. It will take her almost two hours to get from her home in Salinas to Monterey High School, after a ride to her first bus and a transfer later on to another one.
In Santa Cruz at about the same time, Sean Moriarty begins his day, making the trek from his home to York School over on the other side of Monterey. Besides spending several hours each day commuting, these kids have something else in common: They can''t wait to get to school.
Ana is a sophomore at the Art Careers Academy at Monterey High. After only one semester, along with studying English and earth science, she''s developed skills in a number of areas from portraiture to making puppets--giant ones, 10 feet tall. A junior at York, Sean studies drawing and painting, sculpture and print-making and enjoys world history and philosophy.
Extremely talented, both of these kids also count themselves as lucky. At a time when art and music programs are practically obsolete in elementary and junior high schools, their gifts could easily have gone unnoticed. But, receiving encouragement from their instructors and the community, these young adults are embarked on a course that is full of promise. Young artists like these get to taste the first fruits of their expression in the 11th annual high school art exhibit, "Thinking Out Loud," at the Carl Cherry Center in Carmel, opening on March 7. Along with 60 selections in visual arts categories, the 1998 Monterey County High School Poetry Awards will honor the works of 25 students, hosting both displays through March 21st.
Jan Wagstaff, Sean''s drawing and painting instructor at York, commends the Carl Cherry Center for tackling the work at hand in promoting the arts, education and sciences at a time when public funds are scarce. "For a little place in Carmel, the Center''s outreach is excellent," claims Wagstaff. "And for a long time, it was the only place where high school students could show their work."
Recognition seems to be the all-important catalyst for stimulating students in the arts. "My sixth grade art teacher, Miss Susan Sanborn, really turned my life around,"says Ana. "I was just always drawing on anything I could get my hands on and she noticed my work and was the first one to tell me it was good. She''s like my second mom--she helped me get in the Academy and she gives me a ride to my first bus in the morning," Ana beams.
"I guess I started when I was really young," Sean says, "taking an art class at a studio in Santa Cruz. My instructor told me that he thought I had a lot of talent, but that I should develop my drawing skills, and I''ve been working on that ever since. I''ve got dyslexia, especially when I work with rows of numbers in math," he continues. "I see things a little differently than everybody else; the art has really helped me improve my visual motor skills."
Wagstaff admires the passion that she sees some students bringing to their work. "Sometimes you get a real gem of a youngster and you see the shift in them as they discover a way to express themselves," says Wagstaff. "It gives them the leverage to do well in a number of things. Amy Herbig is another one of my students that is very gifted technically and aesthetically. You see them take this on and it gives them an identity, a real sense of themselves," she explains. Rebecca Hicks, project director for the Arts Careers Academy at Monterey High, agrees wholeheartedly. "It''s our first semester as a school-within-a-school here, working together with the community to make this thing happen. And we''re seeing these kids make great personal strides in spite of huge holes in their backgrounds--because they haven''t been challenged!"
As a "partnership" academy, some funding comes through the state, but the overall success of the program relies heavily on underwriting from local businesses and agencies as well as the art community. It''s a process that requires heroic efforts on the part of the instructors as they go about applying for grants and cultivating support within the community.
It''s also a partnership in the sense that it''s an interdisciplinary curriculum that applies a broad brush-stroke approach to learning by overlapping lesson plans in art and academic classes, with lots of "real world," hands-on, practical experience thrown in.
And it''s often the students who are first to insist that that the approach is effective. "At first I wanted to be a cartoonist, then an illustrator, then a fashion illustrator. Now I''ve learned about more careers that there are and I love all of them. I wish I could do them all!" Ana enthuses. "If they taught every student by choice of what they want to be, you''d learn much faster and easier. By the time you leave high school, you''d be sure about what you want to be. And then just go out there and conquer the world!"
Judith Jay is Ana''s drawing and painting instructor and echoes her enthusiasm. "It''s no longer the case that a student who wants to become a painter has to think about always sacrificing and being poor. Art, drawing and painting are now among the top 10 professions that we''ll be needing in the future and it''s very remunerative now," says Jay. "You can make your way and make a very good income from art if you just put in the time and the training." In fact, after the first couple of years studying art at Monterey High, it''s possible to earn college credits in Jay''s advanced placement class and graduate with skills equal to at least entry-level job placement in related fields.
Most convincingly, the biggest endorsement for keeping all of the arts alive in the classroom and the real world comes from the kids themselves. Lisa Jong also goes to York and Gabriela Lopez is a student at King City High School, both of whom have entered their poetry in the Carl Cherry Center exhibit.
"Writing a poem is the way I can express myself," says Gabriela, "whenever I feel emotional."
Lisa concurs. "It''s working with words and arranging them in new and different ways that I love. And it gives me the opportunity to express myself."
Sean Moriarty enjoys the whole creative process. "I''m working with things that you can feel. It helps me focus and to get out any tension or anger. It centers my thoughts." His classmate, Amy Herbig agrees. "I like to work with pencil and charcoal. I''m able to get out of my head and stop thinking about everything else and really focus."
For Ana Gonzalez, being able to develop her art has opened doors to her own abilities that she didn''t know existed. She holds up a class project as proof, her own self-portrait done in chalk. "I never thought I''d be able to do something like that!" she says. "And look!" cw
You can view artwork by Monterey County students beginning this Saturday. A reception from 2:30-4:30pm at Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Guadalupe Street and 4th Avenue, Carmel, opens "Thinking Out Loud," an exhibit of works from Monterey County high school students (624-7491). An awards ceremony and a poetry reading by high school students takes place at the same location on March 21, beginning at 3pm.