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For the teaching artists of Marin County, home has also become both a classroom and a studio, a balancing act between their domestic lives, their own artistic pursuits and their students.
That’s the message in the Youth in Arts (YIA) education program’s only adult art show of the year, a virtual and walk-by window display that opened Oct. 9.
Titled “INSPIRE: Teaching Artists Exhibition,” the show is a relatively new addition to the nearly 50-years-old organization’s usual lineup of youth artists. It showcases works by YIA art teachers across mediums and age groups, with photography, painting and mixed media.
Morgan Schauffler, YIA’s gallery manager and event/fundraising coordinator, curated the show. In addition to helping with YIA’s new virtual and district-wide arts curriculum, she has been “nerding out” on all the submissions.
“I love this show because it’s an example of how diverse visual arts can be,” she said, adding that in a pandemic it has “created an opportunity to create work around issues that really matter. I was in awe. Teachers don’t get the recognition or money they deserve.”
All pieces are for sale and visible in the gallery window located at 917 C Street in San Rafael, and can also be viewed online in a slideshow YIA produced for Youtube with the accompanying artist statements.
Artists were asked to respond to the question: “How did you stay INSPIRED during the shelter in place?”
For some, it was an internal reckoning.
Taylor Mancini’s young daughter was born as the #MeToo movement cemented itself, and it catalyzed the first-time mom to observe how intersections of the pandemic, racial justice and climate change continue to impact women across the world, herself included.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing we’re going through. I want to acknowledge the weight of it,” she said.
Mancini has kept her “dream job” as the sole drawing and painting teacher at Marin School of the Arts during shelter in place, holding class over Zoom. She says this time has pushed her to find her voice, and paint it forward for anyone else feeling muted in real life.
In the YIA show, Mancini’s mixed media painting is arresting: a woman’s face, realistic in style if not color. Her eyes anticipate the worst. Where her mouth should be, a “looser,” abstract hand covers much of her lower face, silencing her.
“Everyone deserves to be heard and honored in how they feel. Not wanting to be silenced by our oppressors, the ‘anonymous hand,’” she explained.
For Molly Blauvelt, primarily a sculptor, staying INSPIRED meant focusing on making a painting.
“Painting is the hardest thing — to face that rectangle that’s blank,” she mused as she checked on her backyard kilns.
Blauvelt’s submission is indeed a painting: a red ladder and an open hand on a cerulean sky with sporadic clouds.
She says she doesn’t like to fully explain her work in order to preserve individual interpretation, though she feels “the ladder is a great symbol for reaching another place, hope and transformation.”
It’s easy, during the monotony of quarantine, to liken everyday to waking up to a blank canvas. Blauvelt, who was the Glenwood Elementary School’s top art teacher before the pandemic pretty much ended in-person instruction, has been working on a Youtube curriculum (with the help of her tech-savvy sons) for students, hosting small and distanced classes in her outdoor at-home studio, and elaborate neighborhood chalk drawing. Yoga always helps too.
“I’m trying to challenge myself with positive things,” says Blauvelt, who grew up bicoastal, solidifying her love of fine art and education while studying at Yale before returning to California in the late 1980s.
Jackie La Lanne saw transformation in the redwoods where she’s walked for the last 30 years. She was a relatively late bloomer — didn’t take a drawing class until she was 36. Her photography often draws on morbid questions of her grandchildren, such as:
“Where will I find you when you die?”
Her INSPIRE piece, a photograph, depicts tree roots that take on an animalistic quality, harnessing light rather than color. To look at the forest floor, La Lanne sees a “church with stained glass windows, that’s how the light is.”
She sees changes in her students, too. In her Zoom classroom, students now more than ever are raising their hands, asking to unmute and share the fruits of their artistic labor.
“The kids have a need to speak and communicate what they’re doing. It’s not just about the making,” said La Lanne, who now dedicates a significant portion of class to showing and sharing student work.
All of their normals have changed, except the intrinsic drive to create. La Lanne, Blauvelt and Mancini all expressed how valued they feel by YIA, both as teachers and professional artists, even without the reception and finger foods.
“It feels really good as teachers to be recognized as artists. Family and students see that,” said Blauvelt.
The INSPIRE show runs in the gallery and online until Nov. 27, and will also feature in the Marin Arts 2nd Friday Virtual Art Walk on Nov. 13. Consider donating to YIA and continue providing the children of the North Bay with quality arts education.