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A Year of Arts in Santa Cruz County Schools
The end of the school year is an exciting time for students as they are given the opportunity to display the art they have been working on all year, both through performance and exhibition.
Also in May, the Santa Cruz Art League’s 57th High School Art Show exhibited 750 pieces in all mediums—from painting through sculpture to jewelry—created by students in public, private, alternative, home and at-risk high school programs.
Santa Cruz City School District
In May, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education hosted a High School Poetry Competition which provided an opportunity to showcase some high school art along with poetry. One of the featured schools this year was Soquel High. Teacher Lilith Ohlson-Perez told us about the mandala project she had completed with her students in the early spring. After looking at mandalas from various cultures and discussing their symbolism and relevance to that culture, Ms. Ohlson-Perez asked the students to create a mandala that represented the important aspects of their own universes. Students were given instruction in radial design and encouraged to create original symbols as well as using universal ones.
An excellent production of My Fair Lady from the Harbor High Theater Department featured a sterling cast of actors, dancers and singers. Jada Gilbert played the irrepressible Eliza Doolittle with great warmth and humor and was supported by a well-cast group of student actors, directors and producers. The sets, also designed and constructed by students, were truly evocative of 1920’s London and the entire production nicely summoned up the divided British society of the early nineteen hundreds that the writer, George Bernard Shaw, portrayed in his original play. Kudos to Cathy Warner, theater teacher at Harbor High, for her amazing work in bringing out this level of professionalism in her students in all aspects of theater!
San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District
Redwood High School in the San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District was another school featured in the COE High School art show in May. Kay Mendoza-Sonntag’s class had worked on an integrated arts project which combined visual art, music, social history and writing and culminated in vibrant designs. The students explored music of the sixties and their assignment was to recreate a sixties album cover using line, color and shape. They also had to create and include ‘liner notes’ to finish the project.
Pajaro Valley Unified School District
In south county, we were treated to the fifth annual Pajaro Valley Unified School District Art Show at the Watsonville Civic Center. Every year a group of teachers led by Susan Megorden from Aptos Junior High, who initiated the show in 2007, collect and curate artwork from PVUSD schools to display at the Watsonville Library, Courthouse and Mayor’s Office. The artwork, placed in fixed frames, is exhibited for a year.
The Watsonville Library presented an exhibit of mostly elementary school art, with many fine examples of creative work from younger students, including Jared Carter’s representation of an extremely satisfied Cheshire cat from Alice In Wonderland!
Also in May, Amesti Elementary School held a very important open house to mark the tenth anniversary of their Leroy Neiman art room. The theme was “All You Need is Art.” This spring the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) worked with 3rd – 5th grade classes at Amesti, with the support of the COE. The project culminated in a field trip where students attended a performance of Pinnochio presented by West Performing Arts Academy, followed by a visit to the Museum of Art and History in downtown Santa Cruz where students saw their work exhibited.
Two students from Aptos High School were honored in the 2012 Congressional Art Competition "An Artistic Discovery". Teachers Veronique Marks and Lara Birchler are very proud of both students.
Soquel Union Elementary School District
Soquel Elementary School presented their choral and band concert in the New Brighton Performing Arts Center at the end of May. District Superintendent, Henry Castaniada asked for a standing ovation for music teacher Diane Bock who has created an outstanding music program at Soquel Elementary. Diane directed a huge 3rd- 5th grade chorus who performed a contemporary set complete with parent–volunteer band. The home / school club is a big supporter of the music program which is set up so that every child gets classroom music from kindergarten through fifth grade. The benefit of a consistent K-5 program was evident when the fifth grade jazz orchestra performed a Duke Ellington piece. It was clear that the years of music education made this possible.
Live Oak School District
In another project supported by the County Office of Education, the students at Tierra Pacifica Charter School worked throughout the year on two special mosaic murals: one represents the solar system and the other traces the life cycle of a coho salmon along with indigenous wildlife. The murals were designed and orchestrated by SPECTRA artist Gwen Toevs supported by a matching grant from the Cultural Council. Strong parental involvement helped bring this project to fruition. The murals are situated in the front area of the school placed on a low-level circular wall which is easily visible to even the smallest person! Art and related curriculum have been taught in each classroom and every child in the school has been involved in the creation of these impressive murals. The school is planning an official opening on completion of the murals in the fall.
Scotts Valley Unified School District
Scotts Valley High School has had a wonderful visual arts program in place for several years and this May some of the student work was featured in a show at the Scotts Valley Library. A combination of digital art and fine art, the exhibition showcased work by the students of two teachers: Emily Brandt and Nicole Bommarito. Among the pieces exhibited was this stunning portrait painted in watercolor by Austin Yungmeyer, one of Ms. Bommarito’s students. The hands and finely-detailed fans are attached to the tall portrait giving a 3-D effect and an exquisite grace to this beautiful painting.
The works above are just a sampling of the Arts that are happening in many schools throughout our county. A huge ‘thank you’ to all the teachers who are keeping the arts alive and thriving in our schools despite the challenges they face. And a huge pat on the back to all of the students who have shared their creativity with us this year. Our community is all the richer for their enthusiasm, dedication and talent. We look forward to more art delights in the coming year!