Youth Arts Spring is in bloom in Sonoma

March is National Youth Arts Month and has been celebrated in school districts across the country since the 1960s by displaying student artwork. This year, with the support of the mayor, numerous 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 performances throughout the spring highlighting student work.

Mayor Sandra Lowe invited Creative Bridges to host a student art show in the Sonoma City Council Chambers, along with a proclamation supporting the arts in the Valley with a rotating display that continues in the Council Chambers.

Council Chambers will be open early on March 15th at 5:30pm for 30 minutes so the artwork can be viewed before the City Council meeting begins at 6:00pm Mayor Lowe will read his proclamation in support of the arts and will talk about new and current art exhibits that will be hung in the Council Chamber.

“Empowering the youth of the Valley is critical to the City of Sonoma, which is why we now have a youth on every city commission. I can’t wait to look up from the podium and see the art display. It’s a reminder for all of us to be inclusive and welcome the contributions of our residents … of every age,” Lowe said.

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

In late March, the Art Guild of Sonoma will host its popular “Small But Grand” show of local student artwork. Sonoma Valley Hospital has started a rotating bi-monthly art exhibit 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 also organizing performances and art shows. The high school will host a highly anticipated student show later in the spring.

Connie Schlelein is a founding member of Creative Bridges, a non-profit organization 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 to support the arts and why it’s important to have public viewings of students’ endeavors in the arts.

“Schools didn’t have as much money after Proposition 13, so arts education was one of the first programs to be cut,” Schlelein said. “So the culture of any community, including ours, is affected by students not being able to express creativity or learn about the visual or performing arts. It has 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 would provide funding for additional staff and supplies for California’s arts curriculum.

Schlelein explained that art education encourages students to use their whole brains. “It encourages innovation, 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 help with literacy and numeracy skills. Having a whole-brain approach to teaching 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 bison drawing in the council chamber show. “I enjoy creating art because I like to see the effort I put into a project pay off,” Valente said. “Exhibiting my art is very exciting. I’m happy that people will be able to see what I create.”

Lola Martin is also an 18-year-old student at Sonoma Valley High School. She will have a studio portrait shot in the council chamber show. “What I love most about creating art is the ability to bring your ideas, emotions and feelings into a physical state,” Martin said. “It feels very satisfying to have my art on public display.”

“Small but spectacular”

The Arts Guild of Sonoma Gallery and the Sonoma Plein Air Foundation are coming together again for the “Small But Grand” student art show, featuring 8″ by 10″ works by local students.

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

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