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Young at Art.

Young at Art, a project of the San Diego Schools and the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, is the nation's largest artist-in-residence program serving a single school district. More than sixty artists serve over a hundred schools in this seaport border city of many cultures. But it's not only size that distinguishes this ambitious program.

The Young at Art program is making its mark on the landscape in the form of site specific sculptures, earth works and a large number of community-oriented murals. Works are often located at school sites, but city-wide partnerships have been forming, and permanent works of art in which artists collaborate with city school children are now appearing in other areas of the city. Other partnerships have generated exhibitions in public spaces such as theaters, convention centers and banks, and even a large scale parade to celebrate the city's annual "Artwalk."

The program is multicultural not only in its representation of all ethnic groups, but also in the diversity of art forms it introduces into the school setting. Many artists emphasize a sense of place and history in their approaches to the use of art in the classroom. Afro-American masks, Aztec dances and dragon festivals have created a rich context for students' art making.

Theory and training

San Diego's finest artists have been sought out to serve in this program. Many have advanced degrees in their field, and bring sophisticated theories of how we learn, not only in the arts but in general, into their artistic collaborations. Others may have more experience in the world at large and contribute their spirit of adventure by taking the children on exciting field trips and integrating new experiences into the curriculum. Some artists are specialists in a single medium, while others are conceptualists, crossing boundaries of genre to experiment in multi-media work with the students.

Once they have been selected, artists undergo training in the theory of art and education. They learn the logistics of importing the art-making endeavor into an environment that may not have been designed with their needs in mind. Adapting to an unfamiliar environment includes adjusting to a set of assumptions that is sometimes at odds with the artistic set. This requires that artists receive training in mediation skills in order to accommodate the needs of the institution without themselves becoming institutionalized and diluting the contribution they might otherwise be able to make to enrich the school's curriculum. Finally, as paraprofessionals, the artists learn to make the most of their entrepreneurial status, gaining skills in financial and organizational management.

Collaboration

The concept of artist and children collaborating on a given art project or series of projects, while not unique to Young at Art, is expanded by the quantity and diversity of artists and artworks and the willingness of YAA administration to tailor each residency to the needs of artists and sites. The individual attention is based on a philosophical assumption that people know best what they need, and that the fewer dictates handed down from above the better. Embodying the collaborative model, artists have been organized into teams to determine artist/site matches, materials allocations and policy decisions in conjunction with the central staff.

Press attention increases as artworks are completed, and offers of partnership and assistance continue to flow in. Teachers report that "My student told me the parade was the best day of her life." Evaluation processes are in motion to document on a large scale the effects of the pro gram. And we will be seeking funding to sustain the program beyond the generous Gluck Foundation beginnings.

Kay Wagner is Fine Arts Program Manager, San Diego, California City Schools.
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Title Annotation:a project of the San Diego Schools and the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation
Author:Wagner, Kay
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1990
Words:606
Previous Article:A school for the fine(est) artists.
Next Article:Gallery - a thematic approach to learning.
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