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How Partnerships = Positive Impact for our Youth

Dec. 22, 2016 | Phil Lofaro, Guest Contributor

Pictured above, 2016 Napa Court & Community Schools students with volunteer art and creativity program coordinator, Phil Lofaro. Standing in front of their new metal work installation on campus.


This art and creativity program is a collaboration between The Napa Court and Community Schools, Nimbus Arts, a team of amazing art instructors, educators and youth and funding from Festival Napa Valley.  In large part, because of their generosity, 100 students from the school will be able to have at least 5 visits to the studio during the current school year

For me, one of the most exciting things about volunteering at the Court and Community School is Director, Caroline Wilson’s vision for her students. Her motto is “At our school we say yes!” It’s not just lip service. She really means it.  Our ability to partner so effectively with Nimbus Arts for this program is evidence of that.  When I approached Caroline about developing a program to explore student’s individual creativity, she whole-heartedly supported the effort. Now, our students, paint, sculpt, draw, weld, screen print and do ceramics every Tuesday morning in St. Helena.

Most recently we did our first group installation project with the metal working program.

Last spring, after completing a four week pilot program with about 16 students, Nimbus Director Jamie Graf and I sat down to debrief and talk about what we wanted to do to make the program better.

We had a sense that a great next step would be to have the kids begin doing group projects, so we came up with an idea to have them make something that could be installed at the school.

Over coffee at Oxbow Market one afternoon, Jamie sketched out an idea to create a freestanding screen.  Something along the lines of a metal quilt hung on a steel frame that each student could create a plate for using their own designs. Two groups of twenty students produced the first of what will be multiple structures that will ultimately surround our whole campus vegetable garden. All the necessary welding and plasma cutting was done by the students with the guidance of Nimbus instructor and metal artist, David Massaro,

The actual installation was an amazing experience! As the pieces started to come together, we began attracting a crowd. The kids who worked on it felt a true sense of pride and helped to assemble all the pieces. Other students and teachers who had not yet been to the studio became very excited about the project and wanted to know when it would be their turn to go to Nimbus.

Next steps for the program include a 4-6 week photography class led by Napa photographer and Arts Council board chair, Shelly Hanan.  Along with visual arts, we are also looking to expand our program to include performing arts, so we are starting to search for a part-time music teacher. We are also planning to extend the program to Juvenile Hall.

During the first 14 visits to Nimbus, we’ve seen the kids who participate gain a sense of calm, focus, self-confidence and pride while exploring new skills and experiences.  One of the things that we didn’t expect was the impact it would have on the adults who’ve participated.  From the Nimbus instructors to the teachers and staff from the school as well as board members from the County Office of Education, everyone has felt the transformative experience of sharing creativity. Making art as a community has the power to break down barriers and bring people together, changing the perspective from I to we.  Jamie Graf and the people at Nimbus Arts understand this most profoundly.

As a result, we have begun exploratory conversations with Nimbus Arts and The Napa Court and Community Schools to discuss the feasibility of a second Nimbus Arts studio to serve the entire community at the south end of the valley.  The benefit would be easy access for all families to after school, weekend, holiday and summer workshops, while proximity to our campus would increase the ability for our students to enjoy these programs every week instead of just 5 visits per school year.

This program has come together as the result of so many thoughtful and inspiring collaborations, but none more so than with Olivia Everett and Arts Council Napa Valley. Olivia has spent so much time advising me about whom to talk to and connect with in the community. Simply put, this program would not have happened without the guidance and resources of the Arts Council.

 

Just a few weeks ago, Olivia and the Arts Council invited me to be part of the Leadership Napa Valley arts day. It gave me an opportunity to introduce all of them to our students and what the Nimbus Arts program was like for them.  Once again, the transformative power of art and community produced another unforeseen benefit. One of Leadership Napa’s members contacted the school about the possibility of creating a mentoring program for our kids. So many incredible things keep happening that we never really imagined.

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Arts Council Napa Valley 501(c)3 is funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

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