VALLEJO – Treva Nervis grew up dancing. The studio was her sanctuary where she expressed herself with African dance. And seeing professional African dancers who looked like her let her know she could accomplish the same. “It’s really helped me in my growth, and I see that a hundredfold in Vallejo students,” Nervis said.
Nervis now teaches dance and creative writing at Vallejo Charter School and is one of the founders of the nonprofit Vallejo Teaching Artists, whose mission is to bring arts education to young people in Vallejo.
Vallejo Teaching Artists will launch the new edition of YAM, youth arts magazine – a student-run, student-run publication to showcase Vallejo’s young artists – at the Young Art Makers Space exhibition in Vallejo Open Studios This weekend.
Vallejo Teaching Artists was launched in July 2020 by Nervis, visual arts teacher James Orlando and music teacher Stephan Betz. The trio met when they were teaching in the extracurricular arts program at Vallejo Charter School. After 10 years of trying different approaches to fundraising and program expansion, they realized that having their own nonprofit would be the easiest way to meet the needs of the school district, teaching artists, and, especially children.
Vallejo Teaching Artists now offers art activities at eight other schools in the Vallejo City Unified School District. They are working with the school district to expand to the remaining 11 district schools. Vallejo Teaching Artists served 1,092 students in the 2021-2022 school year with teaching activities in visual arts, dance, drama, music, film and an after-school diversity book club and inclusion.
The Vallejo Teaching Artists model gives students autonomy in the creative process. Each new venture begins with a pilot project guided by teaching artists. As students learn to collaborate and govern themselves, they have more control.
Tatara Arbab and Riley Lindke are eighth grade students at Vallejo Charter School and are part of the YAM writing team. Arbab says most school projects involve a specific task that needs to be done in a specific way. “But that’s where you can express yourself and come up with your own ideas as a member of a band,” Arbab said. “All ideas are good for us and we welcome everyone, so it’s a great place to understand each other better and learn about others.
Lindke says YAM taught her not only the process of creating a magazine, but also how to work with others. “I learned to take a step back and let other people show their work,” Lindke said. “It’s something I used to struggle with.”
Presented at Young Art Maker’s Space
Students from the Vallejo Teaching Artists programs will participate in the Young Art Makers space at 321 Nevada St. as part of the Vallejo Open Studios tour this weekend. Art students will exhibit and sell their works.
- YAM authors will read their stories and poems from 2-3 p.m. Saturday.
- There will be another YAM student reading from noon to 1 p.m. Nov. 20 at Alibi Bookstore, 624 Marin St. in downtown Vallejo.
The students began working on the first edition of YAM by planning how they would work as a team. They identified the different tasks to be accomplished and discussed the general theme. They researched the business side of magazine publishing, researched distribution and financing, and compiled a list of potential revenue streams. They reviewed the existing magazines to fully understand the layout and presentation. They learned graphic design and font selection before diving into content selection and editing.
YAM’s first issue, released last year, was an 8.5-by-11-inch glossy letter size. The student editors changed the format of the second issue to a 5.5 by 8.5 inch abstract format that easily fits in their backpack.
Each edition of YAM features photos of student work interspersed with interviews and poetry.
Sam Santos, a 10th grade student at Vallejo High School, contributed to a first YAM pilot project – The Graphic Design Edition and recently worked with younger children on a mural at Vallejo Charter School. “It’s really cool to see the kids find their love for creating,” Santos said.
The Santos team designed the mural design and helped with the final sketches. Santos helped paint the mural and made suggestions on how to paint a straight line. “It was fun,” Santos said. “I had never worked with someone like that before.”
Nervis says the arts help students grow academically, socially and emotionally. She has seen students who struggled with anger and frustration at school come into dance class and blossom. They became emotionally stronger and learned to express themselves effectively and appropriately. “I’m not going to say it’s perfect science, but I think it’s some of the gumbo of education that needs to be there,” Nervis said.
Teachers at Vallejo Teaching Artists are attuned to the school’s curriculum. “We were creating dances based on what the students were studying in class,” Nervis said. Class teachers told Nervis that their students became more engaged in their academic work after a few months of weekly art lessons. “They’re more connected to what they’re studying because they’re looking at it through another lens,” Nervis said.
Vallejo Teaching Artists believes that a strong arts program can improve student academic achievement. Their Annual report 2021-2022 states that because the education of economically disadvantaged students tends to focus only on math and remedial reading, “quality arts education provides even greater learning benefits to disadvantaged young people than to their peers favored class”.
Vallejo Teaching Artists says they will expand their arts programs to all young people in Vallejo and launch many new projects in 2023, including a public arts project and a youth-run label called UBU (you be you).
“We’ve had students who have just graduated from college come back to our program and teach over the summer,” Orlando said. “It was just wonderful to see that, but also to have that connection.”
Vallejo Teaching Artists programs are free for youth 19 and under who live or attend school in Vallejo. Students and parents interested in learning more about opportunities with the organization can email email@example.com. Youth 19 and under who live or attend school in Vallejo can submit artwork for inclusion in future YAM additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.