ppj fnm soledad post 1 students webWe taught a First Night Monterey Artworks Workshop at Main Street Middle School, in Soledad, California. We taught 3 days, with school staff and the school principal, Jesse Swift,  in the After-school Program and during in-school time when the art classes usually meet, plus some students in the school leadership group would drop in and participate.Themes were chosen from a list of quotes researched by the students and teachers.
These are the top 2 quotes chosen for two posts. Since the majority of Soledad residents speak Spanish, the students felt it important to translate their quotes on the Posts in English and Spanish.

  1. Post 1:. includes quotes and images about how the students view world religions and “we should all connect and promote peace,”  “respect,” and “nonviolence as part of our responsibility,” were thoughtfully put on the post, with drawings of places of worship  from several religions connected by paths criss crossing around the Post.
  2. Post 2: Protecting the environment, the planet and “how we are connected, “”growing crops, friends, family,” some students felt these were important when they discussed “how we connect “with visuals of “hope, love, safe places to play and eat,” and “a safe town where everyone helps each other.”

PPj FNM Soledad group class.Main St

Quotes they chose for posts: Post 1: “I don’t want to protect the Environment, I want to create a world where the environment doesn’t need protecting.” – unknown attribution —– “No quiero proteger el ambiente, quiero crear un mundo donde el ambiente no necesita protección”

For the Post 2: “We were all Humans until Race disconnected us, Religion separated us, Politics divided us, and Wealth classified us.” .- Anonymous attribution

Main Street Middle School, Soledad CA: James Showwalker-Garcia, the Family and Student Support Coordinator, acted as the Lead School Teacher in this workshop, He really made this project happen at his school.  He contacted Kira Corser, almost a year before our workshop, saying that his school really needs the arts. – It was a fantastic experience because 32 students and 7 adults participated with great enthusiasm!

Art Teachers: Kira Carrillo Corser, Carla Baldassari, Sergio Sanchez, plus James Garcia-Showalter, Lety Lara and Esther Figueroa  

Dates: December 7 – 9th in school, and then completed at First Night Monterey Studio

Specific art skills learned: We traced the hands of all participants discussing 2 and 3 D challenges. We recorded video stories and took photos to post on Facebook.

We discussed famous artists who used symbolic imagery like Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo, and Remedios Varo, and how they could tell their stories through art and symbols too.

ppj Soledad Sergio city in hand webColor, composition, repeating of design, connecting of drawing styles, hue and values with a selection of colors on their pallets of paper plates.

Some students said this was the first time they had painted trees, roses, poppies, human figures (not stick figures) mountains, crops in fields, water connecting images, a kite symbolizing wind and natural energy.

We discussed composition, repeating of design, connecting of drawing styles, hue and values with a selection of colors on their pallets of paper plates.


ppj soledad web James quotes on boardKira sent possible quotes in English and Spanish, but the students did their own research and came up with surprisingly complex and meaningful quotes. They selected 10 and these were written on the board and voted on when we arrived.

They wrote quotes in English and Spanish and discussed symbols and we brainstormed ways of how to draw them.


The teacher gave out FNM 7 Question Evaluation form: 26 out of 32 students filled in answers. Some students, the teacher, and video recordings were part of the documentation.

The students (7th & 8th grades) showed great maturity in their choices of quotes for the posts. They said they really enjoyed painting, because they said they don’t get opportunities to paint often. They do have an art teacher at the school, but their supplies and time are greatly limited.

ppj fnm eco quote on board Soledad Main st

Teacher responses include:

BEFORE WORKSHOP: We need more non-violent communication. We have many fights at this school. Under the topic of Mental Health- we also have a issue with cutting..Not many students are aware of environmental issues or social justice issues..


Thank you so much for inviting us into this process of creating awareness and hope. – James Showalter-Garcia, M.EdPPJ FNM Main st girl drawing web

It was interesting that the students chose to do one Post on Caring for the Environment, because the PPJ fnm Soledad web girl 2 drawingteachers were not aware of this as one of their big concerns.

Students on the video said, We live surrounded by fields of crops, many of our fathers and mothers work in agriculture. We feel it is important to take care of the land.

One girl said, It makes me feel special that you came to our small town and are including us in the national project!

KIRA NOTES ON WHAT THE PROJECT LEARNED FROM THIS WORKSHOP: We realized there are 3 things that help make this project have depth and impact.

1. Extended time with the students in a friendly atmosphere achieved more participation. Students asked permission to stay late, to come early, to help load and unload supplies, etc.  We had almost 3 whole school days, plus the teachers prepared them. Some students were allowed to miss other classes to participate.  Students could see that the school felt that their thinking about the world and local issues was important, so they took the project seriously.

2. The teachers’ advance planning and attitude has great impact on the students’ doing their best work. 3 teachers and the school principal, plus the 3 art teachers from First Night Monterey all drew and painted alongside studentsppj fnm soledad quote vote web.  This encouraged conversation in a wide range of areas.  One being, how music affects creativity.  They asked to choose music on an IPhone as we painted. When a song was chosen there was an informal vote by adults and students.  We reflected on how some music helped people focus, while other people might feel it distracted. Something this seemingly simple, can help students understand and make good study habits.

3. To keep building more sustainable impacts, It is important to keep in touch after the workshop, photos and online postings from teachers and students help. We need to encourage funders, schools and nonprofits to do more follow up and build sustainable connections into budget plans. – Kira Carrillo CorserPPj FNM Soledad wideshot web