A new push for Downey students to stay young

DOWNEY – It is well known that funding for education in general, and art education in particular, has decreased significantly over recent years. To help address this issue, Downey Art Vibe (DAV) has developed the Stay Young Initiative, a long-term project geared to partner with Downey Unified School District and other local youth organizations to create and implement enriching arts-based educational youth programs within the City of Downey. DAV, the non-profit organization that operates Stay Gallery, is working directly with DUSD administrators, teachers, and parents to help fill the void that our public school system is faced with regarding arts education. DAV is dedicating the use of Stay Gallery during the last week of May and the entire month of June to showcase our growing relationship with DUSD.

The Stay Young Initiative provides creative interaction by hosting student exhibitions, field trips, festivals, internship/volunteer opportunities, workshops and the development of arts education programs. These programs engage youth in creative activities, local cultural identity, and historical learning.

The objective of the Stay Young Initiative is to create a culture of excellence in the arts by providing the resources necessary to involve students in programs and activities inside and outside of schools. Stay Young aspires to awaken and sustain the interest of the arts in our youth through the creation, exhibition, and education of student art. DAV firmly believes that art education is crucial to develop students’ ability to innovate, communicate, and collaborate.

DAV is developing programs to compliment DUSD’s emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). DAV is working closely with administrators, teachers, and parents to integrate art, design, and creativity into youth programs.

By the beginning of next school year, alongside traditional art workshops (photography/painting/drawing), DAV will introduce arts-based afterschool programs geared towards developing students in areas of teamwork, leadership, and presenting skills while emphasizing communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.


We will begin the Stay Young Initiative by highlighting one of the most innovative and creative programs that DUSD has to offer. On May 24, Warren High School’s robotics program will be taking over Stay Gallery to hold a demonstration of what their program is all about.

“Our robotics program has evolved into an innovative approach to get DUSD students excited about the field of engineering and robotics,” said Warren High teacher Glenn Yamasaki. “We are able to take interested students who have never touched a robot and transform them into regional, state and national champions.”

DAV will continue the Stay Young Initiative with three different third grade elementary school field trips. We will host Ward Elementary on May 28, Maude Price on May 29 and Gallatin Elementary on June 5. Named after the art piece that inspired the pilot program, “Downey Doodle-icious” presents students, teachers, and volunteers with an opportunity to explore our local culture and history.

“The Downey Doodle-icious field trip has been beneficial to our Downey students because it teaches them the value of our community and its landmarks, it brings arts education back into our classrooms, and it integrates technology into one of the final products of the field trip,” said Rani Bertsch, principal of Gallatin Elementary.

During field trips, students will be driven to Downey City Hall where a city council member and city staff member will give students an explanation of the role that City Hall has within our city and touch on the history of Downey. During their time in City Hall, students will learn three key terms: Community, Economy, and Government. Students will then tour Downtown Downey and discover Downey’s important landmarks along the way (John Gately Downey’s statue, Rives Mansion, the Avenue Theatre, etc.). These experiences will create a ‘sense of place’ in students’ imaginations by increasing their familiarity with the key features of Downey.

Upon arriving at Stay Gallery, students will be shown photographs from Downey’s past that depict the locations they just visited. The point is for students to learn the concept of ‘change over time’ which is emphasized in the Third Grade Social Studies Curriculum.

Students will be greeted by gallery staff and the artist of the “Downey Doodle-icious” painting, Don Lamkin. Lamkin’s painting uses familiar Downey icons and logos that symbolically stitch together the different generations of the City of Downey. Stay Gallery staff will explain the cultural significance of the painting.

During this exercise, the painting will be divided into sections and given to each student. Students will then create a large-scale reproduction of the section of the painting they were given on canvas. Once completed, all of the canvases are put together, giving the students a sense of teamwork and community. Upon completion of the mural, Stay Gallery staff will then frame it and present it to the participating elementary school. (First student-produced “Downey Doodle-icious” mural can be viewed at Gallatin Elementary’s main office.)

The remaining elementary schools will be scheduled to participate in the “Downey Doodle-icious” Program during the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. DAV’s goal is to host one class from each elementary school in DUSD during 2014. Though our primary focus is the third grade, we hope to expand these field trips to other grades as our capacity grows and funding opportunities become accessible. These first 12 field trips would not have been possible without the generous contribution from Downey Kiwanis Foundation.

On May 29, we will be hosting the 1st Annual Stay Young Festival of the Arts. The best artists from Downey and Warren high schools, along with one special guest artist from Downey Adult School, will be exhibiting their work at Stay Gallery. The opening on Thursday is geared towards students, family, teachers, and DUSD administrators.

On Saturday, May 31, Downey and Warren’s ASBs will be taking over the gallery and planning different activities to celebrate the arts through a program that includes live music, live art, interactive games and food, to go along with the beautiful artwork that will be on display. The event is geared at high school students wanting to get a sense of what a local student art festival is all about.

On June 4, different  fourth and fifth grade classes from Old River Elementary will be displaying their art in a new program we are calling “Display@Stay”. This program is geared towards DUSD classes wanting to host student exhibitions at Stay Gallery. Students will be showcasing their artwork in an event meant to bring family, friends, and school faculty together.

We will conclude the 2014 Stay Young Initiative on June 6 with the opening of the 3rd Annual Downey & Warren Photography Contest. This event brings both schools’ advanced photography departments together for a beautifully curated exhibition. This exhibit will be up until June 15.

Special thanks to Maude Price Elementary, Gallatin Elementary, Ward Elementary, Old River Elementary, Downey/Warren’s Art Departments and our incredible youth coordinators Aldo Fratti and Ana Godinez for putting this entire initiative together.

Valentin Flores is executive director of Stay Gallery and Downey Art Vibe.



Published: May 22, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 06