In the News

Art to Grow On is Celebrating 30 years of Creativity

Released: February 15, 2019 by the Art to Grow On general board

The Golden Fish project was based on the works of modern Italian artist Marco Mazzoni.

When you mention the name Art to Grow On an entire generation of people who grew up in the Harbor area may remember the fun artwork they created as children participating in the program. Many still have their old projects lying around – or even on display in their homes.



This year Art to Grow on is celebrating its 30-year anniversary, three decades of taking high quality art projects into our local area schools. Hundreds of volunteers in the program have helped students develop their creativity and artistic skills using real artist tools and supplies following lesson plans created by local artists.

Art to Grow On is a non-profit, art enrichment organization that serves to fill in the gap of disappearing art education in public schools. The program is currently operated by 120 parent “docents” and reaches more than 9,000 school age children, grades K-6, in 15 schools across San Pedro, Lomita, Wilmington, and Rancho Palos Verdes every year.

The program enjoys a rich and fulfilling history which originally started because of state policy changes ranging back five decades. In 1970, passage of the Ryan Act eliminated art and music credential requirements for teachers. Today, as a result, the vast majority of K-8 classroom teachers have had little or no professional training in the visual and performing arts.

Then in 1978 California voters passed Proposition 13 which cut property taxes that in large part had gone to fund local school programs. In addition to losing school librarians, after school programs, and supplemental education, the fallout from the legislation virtually eliminated all dedicated art and music specialists in elementary schools.

As an answer to that tragic loss, a group of Palos Verdes Peninsula parents launched a non-profit art enrichment program for elementary age students that over time grew beyond the most optimistic dreams of its founders. Sponsored by the Palos Verdes Art Center, the original program in the area, Art at Your Fingertips (Art to Grow On’s sister organization) was an instant success.

In 1988 four schools in San Pedro (Crestwood, St. Peter Episcopal, South Shores and White Point) were invited to participate in a spin-off program. The group was originally sponsored by the non-profit Angel's Gate Cultural Center and the name "Art to Grow On" was chosen. The first annual show of children's art for the program opened May 19th 1990 at the Angel's Gate art gallery. That year’s theme, "The World of Imagination", included Japanese ink painting, a sculpture project and Picasso masks drawn with crayons on paper.

Since that time Art to Grow volunteers have presented over 245 unique projects to tens of thousands of students at more than 17 area elementary and middle schools. An amazing accomplishment for a program run solely by volunteers and funded by school parent organization donations and fundraisers.

Aside from Art to Grow On (San Pedro, Harbor area) and Art at Your Fingertips (Palos Verdes) there are now six programs in the South Bay area with the addition of Gateway to Art (Westchester, Culver City), Young at Art (Manhattan Beach), Adventures in Art (Torrance), and South Bay Hands on Art (Redondo Beach, Hawthorn). These groups all share the common goal of keeping quality art education in our area schools.

Art to Grow On’s school year program consists of five projects designed by local professional artists. Each project is specifically chosen by a committee of school representatives and each must fill high level requirements to be selected. “That’s what I love so much about this program. These projects aren’t just a quick construction paper craft or crayon drawings, they are real art experiences based on the work of famous artists,” says Mindy Kirton the current Project Selection Chair for ATGO. “In addition to the art piece the student gets to take home, each lesson is required to teach about an artist or art movement, art vocabulary, and also to highlight specific design skills like color theory, layout, negative and positive space, perspective, and art aesthetic. These projects are developed specifically to expose students to many different kinds of art techniques and tools, art history, and in a roundabout way helps them understand how important art and creative thinking skills are in our society today.”

If students participate from kindergarten to fifth grade they receive roughly 25 high quality art classes with the program and learn about art styles and artists that they can then recognize and appreciate throughout their life. For some students these creative experiences will influence them as they develop their own professional future. That’s a simply amazing result from a homegrown non-profit group.

"Art teaches creative problem-solving and how to think outside the box. Many children say that they can't draw and aren't artists. Once they try, they are often surprised at just how talented they really are!... One thing about teaching art to kids that constantly amazes me is this: you can give the exact same instruction using the exact same materials and the results are like fingerprints in that no two are alike. A child's creativity and expression is that individual and unique." – Marcia Spaulding, ATGO Chair, 2005

For each chosen project, school docents attend workshops where they receive instruction from the invited professional artist in how to teach their project to the students. Docents then return to their schools and present the projects along with the history lesson and vocabulary. Over the years these projects have highlighted art from well-known artists like Picasso, Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keef, Jackson Pollock, Piet Mondrian, Modigliani, Grandma Moses and others as well as modern and more obscure artists like Hagop Najarian, Sandra Silberzweig, Damon Farmer, and Jim Dine. Students also learn about cultural art forms such as Japanese silk paintings, Peruvian weaving, ancient Egyptian art, or African tribal patterns. Art from all over the world and from every time period has been highlighted as part of the lessons over the years… and the program is still going strong.

“I just knew how important this program was when my husband and I finally took our son Ryan, to an art museum, he was around 8-years old, and he was running around saying "Look, Mom, Dad, Look. There's a Van Gogh. look, there's Degas." I don't know about you, but when I was 8 I don't think I knew any artists, much less their names. So, I magnify that by the hundreds of other kids from kindergarten through eighth grade who are participating in this program, and realize just how far this art work stretches out across a sea of students...” -- ATGO Chair, 2004

The biggest hurdle the organization faces today, like many other non-profits, is getting and keeping docents in the program. As times change along with the community, fewer people are available or willing to donate time to take these art lessons into student classrooms and turnover is high as their own children move on to middle and high school. There has been a steady decline in volunteers and funding over the past decade. Some schools in the organization have had to cut back the number of projects they are able to do with the students each year, “As school districts worry about liability, they are making it increasingly difficult for PTA's, and other parent organizations to raise funds for this amazing program.

Volunteering is also becoming more difficult for people, and the way that younger parents feel about volunteering is changing” says past ATGO Executive Chair Laura Helm. “Organizations like Art to Grow On are worth every effort to support their undertakings in blending the needs of students, their families and their schools in our wonderfully creative way.”

The Art to Grow On program has high hopes for the growth of art education in the schools they work with as they celebrate their 30thyear this May. They are focused on building greater community involvement and gathering a strong volunteer base to take their program into the next decade. As schools close their campuses and make parent involvement and fundraising more difficult, donating to or volunteering in this program is a great way to have some involvement in your child’s education, support the arts, and make a difference. The benefits of participating are extensive and wide reaching.

“What an amazing opportunity to be able to learn about different artists, work with a variety of art materials, and to teach art and inspire new artists in the classroom! We are so fortunate to have a program that celebrates art and allows for docents to give back in their community. Ask your local school how you can be a part of this program. Let’s continue to support Art to Grow on for another 30 years!” -- Stephanie Valencia, current ATGO President.

ATGO extends an open invitation for all local artists interested in the program to create and submit age appropriate projects for selection. In addition, community volunteers are desperately needed to keep the programs running behind the scenes on the general board as well as volunteers at the schools to teach or assist with supplies in the classroom. The work can be challenging at times but the rewards of watching the joy in a child’s face as they see the art they’ve just created and tell you with a beaming smile “Look what I just did!” is a feeling you will never forget.

Show your support for our up and coming generation of artists here in the Harbor area by encouraging their creativity and learning. Find ways to involve them in the rich art scene of our community and take time to get involved with the art programs available to them. For more information on the Art to Grow On program visit www.arttogrowon.com, or you can contact your local school PTA to learn more about volunteer opportunities with their ATGO group.

LAUSD Axes Successful Art to Grow On Program Right after Unanimous Board Vote to Bring Fine Art Back [Dana Middle School PTO denies funding for ATGO program]

City Watch, 11 October, 2012

Excerpt: ...Dana was the first public middle school to adopt the powerfully popular ATGO program that started as a pilot program in 1988 to make up for the artistic cuts in Palos Verdes Penninsula Unified School District. The program pays artists to train hundreds of parents to take art into elementary classrooms project by project. It was so successful that today it touts having served 8,000 kindergarten through 8th grade students a year, has 150 volunteers and 17 private and public schools that participate throughout the Harbor Area. While the program arrived at Dana seven years ago as an after school club it wasn't until parent Megan McElroy cam about two years later that the small seed expanded and flourished with a steady group of volunteers. The group found ways to open it to any classroom during school that wanted to participate. As many as 1,600 11-to-14-year-old Dana students painted, sculpted, drew, cared, dipped, salted and molded -- some for the very first time. READ THE ARTICLE HERE.

Art Felt

More, Education section, April 1, 2006

Several times a year, Art to Grow On teaches the teachers. The Harbor Area non-profit art-enrichment organization organizes workshops to train parents, grandparents and shops to train parents, grandparents and other community volunteers how to teach art in local elementary and middle schools. The groups teachers emphasize to parents that they don't need to know much about art to teach the subject to children. However, they do need to differentiate that the art lessons should rise above basic craft-type activities, said Marcia Spaulding the group's chairwoman. "They need to feel comfortable in the classroom... we like to do fine arts, not crafts. The groups program--now in 17 Harbor Area schools-- has been cresting of late this year, the group expanded beyond it's scope of teaching art in elementary schools by adding the program as an after-school session at Dana and Dodson middle schools. In giving an art lesson, the group asked students to mimic the style of a famous painter or painting style.

Prove to kids you care by volunteering at school

More, Views section, March 4, 2006

Mention of Art to Grow on program being piloted at Dana Middle school and Dodson Middle School

Courage in Creativity: Art To Grow On

San Pedro Magazine, September 2005

Some of the most treasured works of art in San Pedro homes did not come from a gallery on Sixth Street or from Ports o' Call. The d cartists although talented, are relatively unknown except in the most intimate circles. Not surprisingly, they don't sell their work for thousands of dollars and as a matter of fact, they deliver the pieces to one's door free of charge. The artists are none other than Harbor area schoolchildren who have taken part in the Art To Grow On program. Established 17 years ago as a pilot program under the Palos Verdes School District's Art At Your Fingertips, ATGO is a non-profitorganization designed to make up for the lack of art in public schools.

Sue Murat special events coordinator, ATGO emphasizes the importance of art as an integral part of education. "The educational experience is incomplete without the arts in the same way that academic intelligence is incomplete without emotional intelligence" "Art teaches creative problem-solving and how to think outside the box. Many children say that they can't draw and aren't artists. Once they try, they are often surprised at just how talented they really are!"... Murat is the drive behind ATGO's first fundraiser ever, to be held on Saturday, September 17th at the San Pedro Elks Lodge. A target amount of $10,000 in proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction will go to enhancing the existing program for 15 schools by offsetting the cost of supplies and sponsoring schools that cannot afford the program.

... Banuelos, herself an art teacher for 20 years, extols the other benefits of ATGO in the curriculum. "Now our children know some of the masters, and can point out styles when they go to a museum" she says "They recognize Van Gogh and Modigliani. They're much more knowledgeable about the arts. It's a really great base because later when child wanted to do a drawing or a painting, there's someplace for them to start. They're familiar with the materials and they're more excited to go to museums.'

Murat underscores the value of children being able to apply what they learn in ATGO to real world recognition of art. "My kids are often reminded of Art to Grow On in the course of our daily lives," she says. "For example, we were at the King Tut exhibit today and my daughter remembered the hieroglyphic project we did years ago. Our projects always bring with them an opportunity to learn about a different culture, historical fact, or the life of an artist. My children now regime famous works of art, even if it's just the say, 'Hey we did that in Art to Grow On!"

...Future ATGO projects include a mural on a public building to be painted by the children and bringing participating artists into classrooms to talk about careers in art... Banuelos underscores the boost to a child's esteem when asked to display their artwork. "When I handed our the invitations to my class, they were so surprised," she recalls, "You mean my piece is going to be up?" Marcia framed all her child's pieces from ATGO. The fact that she framed the work and hung it where her daughter could see it really legitimizes the whole process. I'm sure ut makes her daughter feel really proud of what she's done." "It's right in the center of the living room. I know she's thinking, "does mom really thing that's good?" laughs Spaulding. " You could see that she's got some doubts bt she's thinking, 'I'ts hanging up, so it must be good!" Murat echoes these sentiments, recognizing the value of art as a vehicle for children to learn to appreciate their own unique personalities. "It builds confidence to be who you are and to appreciate differences," She says. "One thing about teaching art to kids that constantly amazes me is this: you can give the exact same instruction using the exact same materials and the results are like fingerprints in that no two are alike" she marvels. "A child's creativity and expression is that individual and unique."...

"Art teaches creative problem-solving and how to think outside the box. Many children say that they can't draw and aren't artists. Once they try, they are often surprised at just how talented they really are!"

"One thing about teaching art to kids that constantly amazes me is this: you can give the exact same instruction using the exact same materials and the results are like fingerprints in that no two are alike" she marvels. "A child's creativity and expression is that individual and unique."

Program Gives Kids Something to Grow On

More, Local News section, March 20, 2004

... I'd love to say that the credit for this incredible moment belongs to me, but 'd be lying. The credit belongs to a group of hard-working people who cary out Art To Grow On, a program that reaches out to thousands of kids in both public and private schools where, with all the cutbacks, students might not get a chance to do art otherwise. Hundreds of children across the Harbor Area receive this opportunity because of the group's hard work, which includes deleting artists and their projects every year. They have the artists come to Peck Park to train about 200 docents--typically mothers, fathers and grand parents at the schools--who turn around and carry their lessons back into the classroom.

It's a magnificent program where kids often do hands-on art stylized around famous painters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Or learn the famous art work of Greek vases or, as I said earlier, the aborigines. I just knew how important this program was when my husband and I finally took our son Ryan 10, to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena--if you haven't been this is an art treat. At the time, he was around 8, and he was running around saying "Look, Mom, Dad, Look. There's a Van Gogh. look, there's Degas." I don't know about you, but when I was 8 I don't think I knew any artists, much less their names. so, I magnify that by the hundreds of other kids from kindergarten through eighth grade who are participating in this program, and realize just how far this art work stretches out across a sea of students...

I don't know about you, but when I was 8 I don't think I knew any artists, much less their names. so, I magnify that by the hundreds of other kids from kindergarten through eighth grade who are participating in this program, and realize just how far this art work stretches out across a sea of students...

Inspiring Harbor Area Creativity: Harbor Area program connects parents, kids through art

Daily Breeze, Sept 28, 1998

Excerpt: Art to Grow On is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that brings creative artistic projects to Harbor Area public and private schools. This is the 10th year of the program, which turns volunteer parent docents into art teachers who reach 8,000 students from 17 schools each year.

An executive board also composed of volunteers, recruits professional artists from all over California to demonstrate their projects at an exhibition held once every two years. From the hundreds of pieces displayed at this meeting, volunteers choose two different yearly themes and select four corresponding projects to go with each that will be taught to the children. This year's program, "Art from Many (Hands) Lands" will introduce children to different cultured and their traditional art forms.

Students will use various media to create projects from prehistoric, African, Asian and American Indian cultures... "The kids love it and we love it. It brings out the child in us," said Denise Gifford, a docent from St. Margaret Mary Elementary school in Lomita.

The parents get as much out of the art programs their children do. It gives them an opportunity to exercise their creativity, contribute time to the school, and get involved with their Childs education. "I Love coming in and doing the projects, it's so much fun," said Julieann Harmatz, a three year volunteer who managed to complete her project while cradling her 5-month old baby in her arms. " I wouldn't know half the people I know if I wasn't involved with things like this. But the best part is going into the classroom and seeing what kids can do." ...

" It's a very successful program", said Thelma Ortega, principal of Taper Avenue School in San Pedro, where the program has existed for 10 years. "It has a twofold benefit. The parents are enriched because they're coming in as instructors, and it builds pride and self-esteem in the child." At Pt. Fermin Elementary in San Pedro, not only is the program successful, but it essentially funds itself. The children's artwork is made into a calendar they sell in the community at Christmastime and proceeds from a the sales are used to buy art supplies. "The kids love the program. A lot of parents have trepidation about teaching the class, but there's no problem because the kids are always anxious to get going on the project"...

"I Love coming in and doing the projects, it's so much fun. I wouldn't know half the people I know if I wasn't involved with things like this. But the best part is going into the classroom and seeing what kids can do."

Art to Grow On

Youth Times, October 1993

Seeking to expand the creative thinking skills of San Pedro's elementary school children, Art to Grow On (ATGO) will focus it's 1993/1994 school art enrichment program on the theme "Playing With the Possibilities" announced ATGO chairperson Gayle Fleury today. "This year's program encourages the children to stretch their imaginations, to use their creative thinking skills to go beyond ordinary, obvious ways of doing artwork," says Fleury. "We want them to experience first hand the wide variety of creative approaches that exist within any given art project" Ina sense, she points out, the theme mirrors the current state of our society. "In the same way that our city an our nation need to address creative thinking skills to come up with new ideas and new ways of expression."

Art to Grow On is a non-profit art enrichment organization that serves the creative development needs of San Pedro's elementary school children. Now in it's 6th year, it uses artist-le workshops to teach it's parent and community volunteer "docents" how to present and teach various art projects to school children. The docents, in turn teach the art projects to school children in the classrooms. This year, ATGO will bring creative, artistic experiences to approximately 5,600 children, grades K through 6, in seven public and four private elementary schools in San Pedro, and increase of one school and 600 children from last year. Community adults who are interested in contributing their time and energy to enrich the artistic experiences of San Pedro's elementary school children are invited to contact the group.

Art To Grow On

News-Pilot, June 23, 1993

Report of the new chairperson Gayle Fleury.

Imagination Soars at SP Library

The News-Pilot, May 17, 1993

Exerpt: Airspace above the aisles and bookshelves of the San Pedro Library has been commandeered by a squadron of imaginary flying vehicles. The invaders, a collection of whimsical, three-dimensional contraptions fashioned of recycled materials comprise a children's art exhibit. Presented by Art to Grow On, an art enrichment program fro San Pedro's elementary school children, the exhibit is scheduled to remain through June 8. ... The Children's futuristic flying vehicles exhibit is the last of four ATGO exhibitions presented annually by the San Pedro Library.... ATGO is operated as a non-profit organization by San Pedro parents and community volunteers. During the school year, more than 110 volunteer docents trained by local artists bring artistic experiences to approximately 5.000 children in San Pedro.

Volunteers try to fill the gap in schools

Daily Breeze, July 11, 1993

Excerpt: Art to Grow On project docent Darlene Prunckle works with imaginative third-graders at Park Western Elementary School in San Pedro on "futuristic flying machines". ... "This is what art is all about," she says, gesturing at the roomful of students busy building fantasy flying machines from tubs full of used film containers, tongue depressors, pieces of doweling, fear plastic squares, hunks of metallic paper and discarded compact discs. "It's a way of allowing children to express the academic skills they learn - math, science, language - in a different way". "And that's important. They need to be able to express their knowledge imaginatively; it stimulates their brains". ... Fleury views her new ATGO assignment as a challenge -- and an opportunity. "Art to Grow On is an organization that has grown, in just five years, from a program with approximately 250 kids in four schools to a program that now serves approximately 5,000 kids in 11 schools. "We're still discovering our own uniqueness, but we are fortunate to have people working for the organization who are very committed -- people who believe they can make a significant difference, both individually and collectively."

"It's a way of allowing children to express the academic skills they learn - math, science, language - in a different way... And that's important. They need to be able to express their knowledge imaginatively; it stimulates their brains."

Art To Grow On

San Pedro Weekly, March 29-April 11, 1991

Thirty-eight works of art by students from five San Pedro elementary schools participants in the Art To Grow On program are now on display at the San Pedro Weekly...an opening reception for the students, their parents and teachers will be held at 7pm May 5 and the public is welcome to attend. ...Art to Grow On utilizes 50 docents who are trained by professional artists in a series of four workshops and they in turn present four art projects to the children in grades K-6... the San Pedro Library has made it's community room available for ATGO's workshops and meetings, and displays the student's artwork in four quarterly exhibits.

Parent docents receive art lessons

The News-Pilot, November 19, 1990

Scenes of ancient Egypt came to life this week in the San Pedro Branch Library Community Room, when artist Sabine Birkenfeld taught volunteer docents to make murals featuring hieroglyphics and other designs from the land of the Nile. The 49 docents are parents of local schoolchildren who will take the project into classrooms at Crestwood Street School, the Harbor Math/Science Magnet, St. Peter Episcopal School, South Shores Visual and Performing Arts Magnet and White Point Elementary, all in San Pedro. More than 2,000 students will be involved in the project, sponsored by Art To Grow On, a San Pedro art enrichment program. a team of artists will present several other lessons including projects based on the works of artists Henri matisse and Georgia O'Keeffe. The library will stage four exhibits of children's art created in the program. The first show scheduled it start jan. 5, will feature unglazed ceramic tiles.

Schools Join Art Program

The News Pilot, September 28, 1990

Five San Pedro schools will participate the year in Art to Grow On, a program that sponsors art enrichment projects in the classroom. About 2,500 students from Crestwood Street School the Harbor/math Science magnet, St. Peter Episcopal School, South Shores magnet and White Point Elementary will work theta the "Growing in Creativity" theme. Professional artists will help children create a variety of projects, including Egyptian mini-murals, self portraits in the style of Henri Matisse, prints and Georgia O'Keef-inspired watercolors. ATGO is a pilot program based on and nurtured by Art At Your Fingertips, a well-established volunteer art enrichment program centered on the Palos Verdes Penninsula. After establishing it's own organization during this school year, the ATGO will expand to other interested schools in San Pedro, Carson and Harbor City. Volunteers, materials and financial support are needed. (picture tag: Instead of passing the torch, outgoing Art at your Fingertips Chairperson Glenda Kent passes the phone to 90-91 chairman Judy Bates during a volunteers' luncheon on May 18 at the Palos Verdes Art Center. Bales will need her own phone line to manage the growing art education program which sends volunteers to teach art at local public and private elementary schools.)

Children in SP art program slate show at center Saturday

The News Pilot, Friday may 18, 1990

Exerpt: The show is sponsored by Art at your Fingertips, a volunteer group launched in 1975 when Proposition 13 eliminated all part-time art specialists in elementary schools. Centered on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the program encompasses 12 public and private schools and reaches about 5,000 children. Each year, 180 volunteer docents are trained by professional artists to lead four art projects in elementary schools for children in kindergarten through sixth grade. In 1988, the four schools that will particulate int eh show were invited to participate int eh "Art to Grow On" pilot program. After a two-year apprenticeship with the Palos Verdes Art Center, the program will operate independently.

Art Enrichment in San Pedro Schools

Random Lengths News, May 10-May 23, 1990 pg. 3

In 1975 when Proposition 13 eliminated all part-time art specialists in elementary schools, a group of volunteers launched an art enrichment program that grew beyond the most optimistic dreams of it's founders. Centered on the Palo Verdes Peninsula, Art At Your Fingertips today encompasses 12 public and private schools and reaches about 5,000 school children. In 1988 four schools in San Pedro (Crestwood, St. ever Episcopal, South Shores and White Point) were invited to participate in a pilot program. The name "Art to Grow On" was chosen for the San Pedro program and a logo was created. "Art To Grow On" affiliated with non-profit Angel's Gate Cultural Center. The first annual show of children's art for the program will open May 19th at the Gallery of Angel's Gate Cultural Center. This year's theme, "The World of Imagination" Includes a mixed-media project, a ceramic project and "Picasso Masks" drawn with crayons on paper.

Art Opening

Random Lengths News, May 10-May 23, 1990

The San Pedro elementary school's Art at Your Fingertips pilot art enrichment program will stage it's first annual art show at Angel's Gate Cultural Center, Art work by children from four public schools in San Pedro will be on display. Opening reception for the public is Saturday may 19th from 11am to 4pm. Marc Alan a mime, juggler and fire eater will perform at 2pm. The gallery above the Korean Bll at 3601 S. Gaffey St. is open Wednesday-Sunday. Call... for information.