In December, we at KWF called our supporters to action with a question: When did you first feel inspired? What would you do to ensure that young students were afforded that same opportunity for inspiration?
The enthusiastic response, along with support from two key San Diego partners fueled a highly successful launch for the KWF Educational Program, bringing art education to some of the most at-risk and disadvantaged children in the local area.
KWF joined forces with Monarch School, a K-12 comprehensive campus that's educated San Diego's homeless youth for nearly three decades, and Little Fish Comic Book Studio, which specializes in traditional and comic book art education.
The result: A comic book art and graphic novel workshop integrated with Monarch's existing high school curriculum. The workshop course is fully funded by KWF supporters for Monarch's second 2016 trimester as a pilot program, with an option for Monarch to renew it indefinitely. As we attended the first class and watched the engagement and interest build with each student, we were humbled, we were excited, but most importantly: We were inspired.
Mark's class was a great place to start. We visited for one of our final planning sessions and geeked out over everything ranging from a student walking in carrying a 3-D printed model of a Tokamak fusion reactor to a boxy old-school Macintosh SE sitting on a shelf of honor over Mark's desk. We agreed with Mark that the uniquely challenging home, economic, and emotional situations of Monarch's students necessitated an innovative approach to teaching. With that in mind, we're excited to work with him in an ongoing process to tailor the KWF Educational Program and best support whatever his students may need, from digital approaches to flipped courses, to graphical narratives as tools to empower students, to improving literacy through comic book curricula. KWF's mission, vision, passion and expertise are especially focused on novel learning approaches that fuse creative art and innovative technology, so we look forward to working with Mark and Monarch to further refine the art program in future months. (Plus we're curious to come back after class and see if that Macintosh SE can still boot up and play Beyond Dark Castle).
We were most excited of all to see Alonso Nunez, owner and lead instructor at Little Fish Comic Book Studio, teach a class of kids on the fundamentals of comic book art. We were riveted as soon as he walked in with an armful of comics and full-size layout boards, and so were they. The introductory workshop touched on everything from layout, inking, and lettering to hands-on sketching. We came away saying, somewhat abashedly, "Dude, I want to take Alonso's class..."
Alonso and Little Fish were a great match for Monarch's students, providing access to a level and depth of instruction that's a tremendous resource for the San Diego community. With instructional offerings covering the creative, technical, project management, and career-building aspects of the comics industry, Alonso and Little Fish bring superb art instruction to Monarch students as a creative outlet, a vocational skill, or both.
We at KWF are extremely excited to bring these opportunities to Monarch's students. We lament the unfortunate fact that not all children are afforded an opportunity to experience art, either as a creator or in appreciation of the mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits it provides. Monarch's students are among the most likely to go without access to this inspiration, and so we will begin our journey there. To our friends, supporters, and partners, we say thanks, and also: Buckle up. Stay in touch. We're just getting started.
(Author's note: I met a young student named Inocente several years ago at Monarch while volunteering there. I spoke with her for perhaps 2 minutes. It became instantly clear to me that she was a vibrant, creative, insightful individual. I hoped she would realize her dreams of becoming an artist. She did. Her singularly compelling story-- one defined not by her bleak childhood but by her rich creativity-- would later become an Academy Award-winning documentary.)