Over the past three years, a flourishing art community has sprouted at Operation Youth’s No Name Café. Called “The No Name Art Society,” the group of approximately 30 young artists gathers after school each Wednesday to produce original works of art while fostering a safe, inclusive community environment that welcomes their peers.
Under the tutelage of talented local artist and volunteer Annie Falandes, student artists experiment with a variety of mediums and learn the steps to professionally exhibiting their work. Falandes has volunteered with the program for the past three years and says for her, it’s the perfect fit. “I don’t have to set up a classroom or do lesson plans. I just get to work with and help the students and dust off my old skills for macramé and the like. It’s really fun. I show them what I know and they run with it. Many times, I learn as much from them as they do from me,” said Falandes.
It helps that the art facility is top-notch with supplies at the ready for doing a wide variety of projects. From candle-making to graffiti art, stenciling to sculpture and other fine arts, the possibilities are limitless.
Senior Jason Davis has been involved in the art society for all four years of high school. He says that the program has allowed him to grow as an artist and, as a person as a whole. “I was originally only interested in stencils but my artistic abilities have really developed here as I have been able to try out many different mediums like charcoal, spray paints, oils, bronze casting, jewelry-making, collage and so much more. It seems that every person in the program has something new to offer the other students and I feel it is because the program itself continues to evolve,” said Davis.
“Art Wednesday has also affected my academic life both directly and indirectly. Directly speaking, the incredible array of supplies has provided me with all the materials I have ever needed for any school project. I have spent countless hours in the No Name Cafe creating posters or making PowerPoints for various classes. Indirectly speaking, Art Wednesday has raised my overall interest in school. Through the program, I learned that I had an artistic side. Finding that out about myself gave me more confidence and creativity that I quickly put to use for my academics, especially in the liberal-arts based subjects.”
This can only be music to Falandes’ ears. She says that the community has helped the program evolve and that the ever-growing variety of art supplies is due, in large part, to the large number of donations the society receives. John Brians at The Frame Factory is a big contributor, donating frames, mat board and advice. Fine Line’s Zack McCormick gives discounts on supplies and also makes donations. Artists at Shirley Roberts’ studio donate brushes, cardboard for stenciling and canvases to be recycled.
Cristin Lawrence oversees the No Name Café art program and says another significant donation was made by Clutter Bug, a Sonoma based business owned by Corey and Angela Sharp-Sabatino. “Clutter Bug donated 16 hours to sort, de-clutter and organize the art studio space and they did it all in an eco-friendly way,” said Lawrence. “By reusing, repurposing and recycling, Clutter Bug transformed the studio chaos into a functional and user-friendly space where students can now easily locate and put away supplies. It’s really helped us out.”
The organized and accessible supplies make it easier for students to create art for their art exhibits. The artists put on two three-day shows each year, producing the art, promoting the show, and setting up and running the gallery. During the last show in November, the artists’ efforts were well rewarded, bringing in close to $600 in total sales. From the sale proceeds, student artists take home 60 percent, donating the remaining 40 percent back to the program.
“This program has given so many students at the high school a sense of community. The ones who don’t play sports or have another outlet can get involved here. It gives them a sense of belonging,” said Falandes.