Creativity Rules at Summer Arts Academy

Creativity Rules at Summer Arts Academy
Artist Jillian Nye shows students how to draw a portrait during the Summer Arts Academy at the Downtown Center in Pomona.
Jessica Rodriguez, 12, left, rolls paint in printmaking class.
Improvisational acting teaches kids to think on their feet.

There are few places where you can get your hands dirty, draw or paint for most of the day, or act like a fairy, karate kid or frightened Indiana Jones.

But that's exactly what goes on at the Summer Arts Academy at the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center, where nearly 60 youths are learning to express themselves through art, creative writing, music and theater.

The four-week academy, which started July 7, is all about igniting those creative fires in kids ages 7 to 16 — anything that's free thinking, aesthetically pleasing, out of the box, artistic and spontaneous. Arts education can also improve students' communication skills, interpersonal relationships and creative thinking.

For instance, students in the improvisational acting class are given a scene, and in a matter of minutes, six actors come together to recreate the Battle of the Bulge. Instead of Germans fighting the Allied forces, though, the young thespians' battle include a fairy, karate kid, devil, boxer and cowardly Indiana Jones.

On Aug. 1, the summer program culminates with the fifth annual Showcase of Student Learning and Talent, where students will discuss their visual works and give performances from the movement, theatre and choral music classes. The show and reception begins at 5 p.m. Student art work will be on display at the Downtown Center gallery throughout the month of August.

No matter their background, all students can find commonality through art, says Jonnie Owens, director of community outreach in the College of Letters, Arts, & Social Sciences. It's that kind of thinking, along with the “Respect each other” rule, that guides the academy and brings the best out of everyone.

“Art is the great communication platform. It's what connects people,” Owens says. Shy and insecure students learn to open up and try something new; the experienced ones help the novices; and each person learns from another.

Part of what makes the arts academy so successful is the enthusiasm and energy of students and teachers.

“I love it,” says 12-year-old Jessica Rodriguez of the printmaking class. “You can always create different things. You can be free with it.”

Recent Cal Poly Pomona graduate Alyssa Mancao, who works as an academy assistant, says it's inspiring to find so many kids who are willing to learn.

“They're motivated kids. They're really great,” says Mancao, who graduated in June with a bachelor's degree in sociology. “They have excellent dynamics, and they respect each other and adults.”

In addition to acting and printmaking, students also paint water colors, draw portraits, tell stories through comic books, drum, sing, create masks, paint murals and dance.

The Summer Arts Academy showcase will be on Friday, Aug. 1 at 5 p.m. at the Cal Poly Pomona Downtown Center, 300 W. 2nd Street in Pomona. For more information about the show, visit To learn more about the Downtown Center, visit