Angel Island Insight #7: Heather Knight

ANGEL ISLAND IN SIGHT 2021 is a visual storytelling project focused on Angel Island — a collective portrait of Angel Island drawn from a multitude of views — near and far, past and present. Del Sol Performing Arts Organization’s ANGEL ISLAND INSIGHT explores the history of the Angel Island Immigration Station by offering a suite of virtual and in-person programs that examines the musicality of the disappearing Hoisan-wa dialect by The Last Hoisan Poets and The Del Sol Quartet. public engagement with Del Sol Quartet & Huang Ruo’s Angel Island – Oratorio for Voices and Strings.

What a beautiful day in the bay. Took the ferry to Angel Island and hiked to the top. Back to work Monday. Sounds like there’s plenty to write about. 😉 #TotalSF

HEATHER KNIGHT 5:41 PM · Apr 2, 2021·Twitter for iPhone

Heather Knight is a columnist working out of City Hall and covering everything from politics to homelessness to family flight and the quirks of living in one of the most fascinating cities in the world. She believes in holding politicians accountable for their decisions or, often, lack thereof – and telling the stories of real people and their struggles.

She co-hosts the Chronicle’s TotalSF podcast and co-founded its #TotalSF program to celebrate the wonder and whimsy of San Francisco.

Two decades ago, Heather visited Angel Island and following a group of students visiting the Immigration Barracks on a field trip.

“About 47,000 Bay Area students — ranging from fourth grade to college — take the Angel Island tour every year, said Ellen Loring, volunteer coordinator for the Angel Island Association. Weekday field trips are booked solid through June.

Cap Wilhelm-Safian, who teaches English and history at River Glen, a Spanish immersion school for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, said he’s taken students to Angel Island for six years.

“I find with students that to actually experience something and be in the place, it brings it home,” he said. “It’s important for them to understand that everybody in this country is an immigrant. It expands their sense of community beyond the school.”

Kids Learn Angel Island Not Always Heavenly by Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer, Jan. 26, 2001.

Today, in 2021, ferry service from San Francisco to Angel Island is in question. Facing declining ridership, increased operating costs and plummeting revenues even before the pandemic, Blue & Gold Fleet submitted a request to the California Public Utilities Commission to discontinue passenger trips from The City to both Angel Island and Tiburon. “We just strongly believe there has to be direct service from San Francisco to Angel Island. “Not having that is similar to not having direct service from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty,” says Ed Tepporn, Executive Director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

The CPUC values your input. Submit your public comment HERE.

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Visit

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this website do not necessarily represent those of California Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

ANGEL ISLAND: IN SIGHT 2021 at the Angel Island Immigration Station is made possible with support from North East Medical Services (NEMS).

One Day in San Francisco – Your Day, Your City, Your Future

In 2020, as San Franciscans wear face masks and shelter in place to keep each other safe during the coronavirus pandemic, schools and families are supporting students through long distance learning. The video footage for ONE DAY IN SF, submitted six years ago by the ArtsEd4All community, to represent a day in the life of San Franciscans in 2014 has become a poignant reminder that perhaps we should revisit these ten questions once again.

The success of ONE DAY ON EARTH led to the “Your Day. Your City. Your Future.” initiative that focused on harnessing the power of a 24 hour filming event locally. Four years later, on April 26th, 2014, hundreds of filmmakers, non-profit organizations, and inspired citizens were invited to join ONE DAY IN SF to document stories that most affect the future of San Francisco as part of a city-wide, participatory media-creation event. The resulting media was showcase in an interactive, geo-tagged archive.

Participants were invited to explore ten questions for the future of your city.

One Day in San Francisco – April 26, 2014

Your Day. Your City. Your Future. launched with 11 US cities on April 26, 2014, leveraging the power of hyper-local storytelling and the medium of film to capture and archive authentic, compelling narratives in urban areas. Students and their families were invited to participate by recording and sharing video of their one day for the project.

The students in Ms. Contreras’ sixth grade class at Rooftop share their plans for Saturday, April 26, 2014. Written and Illustrated responses by Ms. Contreras’ sixth graders at Rooftop Alternative K-8 School.

Turning the pages of history to set context for the passage of time on April 26, 2014. School days as depicted in the Twin Peaks School publicity books of the 20’s & 30’s, and the student-created yearbooks for Rooftop School in the 70’s & 80’s.

A morning drive down Ellis Street, en route to the luggage store annex at 509 Ellis Street. In the gallery window, artist Dustin Fontenot’s tiny washing machine is spinning. Chatting with Jackie, a resident of Ellis Street, as she sweeps the sidewalk clean in front of the Luggage Store Annex.

Capturing a quiet morning in the Tenderloin National Forest, an on-going project of luggage store gallery. One of the very few open spaces in a high density neighborhood of over 40,000 culturally and ethnically diverse residents, Tenderloin National Forest is surrounded by multi-story residential buildings and hotels that house formerly homeless, immigrant individuals and families, as well as seniors, artists, active drug users, dealers and others. The Tenderloin Children’s Playground is situated directly across the street.

5th Grader Stella conducts a weekend experiment on the corner of Post and Lyon streets. She uses her Flip cam to document what happens at the corner. Look. Listen. STOP.

The Smiths say that the best part of Saturday is soccer. The girls take to the South Sunset Playground soccer field, where they give a cheer for their team, the Rooftop Wranglers.

The Vazquez family and friends throw a block party on April 26, 2014. The neighborhood children come out to enjoy face painting, music, and an egg toss on a bright, breezy day on Madrid Street.

Fifth Grader Nathan takes a trip to Fort Funston.

On Saturday, April 26th, the San Francisco Giants hosted the Cleveland Indians at AT&T Park to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of 1954 World Series championship, a four game sweep over the favored Indians by the New York Giants. The Series is perhaps best-remembered for “The Catch”, a sensational running catch made by Giants center fielder Willie Mays in Game 1. The first 30,000 to enter the park struck gold, receiving a replica of the 1954 World Series ring. To mark the occasion, the “Say Hey Kid,” escorted 3-year old Cody Harrington of Oakland to the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Harrington waved at the cameras as Sergio Romo signed his ball. The ballpark was filled with a new generation of “Say Hey” kids slamming home runs, rounding the bases, and rooting for the home team.

“I believe the day will come when all God’s children, from bass black to treble white, will be significant on the Constitution’s keyboard.” Words etched in stone beside the cascading waters of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens.

There is a prompt that is sometimes used to help students to refocus when there is too much chatter in a classroom. The teacher will get the class attention by saying the words “Peace and…,” letting the sounds of the words hang in the air a bit. In unison, the students will complete the phrase. “Quiet.” Sometimes this needs to happen a few times before the classroom gets quieted back down.

The piano comes up from the depths, in preparation San Francisco Symphony’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pathéthique at Davies Symphony Hall on April 26, 2014. The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s final completed symphony. The composer led the first performance in Saint Petersburg on October 2, 1893, nine days before his death.

7:00pm – 10:00pm – Blade, the Rooftop Rock Band, takes the stage to sing “Alien Nation” at The Battle of the Bands at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on April 26, 2014. Blade features Kiran on lead vocals, Jared on lead guitar, Andy on electric guitar, Ben on electric bass, and Liam on drums. The band is supported by Rooftop parent / Blue Bear School of Music instructor Mike Rao.

“The Last Hoisan Poets” Lunar New Year 2020 at the Oakland Museum

February 21st is International Mother Language Day, which was established to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations states, “At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.”

National Geographic Explorer anthropologist Wade Davis coined the term ethnosphere to describe the sum total of all thoughts and dreams, myths, intuitions and inspirations brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. In his 2003 TED Talk, Wade points out the staggering loss of half of the languages on Earth, “What could be more lonely than to be enveloped in silence, to be the last of your people to speak your language, to have no way to pass on the wisdom of the ancestors or anticipate the promise of the children?”

Thanks to special readings by “The Last Hoisan Poets” – contemporary Chinese American poets Flo Oy Wong, Nellie Wong and Genny Lim – audiences have the opportunity to hear the sounds of the disappearing dialect that was spoken by many of the Chinese immigrants who first came to America. In the first part of the twentieth century, most of the Chinese immigrants came to America from the Pearl River Delta in China’s Guangdong region. The three poets trace their roots to China’s Toishan village, home of the Hoisan-wa (a.k.a. Toisanese/Taishanese) Chinese dialect.

For the 2020 Lunar New Year Celebration at the Oakland Museum, Flo and Nellie conducted a special poetry reading in English and Hoisan-wa to pay homage to their mother language.

Nellie read three poems: Ngoi Leng Gah Thlim, My Two Hearts (1981) (04:04); Poem for My Grandniece, Eva (2019) (12:46); Ode to Rice Crust Soup (2012) (15:39)

Flo opened with a New Year poem: Slin Nin Loy Luh, New Year Comes (2020) (19:26); followed by a poem about the family’s restaurant in Oakland Chinatown, Ai Joong Wah, Great China (2018) (20:12).

With “Song Siew, Two Hands,” (2020) (21:29), a newly written poem dedicated to her father, Gee Seow Hong, Flo invited the audience to follow her lead, as she taught the poem through gesture and call and response. To close the program, Flo and Nellie playfully demonstrated – Ah Jeong Doy, Clap Your Hands (29:11). El Gee Ngneck, Throw the Pig’s Neck (30:30), two traditional nursery rhymes that the sisters learned in childhood, growing up in Oakland Chinatown.

Watch the full Lunar New Year 2020 program by The Last Hoisan Poets:

San Francisco Opera’s Dream of the Red Chamber


San Francisco Opera’s Dream of the Red Chamber is a story of cosmic creation, of marriage choice, and of family decline, both financial and moral. It is a meditation on the nature of reality and illusion, of the interconnectedness of the dream state and the waking world. Thus the Monk begins the opera with the greeting, “Welcome to my dream.” 

More at:

The Flower becomes Dai Yu, a brilliant, but sickly young woman 

The Stone become Bao Yu, Lady Wang’s spoiled son, the sole heir of the Jia Clan. 

Dao Chai – The beauty from the wealthy Xue Clan

At a discussion hosted by the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco, Dream of the Red Chamber production designer Tim Yip shared how his designs were created in response to Bright Sheng’s poetic music. Also inspired by novelist Cao Xueqin’s talent as a kite master and author of books on kite artistry, Yip’s costumes are inspired by kites, people moving through space as broad fields of expressive color.

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“I do not use detailed designs on the fabric itself, as in real silk brocade,” Instead, my costume designs are more abstract, allowing you to sense the body within—or perhaps the aura of character’s spirit.” Characters are distinguished by different colors. For Dai Yu, green reflects her living quarters in the garden, surrounded by bamboo. The embossed gold patterns on Bao Chai’s robe remind you that she comes from a rich family.” 


Dreamweavers: An all-star creative team transports an epic Chinese novel to the operatic stage. Writer Ken Smith interviews composer Bright Sheng, co-librettist David Henry Hwang, and director Stan Lai.

Chinese versus European opera 

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Along with the European operatic tradition, the opera Dream of the Red Chamber is also inspired by other traditional theatrical versions of the story, such as those of Peking (or Beijing) opera, Kunqu, or Shaoxing opera, particularly in terms of choreography, costumes, and set design. 

How do these Chinese operatic genres compare with European opera? There is no easy answer, but production designer Tim Yip makes one important distinction, especially regarding sets. “Symbolism is a big part of Chinese traditional aesthetics. all you need are a few shapes and the audience can fill the rest of the scenery with their imagination,” says Yip. “Traditional Chinese opera contains formulas and guidelines in expressing emotions and actions; Western opera is based on creating quicker paced dramatic arcs. [For this production of Dream of the Red Chamber], rhythm is conveyed in the set and costumes, enhancing specific plot developments as emotions flare and then subside.”


San Francisco Opera recently announced that Sheng & Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber will tour to the People’s Republic of China in September 2017, traveling to  three Chinese cities in six performances.

Delving Deeper into “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Stephen Roddy:

Sunday Streets in the Tenderloin: “Tender Land” with ArtsEd4All

2015 Mama Tender in the TNF

2016 Sunday Streets in the Tenderloin: 

TENDER LAND” with ArtsEd4All

Sunday, July 10, 2016, Noon – 4pm

at the Luggage Store Annex / Tenderloin National Forest

509 Ellis Street (between Hyde & Leavenworth)


Luggage Store Co-Artistic Directors/Artists Darryl Smith and Laurie Lazer of the luggage store have been working to transform Cohen Alley since 1989 from a place emblazed in a health-hazardous cesspool of bodily fluids and other dumped items, non-supervised open-air chemical experiments and illicit – criminal activities — to a vibrant community commons where people of all ages can gather for public art, performance, experimental art projects. and classes and activities. In May of 2009, the land that was then called Cohen Alley was reclaimed as “The Tenderloin National Forest.”


“Ode to Mama Tender” — “In 1989, Darryl Smith planted a redwood tree in the shady asphalt. Help us to write a poem as lovely as Mama Tender, the redwood that is the “heartwood” of the Tenderloin National Forest.


“A Tree Grows in Cohen Alley” – Visitors to the Tenderloin National Forest will enjoy a wide range of trees and plant life. Citizen scientists can help to document the biodiversity in the Tenderloin National Forest with iNaturalist. Share your photographs of the nature that you discover in the TNF via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. #TNFTenderland


“Wood U Like 2 Play” — Let’s make beautiful music together! Enjoy a wood song sing-a-long.


“Common Scents” – The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Take a deep breath and enjoy the smell of redwood. Make a scent diffuser to bring home.


For more information about Sunday Streets:
Sunday Streets 7.10.16

Susty Kids & Blake Mini Library Valentine’s Day 2016 Book Drive

lead_large“When you listen to the community, learn from the community, and help the community, you connect to your best self.”

December 2013, at the age of six, Blake Ansari decided to help end poverty by donating a Blake Mini Library to homeless shelters and food banks. Blake Mini Library supports the reading, writing and science literacy of children ages birth to 21 living in homes for runaways, homeless shelters and foster care. On Valentine’s Day 2015, Blake Mini Library donated 6,000 books to Women in Need, Inc., Brooklyn, New York.  This 2016 Valentine’s Day recipients of Blake Mini Library are Hamilton Family Center, San Francisco and Riverside Church Food Pantry, New York City.

This year, Susty Kids, Inc. joins Blake Mini Library to help improve the literacy of homeless children in San Francisco.

10491224_654761778002367_2452349480978761792_nOur Coast-to-Coast Blake Mini Library book drive officially begins on Monday, January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

Please join us by donating new and recently new books (no cloth books) to children from birth to age 21. Give children who are homeless a Blake Mini Library.

For additional information contact: or 646-285-1068

Like and Share Susty Kids, Inc. and Blake Mini Library book drive successes on Facebook.

#blakeminilibrary #‎youthphilanthropy‬ #‎literacy‬

#nomorehomelesschildren #‎youwillgotocollege

Click for a downloadable Blake Mini Library Flier

Additional Information & Resources:

The rising cost of living and stagnant wages of New York City has resulted in The City having the highest number of children in America living in homeless shelters. Forty percent of shelter residents are children.  

In San Francisco, the technology boom has displaced working-families for high income young professionals.  San Francisco has the second highest rate of homeless children in the nation.  Thirty percent of San Francisco’s homeless are children.

  • Opening Doors, updated and amended in 2015, is the nation’s first comprehensive Federal strategy to prevent and end homelessness. Goals include preventing and ending homelessness for families with children and youth in 2020.

  • Coalition for the Homeless State of the Homeless 2015 – New York City

  • 2015 San Francisco Homeless Count Report


Follow the Water

“When I was orbiting Earth in the space shuttle, I could float over to a window and gaze down at the delicate white clouds, brilliant orange deserts, and sparkling blue water of the planet below. I could see the coral reefs in the oceans, fertile farmlands in the valleys, and twinkling city lights beneath the clouds. Even from space, it is obvious that Earth is a living planet.” — Dr. Sally Ride

Sally Ride EarthKAM is a NASA educational outreach program that enables students, teachers, and the public to learn about Earth from the unique perspective of space.  The project was initiated by Dr. Sally Ride, America’s first woman in space. The EarthKAM camera was first operated on the International Space Station (ISS) on Expedition 1 in 2001. Sally Ride died in 2012, and in 2013, NASA renamed the program Sally Ride EarthKAM. The Sally Ride EarthKAM camera remains a permanent payload on the ISS, supporting about four missions annually. EarthKAM’s Mission 50 took place between November 10-13, and students around the world were able to request images of specific locations on Earth.

NASA has a familiar adage: Follow The Water, for where there is water, there is life. For Mission 50, Rooftop School’s fourth graders made a list of the places where they would like to see water.

I want to see water in...

As Sally Ride noted, “The view of Earth is spectacular.”

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From November 30 to December 11, 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will brings the world together with hopes of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

The Association of Space Explorers reached out to their fellow astronauts to pass on a simple message of solidarity, hope and collaboration to combat climate change and reach our political leaders during such a crucial time.

A Feast with Bread and Puppet

For the first time in fourteen years, artist Peter Schumann and Bread and Puppet Theater tour the West Coast with a series of performances, workshops, lectures, exhibits and parades. Enjoy a feast of Bread and Puppet events in the Bay Area from October 7th – October 13th.

Visit the Internet Archive for additional events and information.

Dolores Parade
“We are All in the Same Boat” by Peter Schumann. 2015.

Jingles & GiantsPop-Up Exhibition featuring Bread & Puppet Press books of all shapes and sizes, from the diminutive many-volume Jingle Book series, to the one-of-a- kind handmade Giant Books, drawn in charcoal on large-format pages with sewn cardboard covers. Free to the Public.

postcard_4x6_frontFIRE at the Internet Archive

Friday, Oct 9, 7pm. 300 Funston Ave, San Francisco. Friday, Oct 9, 7pm. (Pre-show reception begins at 6 pm)

6:00 p.m. – Pre-show Reception and sale of the company’s “Cheap art” 7:00 p.m. – Performance proceeded by a Fiddle Talk by Peter Schumann and followed by a Bread Reception. Celebrate the dedication of the Bread & Puppet Archive with Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle and filmmaker Dee Dee Halleck.

Tickets $20 or donation.

No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.                                            

Please Note: This show may not be appropriate for young children.

Fire was originally created in 1965 and later dedicated to three Americans who immolated themselves in protest against the war in Vietnam. Fire is a glimpse into seven days in a Vietnamese community which is incinerated by firebombs, followed by a scene referencing the protest self-immolations. Fire is performed with life-sized puppets which resemble their manipulators.

George Dennison, author, educator, and longtime observer of Bread & Puppet, said: “To some extent (Fire) is a service to the dead. Beyond this it manifests certain of the deep premises of the human condition, the inequitableness of life, our dependencies on each other, the social nature of the self.”

Additional Bay Area Performances:

FIRE at Omni Commons, 4799 Shattuck Ave, Oakland. Tues., October 6th, 7pm.

FIRE at Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave, Hwy 12, Sebastopol. Weds., October 7th, 7pm.

©2012. Mark Dannenhauer. No commercial use without license. 16 Wilson Road, Shutesbury, MA 01072 413-259-1096.
©2012. Mark Dannenhauer

We Are All in The Same Boat: A Parade at Dolores Park

Saturday, October 10, 2pm; Parade participants are welcome — wear white and meet at 1 pm, look for the big banners and boat!

Bread and Puppet will lead the We are All in the Same Boat parade with volunteers, musicians and community members, asking a provocative question for the Bay Area in 2015: “What if we could all swim together?”

Your artistic contributions are welcomed. In the words of Bread and Puppet founder Peter Schumann, “The more the merrier.” Signs, banners, musical instruments created from ordinary objects that can be used in the parade, and, of course, puppets! When creating art, use Nature as your inspiration. Think of the millions of creatures that live in the ocean or fly above the ocean.

Dolores Park small

Play with Bread & PuppetBread & Puppet Cantastoria performances in the Tenderloin National Forest with bread and aioli; stew made “Fresh from the Oven” by Amara Tabor Smith; sewing with The Mending Library. In the Luggage Store Annex Gallery: Bread and Puppet’s “Cheap Art” Sale and art activities for children with ArtsEd4All. Free and open to all.

Why Cheap Art


Full Circle Teaching with Artist Flo Oy Wong

We are pleased to share another intergenerational art experience from visual artist FLO OY WONG, who previously shared a drawing and poetry experience looking at trees with her granddaughter’s classroom. This time, Flo leads a contour drawing lesson in her grandson’s second grade classroom. The lesson travels full circle, as her daughter-in-law and grandson slow down and take the time to see more with ‘Nai Nai.’


On May 21st, I had the privilege of teaching an art lesson in my 8 year old grandson’s second grade class taught by Margaret Haney. Having given art lessons in my granddaughter’s classes in Hastings on Hudson in New York I wanted to do the same for my grandson. Following my initial contact with Miss Haney we decided I would teach a blind contour dominant/non-dominant hand lesson with pencil and paper. I like teaching classes where clean up is minimum for both the homeroom teacher and myself.

My husband and I arrived at Newport Heights Elementary School in Bellevue, WA in plenty of time for the morning lesson. We checked in at the office and waited for our grandson to escort us to his classroom. I was excited to see his school environment. Walking into Miss Haney’s class I found a stimulating atmosphere. The children knew I was coming.


Settling in, I introduced myself as my grandson’s ‘Nai Nai,’ my husband as ‘Yeh Yeh.’ I told the eager children they could call me Mrs. Flo. Or maybe it was Mrs. Wong. I wrote my Chinese name, telling the classroom my maiden Chinese name means red. I showed them my hearing aids, saying I am hearing impaired. They laughed when I explained that I talk fast and that they could stop me by collectively saying, “Whoa, Mrs. Flo.” Of course, they had to practice. Their hands shot up, pushing their palms and fingers towards me while saying, “Whoa, Mrs. Flo.” They laughed heartily, the first of many times of mirth while learning art vocabulary and practices. Miss Haney and I comfortably exchanged teaching ideas after the introduction. She suggested we switch to markers after I mentioned that I don’t allow erasing in my teaching.


After telling the attentive children my job as an artist was to teach them to “see” I wrote the following words on the board: contour, blind contour, dominant, non-dominant. It is a special pleasure of mine to introduce and to expand the vocabulary of young students. I asked them to raise the hand they use almost all of the time, explaining that hand is their dominant hand. They caught on immediately. They didn’t need an explanation of non-dominant although I reinforced their knowledge by saying “non-dominant.” I showed them how to draw as if the tip of their markers were actually touching the outline of their subjects.

At the board I demonstrated a blind contour drawing with students sitting in front of me on the floor.  I showed them how to draw as if the tip of their markers were actually touching the outline of their subjects. “Don’t let me peek at the board.” The young girl whom I drew suddenly realized she was my model and sat at attention. When I finished the few lines the children smiled, hopefully in appreciation of what I had done without looking at the board.

Back at their desks I gave them short assignments, asking them to draw someone who sat near them starting with a blind contour dominant hand task.

“Don’t look at the paper,” I reminded them.

Their eyes, glued to their models, guided their markers.

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Excitement built up as their lines wiggled and danced on the paper.

“Slow down,” I said when I saw their markers racing.

Miss Haney noticed some students were lifting their markers off the paper. She advised them not to lift their markers. They cooperated. Then she sat down to draw along with her pupils. Her drawing – beautiful.

All the results were highly satisfying. Giggles of joy filled the classroom.

Giving several short assignments meant they had to return to the front of the room for more listening. Some were deeply engaged and wanted to stay with their drawings.

The time flew.

In the meantime my husband had been taking photos. The children lined up to show me their drawings. When I looked at them with much appreciation I sent some to have their photos taken.

They returned one last time to sit at the front after completing several drawings. Several shared what they had learned. Some gave me one of their art work. Exhilarated and fatigued I left Miss Haney’s classroom sated with their energy even after visiting the upstairs classroom of the regular art teacher at Newport Heights Elementary School.

Following my art lesson in my grandson’s second grade classroom our family went to Orcas Island for the Memorial Day weekend.  Early in our stay I heard my grandson talking to his mother. I went into the living room to see my daughter-in-law drawing without looking at the paper. He told her how much fun the art lesson was and he encouraged her to try it.

“It’s fun,” he said.  “Easy.” So she posed for him.

I came out to join them after my grandson finished his blind contour drawing of his mother.  She and I continued drawing, taking turns to sketch and to pose for one another, always careful not to look at the paper.  She was surprised by what she captured.  In elementary school in China she had art lessons and had not drawn since.

By not looking at the paper she concentrated on me, carefully seeing me sitting on the couch wrapped under a throw.  In her many years as a family member she had seen me many times before.  She thought she knew what I looked like.  Being present in her observation during our art time together she was surprised by the clarity of her “seeing.”  She could see that the exercise of contour drawing put everyone in an equal position, lessening the gap between ordinary people and professional artists, adult and child.  Her son had passed it forward.  Perhaps one day she will pass it forward to someone else by telling them not to look the paper as they draw.

Two weeks later I received an email from my grandson’s mother. She forwarded me an email from Miss Haney. Miss Haney wrote “… I extended the learning to the afternoon students. The students in both classes had fun drawing each other, without taking their eyes off the subjects. I’ve included a sample on the back of this page…”

I don’t know which is sweeter – to see the second graders engaged in the process of artistic discovery with amazing results or to know that my grandson and his teacher continued the teaching.

Passing it forward as an artist and a teacher is highly rewarding.

Our gratitude to Flo Oy Wong and family and teacher Margaret Haney and her second grade students at Newport Heights Elementary School in Bellevue, WA for sharing their expressive art work and their thoughtful reflections about the experience of making art together. Photography by Edward Wong.