Art is in Peralta’s heart.

Our community values art not as an add-on, but as tool for teaching children about themselves and their world. A network of public and private donors make our program possible. The California Arts Council, along with a City of Oakland Cultural Arts grant, funds two artists-in-residence: Ellen Oppenheimer and Trena Noval. They lead students in weekly art instruction as well as larger projects that span the curriculum, encouraging students to stretch their imaginations and critical-thinking skills.

Peralta is an Alameda County Arts Demonstration School, part of the Alliance for Arts Learning in partnership with Harvard University’s Project Zero and the California College of the Arts’ Center for Art and Public Life Community Student Fellows Program. For the past 4 years, Peralta has had the great fortune of building an active partnership with San Francisco’s de Young Museum, to explore and study their collections. The San Francisco Opera also piloted its education program here in 2008-2009.

Our school is known for its many murals, created by artist Jamie Morgan and Peralta students over the years, as well as the colorful quilts designed and sewn by Ellen Oppenheimer and the students. Peralta quilts are displayed in public places internationally, including the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Peralta has also gained attention for its the stop-motion videos and other digital animation projects students make with Trena Noval (one video was a recent finalist at the Albany Film Festival).

We are now in our second year of an Environmental Stewardship Arts Program, which incorporates science, history, math, social sciences and technology as students make connections with their community and the environment. Click here to download an article about the Stewardship Project (check back for a new page on the project—coming soon!).

We would like to extend our deep gratitude to our funding partners for making this work possible:

Arts Integration

The kids have an amazing sense of wonder about the world they live in.
Art becomes a vehicle for them to show the world what they care about.

  —Trena Noval, artist-in-residence

What is arts integration?

Peralta’s program is based on the idea that art can be used as a powerful tool for investigation, problem-solving, and learning. Our two Artists-in-residence, Trena Noval and Ellen Oppenheimer, work closely with classroom teachers to develop multi-layered projects that add new angles to the subjects they are teaching. Projects can be as simple as making wood-block prints of Mt. Fuji during a unit on Japan, or as complex as a year-long, interdisciplinary inquiry into the paper industry, waste, and recycling. When students create visual representations of what they’ve learned—whether it’s through drawing, painting, sculpture, drama, or film or even conceptual art—they must absorb and process the material deeply, and think about how to express it.

These projects have spurred some of the deepest thinking
that takes place in my classroom…Art is a perfect way for a young child
to develop critical thinking skills, to learn how to observe,
visualize, and act on their observations.

  — Pam Lucker, 1st grade teacher and former dancer

Peralta students also have the opportunity to learn about different materials and methods during more traditional weekly art classes taught by Artist-in-residence Ellen Oppenheimer, a noted textile artist. They learn to understand and appreciate art during regular visits to the de Young Museum, through an ongoing partnership. These museum visits may, in turn, spin back into classroom instruction, such as when kindergarten students studied Papua New Guinean masks, learned about animal spirits, and made their own elaborate headdresses from recycled materials.

Teaching Stewardship

Ellen and Trena have built Peralta’s program around a vision of community and environmental stewardship—simply, teaching students to understand and care about place they live. Students explore this theme in many ways, includinganimated films on subjects like local history, bio-remediation, and clouds, public art like the original Peralta quilts displayed in hospitals, offices and airports, and building community connections such as craft project with seniors at a local day center.

It’s about the joy of finding something beautiful.
Or something that only they could make.
As the academic program gets more constrained,
it’s great to give the kids options that are more creative.
   — Ellen Oppenheimer, artist-in-residence

Peralta’s program is based around frameworks developed by the Alameda County Office of Education’s Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership in partnership with Harvard University’s Project Zero. The three frameworks are: Teaching for Understanding, Studio Thinking, and Making Learning Visible. Read more about them here.

Digital Arts

One of the ways Peralta students integrate what they’ve learned about science, history, the environment, and literature is by making digital films. Every year, Artist-in-residence Trena Noval works with classroom teachers to develop student artwork into short videos.

2010-2011 Projects

Students in Kelly Rozario’s 4th grade class created Miraculous Fungi to tell the story of how mushrooms can clean up oil spills. They learned about bioremediation from UC Berkeley Mycologist Mia Maltz. The film will be translated into Spanish and used to teach communities about bioremediation.

Murals with Jamie Morgan

Peralta’s distinctive murals are the first thing you see when you enter our campus (and this website!). They are the result of Oakland painter Jamie Morgan‘s ongoing work with students in the after-school program. Over the 15 years since Morgan began working at Peralta, these murals have expanded to cover nearly every wall of our buildings, turning their bland facades into joyous riots of color, shape, and movement.

Each spring, Morgan chooses a new theme that will spark the imaginations of young children. Themes have included gardens (inspired by Peralta’s own blooms), ocean life, music, and backyard animals. Students spend several months sketching their ideas and then working with Morgan to create the wooden cutouts that become a permanent part of the school.

New 2016 Courtyard Mural Description:

After canvassing the teachers for ideas for a theme, one coalesced: “students learning together.”  With students at all grade levels avidly learning about the world around them, I thought that my intentions of working “community” and “environmental connectedness” into the theme would be best achieved by focusing on the group activities.  As the teacher who made the suggestion put it, “all the other murals have people doing things separately – it would be nice to see kids doing thing together.” 
So my task was to get those lucky individuals who signed up for the mural classes last spring to draw groups of young people.  This was no small feat.  Since I couldn’t reasonably get the first and second graders to do this, it fell upon the third, fourth and fifth graders.  The younger students worked on the key environmental “habitat”: the kelp forest.  And the older ones, to their credit, persisted in producing more than a few drawings as we focused in on the fine points of drawing kids around tables and computers, studying in the garden, doing homework, and even walking for the Walkathon.  We used bees, being social insects, (for which the students had great passion due to their classroom studies) as a thematic link to the ideas of “community” and the “environment” and as a change of pace to the group activities in the drawing process.
I leave it up to the school community to see in the mural, entitled “Learning is Our Game,” the amazing details and special design features which the mural students put into their painting as they interpreted our theme.   While my job was to present students with visual inspiration, translate their drawings into the larger scale mural and unify the mural, I can’t help but be amazed that the students really did come up with some very clever ways of representing the activities shown.  But then this is the collaboration that I have tried to put into all my school murals.
  Jamie Morgan, mural instructor, 9-23-16

Here’s Morgan’s description of the new spring 2011 murals:

Since we are running out of spaces to do a mural, this Spring our project was broken down into three small murals. The theme has been “City Life,” inspired by the work the renowned artist Jacob Lawrence. His work grew out of depicting life in Harlem in the 1920′s and 30′s, from which he developed a well-known narrative series of tempera paintings on Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Migration Series, amongst others. These seemed a suitable model to work from, especially since Jacob Lawrence was one of (Peralta Principal) Rosette Costello’s professors at the University of Washington. We have tried to touch on his themes, as well as the abstraction and use of color in his paintings.
One mural shows city life in the early morning hours with buildings, buses, cars, garbage collection, etc. in the transition from night to day. Another mural shows neighborhood activity in the city. A lemonade vendor—like the shaved ice vendor in one of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings—is prominent. The last mural is based on two classroom scenes painted by Lawrence, showing students absorbed in concentration at their desks and writing on the blackboard.