Cambria is a town rich in creativity. Just ask Dan Hartzell, director of a YMCA Youth Institute of San Luis Obispo County program that guides some 30 middle-schoolers through the wonders of the digital media arts. Better yet, ask Nirvana Tesfayohannes, who just won $150 for her winning logo to promote the 2015 Cambria Scarecrow Festival.
To create her winning design, Nirvana, 13, played with both the image of scarecrows and the theme of “a magical place.” The festival will use her logo on a variety of projects to promote the town’s annual display of scarecrows — including banners, literature, T-shirts and other merchandise.
But logo design is just one aspect of the media program. On Saturday morning, Aug. 15, additional participants in the program will be recognized for their work in filmmaking. Short films created by media camp students in Cambria, as well as in a sister program at Laguna Middle School, will be shown at the Fremont Theater, in San Luis Obispo.
The film festival starts at 10 a.m. and is open to the public. Tickets are $5 at the door. Six short films by middle school students, as well as three short commercial productions by Coast Union High School students, will be shown.
Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Patience & William Robbins Memorial Fund. Patience and William died in an auto accident on July 14, and two of their family members have been participants in the media arts program.
Program participants submitted more than 20 designs to the logo contest sponsored by the Cambria Scarecrow Festival. Judge Dena Kuhn, a local graphic designer, said of the winning entry, “We liked that it was instantly recognizable as a character for the Cambria Scarecrow Festival while also reflecting the theme of a magical place.”
Other judges were Patty Griffin, local ceramics artist, and Jayne Koontz, local children’s book illustrator and artist.
Hartzell said about the logo contest, “This was a great way to give our students a real world experience.”
About the program
The overall program, modeled after one first created in Long Beach, is in its fourth year. The five-week summer experience empowers youth in both digital media arts and workforce development. During the program, the participants work as teams to create a print magazine and independent films.
The program begins with a one-week wilderness retreat, held in the mountains of Southern California. During that week, the middle-schoolers work together to cook their food, clean up and develop a sense of teamwork.
“The week helps kids go from storming to performing, since the bonding experience is designed both to push their creativity and to coax it into full bloom,” Hartzell said. “They come out of that week ready to work as a team.”
After the retreat and back in Cambria, teams of two to four students envision a concept for a short film. They go through a “shark tank” type of process to pitch their film idea to the instructors and prove they have a concept that is both manageable and engaging. Once the concept is approved, they complete the steps of storyboarding, scripting, filming and editing. It all culminates Saturday in the live showing of their films at the Fremont.
Over the past four years, the program has evolved into a growth pathway for students who are interested in digital arts. There is an opportunity to return after the first year as digital artist interns and later as supervisors who are even paid a small stipend.
Ashley Martinez, who is now on the staff and will attend Coast Union High School as a senior this fall, has been with the program all four years. She recalled that the first year she didn’t want to attend, but that attitude soon changed. The program helped her learn new skills in programs such as Photoshop and also helped her learn how to be comfortable talking with people. Her advice to potential future students was simple: “Just be yourself. Be creative and have fun.”
For the YMCA, the program costs about $1,000 for each student; but the fees charged students are lower thanks to funding and donations.
In addition, the program seeks either to prorate fees or offer assistance to those who can’t afford it. Individuals interested in donating to support the overall program can do so by visiting sloymca.org.
Taylor Hilden, president of the Cambria Scarecrow Festival, noted that “as a local nonprofit that promotes the local creative arts, we think it’s great to have local students in the media arts program help create our festival materials. We hope this year’s contest will be the start of a long-term relationship.”
Dates to remember
- Aug. 15 — Tickets to the 2015 kickoff party, A Salute to Scarecrows, will be available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce. They’re already available online at http://bit.ly/1UB8Bo8.
- Sept. 10 — Deadline to register new and complete scarecrows; click on the “Participate” menu item at www.cambriascarecrows.com.
- Sept. 25 — New scarecrows must be placed to be eligible for judging; they must be photographed before judging takes place.
- Sept. 28 — Judges Sandra Duerr, Noreen Martin and Jo Wemple will be checking out the new scarecrows and deciding the winners.
- Oct. 1 — The Salute to Scarecrows All-Star Coastal Celebration is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Cambria Nursery & Florist. The event will feature seven wine and food pairings, music and announcement of the 2015 winners.
- Oct. 3 — Nirvana Tesfayohannes will receive her Scarecrow Design prize at 1 p.m. at the Pinedorado Grounds. On that day, the public is invited to a free celebration that honors all students who created award-winning scarecrows. The event will include a free magic show and other surprises.