The Silicon Valley Voice

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City of Sunnyvale’s Hands on the Arts Festival Nurtures Budding Artists

It was raining on May 18 but that couldn’t dampen spirits at Sunnyvale’s 34th annual Hands on the Arts Festival. Instead the annual art event moved inside the Sunnyvale Community Center — 1,524 wristbands were sold. The 37 workshops included painting with moving objects, making stylish festival hats from brown paper bags, practicing traditional Chinese calligraphy characters and crafting flowers to decorate a minivan.

“We first began Hands on the Arts 34 years ago in collaboration with the Silicon Valley Arts Council,” said Michele-Bridget Ragsdale, the City of Sunnyvale’s Community Services Coordinator II, Arts and Marketing.

“Since then, the City of Sunnyvale has been promoting this event,” said Ragsdale. “We do a huge artist recruitment in the fall and then we jury the artist applications in January and February. The artists are a range of hobbyists, professionals and people who like to work with kids. These artists work with kids… and teach the volunteers how to do the project. The artists are offered a stipend, though some choose to volunteer. The City of Sunnyvale supplies the art supplies.


“For our 30th anniversary, we started introducing the STEM to STEAM initiative because we’re in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Ragsdale continued. “We wanted to meld together the sciences with the arts and to show kids they can be creative and also use their science and engineering knowledge.”

An example of technology and the arts coming together at the festival was the Silent Disco. Deepa Marti, 17, and her colleagues in the Sunnyvale Teen Advisory Committee oversaw this activity.

“The Silent Disco offers three different transmitters,” Marti said. “Each transmitter communicates to a different channel. Three channels are available on the headphones the kids receive. Each of us on the Teen Committee created a unique play list to plug into each transmitter. That way, the participants can switch between the channels.”

Marti explained that creating the play-lists became a competition between the Committee members because they could see a light on the headphones indicating which channels the kids were listening to.

“Each of us hope the kids will listen to our channel the most while they’re in the dancing area,” Marti said. “Music included are Disney songs, Kidz Bop, and in general, clean and kid-friendly music.”

For Vivienne, 8, the Silent Disco and Chinese Calligraphy were her favorite features at Hands on the Arts this year.

“I just liked Chinese calligraphy because it helped me practice writing in Chinese; I wrote all the words I knew and I just went for it,” said Vivienne. “I also liked dancing, singing and listening to music at the Silent Disco. I liked ‘Moves Like Jagger.’ When I do art or when I dance, I feel happy and confident.”

Children got to utilize their engineering and art skills to make Elf and Fairy Houses, a popular workshop led by Artist Susan Worley.

“The kids are repurposing old wine corks,” Worley explained. First, kids selected wine corks and drew doors and windows for the fairies to enter and exit. After building floors and roofs from colored paper, they decorated the houses with stickers, feathers or acorn caps that Worley gathered while hiking.

“The acorn gives the house more of a woodland feeling,” said Worley. “After that, the kids decorated their houses as they wished. It was an easy thing for the kids to do and it allowed them to use their imaginations.”


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