Earl Warren Art Festival in Solana Beach features a variety of student creativity

By Diane Y. Welch

Warren Hall at the Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach was overflowing with people on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 8, with many in the audience standing two deep in the back of the room.

The occasion that brought so many parents, students and teachers together was the school’s winter Arts Festival. A similar event is also held at the school in the spring.

The walls of the venue were decorated with samples of students’ art and the line-up for the evening’s entertainment included music from the Sea Hawk Guitar Class and orchestral arrangements from the Sea Hawk Beginning and Intermediate Band. The atmosphere was festive and lively.

Tami Austin, fine arts and yearbook teacher, and Lindsay Harris, digital and new media arts teacher, opened the program at 6 p.m. The visual and performing arts festival showcased how the students have grown artistically and musically since school started in late August. Students in yearbook were on hand to capture the event for next year’s school annual.

First up was the guitar ensemble. Directed by music teacher Brett McCarty, new to the school this year, the large group of seventh and eighth graders played through six pieces which included traditional folk songs “Greensleeves” and “Amazing Grace,” and popular tunes “Let It Be”and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

In his introduction, McCarty, who also teaches music at Carmel Valley Middle School, explained that of his group of students only about 15 percent of them had prior experience with playing the guitar, and so most are budding musicians. “They have grown tremendously,” he said.

During the intermission there was an opportunity to view the exhibit of artwork.

“We offer five visual art electives,” Austin explained. These include general studio arts with a focus on the mastery of elements of art and principles of design, and digital art and art for new media, with an introduction to Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

For the first time several students in the visual arts received ribbons for their work. There were six categories, which included Best Technique, Most Creative, Most Unique, Most Humorous, Most Realistic, and Student Choice. Awards were given in the three genres of art – fine, digital and new media.

The studio art exhibit included water color interpretations of a color drenched tree, and paper mach sculptures. Digital and art for new media pieces included designs for music posters, flat-pack toys, short stories, comic strips and magazine covers.

After the intermission, the Sea Hawk Beginning/Intermediate Band played a program of three arrangements: “Dance of the Thunderbolts,” two Celtic folk songs, and “Dark Fortress.” Commenting on the importance of music in education, Camber Hardy, site counsel for EWMS and the San Dieguito Union School District, said, “Music is a great IQ booster. The kids who take band are smart. It’s also wholesome fun for them and keeps them staying busy.” Hardy is the mom of Jacob Hardy, who plays trumpet in the band.

In addition to showcasing student talent, the festival also served as a fundraiser. The proceeds from a suggested donation of $5 to attend the event, and the sale of snacks and beverages, donated by parents, brought in funds. Some of the students also opted to have their art framed for $29.95, which was then purchased by their parents.

The EWMS Art Club organized its own fundraiser that evening. Available for order were transfer images for tee shirts, taken from the students’ art. Eighth grader Elise Gilmore had a sample of her artwork imprinted on a shirt on display. For a low price of $4 for light fabric, and $6 for dark fabric, a custom image is printed on to a transfer sheet then heat pressed onto the shirt.

“You just provide the T shirt,” said Elise. Custom designs may also be created by Art Club students.

The festival is a major fundraiser for the arts with all proceeds going directly to the Visual and Performing Art programs, said Austin. Funds help purchase art materials, instruments and to pay for transportation to music events. Further donations are most welcome. Contact Lindsay Hern, department chair, at to find out more information.