Rebecca Faubion believes in Laguna Beach.
The 35-year-old has lived in other parts of Orange County, but her connection to the beach town where she now resides is like no other. Faubion is an artist — an enthusiast of all things creative — and she is drawn to the arts city's soul, which she says pulsates beneath its "resort-town glitter."
It is this heritage — this sense of building on the work of other pioneering artists — that inspired the mother of one to establish Artful Everyday in her hometown last April.
Through her arts education company, she offers training to students of all ages at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center and Top of the World Elementary School. Her goal: to draw out each person's inner artist.
"The goal of Artful Everyday is to make creativity welcome," she said. "In Laguna Beach, I'm working to build a locally inspired brand of enriching art classes.... In the bigger picture, I want to spread the message of Artful Everyday via blogging, online courses and other tools that people can access anywhere."
Growing up, Faubion lived in a colorful home where she was able to frolick outdoors and spend hours drawing and painting. She was enamored of artists Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall — the former imparting the importance of bold lines and the latter giving her the courage to reflect emotions like love and sadness in her work.
While working her way through the Santa Cruz public education system, though, the then-young girl noticed something.
"I felt this disconnect between the extent art was valued in our home and the way it was marginalized in school," she recounted. "I knew I wanted to help change this equation."
Sticking with her passion, which was nurtured by a few dedicated teachers, Faubion earned her master's degree in Arts in Education from Harvard University, investigating the intersection of art and learning. Influenced deeply by her program director, Steve Siedel, she strove to acquire a holistic vision, balancing questions about the role and importance of arts in society with those about public policy and funding.
Beyond hand and foot prints
In May 2011, Faubion was seven months pregnant and commuting between Costa Mesa and Fullerton. As she looked around at the bleak, vehicle-clogged 5 Freeway, it hit her — she needed to become more "radical" in her goal of making the world not only more livable, but beautiful.
And so, Artful Everyday, materialized.
What began as one Saturday class with 12 students will, by April, be six classes per week serving about 65 students at the Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center.
Originally, her venture was called Kids' Atelier, which is now the name of one class and, in French, refers to a workshop or studio where artists are involved in a rigorous development of their skills. To Faubion, that's what she is able to provide to students. Her mission, she said, is to instill a kind of "creative resilience" in each of them.
"By that, I mean giving them opportunities for a real encounter with art, with their own creativity," she continued. "If projects are always just copying me, or step-by-step recreation of a master artist's work, or mere assembly of a predetermined craft, then the students are not truly exercising the creative muscle."
Toward this end, she hands out stimulating yet challenging assignments, researches the best materials and thinks long and hard about whether to employ a giant greytone paper or small canvas, clay or Sharpies, and so on. It's all about striking the ideal balance between respecting the students' individual tastes and ensuring that they are constantly expanding their vision.
Faubion, who hosts an exhibition at the culmination of each semester, was approached by a set of parents who requested that she add a course for preschoolers. Thus, the class Artful Bebe was born.
It's not enough, Faubion finds, that toddlers only offer a hand or foot print as their early artwork. Not wanting to sound like a snob, she added that although assembly crafts are perfectly valid, they allow parents to "underestimate what a very young child can express" as they begin to explore their surroundings.
Maile O'Hara, a 41-year-old clinical psychologist from Laguna Beach, agreed. Through her practice and watching her son, Kojo, 3, she has gleaned that artistic expression can simultaneously be cognitive, emotional and creative. It also has an academic aspect, she said, enabling youngsters to learn about math, geometry and chemistry.
"At an age when some kids are not able to fully express themselves, the arts can really get at a lot of the expression they have internally, through movement, the choice of colors and the outcome as well," she said. "But for me, it's more about the process of making the art."
When the O'Haras lived in New York City, they visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Children's Museum of the Arts nearly every weekend. Upon relocating to Southern California a year and a half ago, O'Hara sought out similar resources for her child locally. Since enrolling in Artful Everyday, Kojo hasn't missed a single class, she said, and they've noticed nannies, parents and a large number of grandparents who are "totally into it."
According to Faubion, both sexes are equally represented in her sessions — until they hit third grade. Then, her female students far outnumber the males. To combat this imbalance, she will soon introduce a 10-week "Fine Art and Film-Making" class because, she said, digital media does a great job of grabbing the attention of young boys.
'Heavily populated with girls'
Arlene Lalouette, 49, is familiar with the female-male ratio thanks to her 11-year-old, Jacques.
"Jax was a bit reluctant on the first day, especially when he was the first of only two boys in the class," the Laguna Beach resident said.
After befriending his sole male counterpart, Jacques, a sports enthusiast who initially created only works that depicted one game or another, became engrossed in learning about new techniques and concepts and discovered a love for chalks, oils, artist biographies and even realism.
Now it's time for her 7-year-old twins, Nico and Isabelle, to join Artful Everyday, Lalouette said. When she recently tried to sign them up for Faubion's after-school program at Top of the World Elementary School, she realized it was so popular that it had filled up early.
"Suffice it to say, allowing each of them an opportunity to be in a class with Rebecca is certainly on my priority list," she said. "I want each of them to gain the confidence and depth of experience [she] provides."
And what's Faubion's favorite part of the experience? Being surprised by her students.
Take, for instance, when Shayne Corritori, 10, turned in a poem in place of an artist's statement, declaring, "Less is more. Mistake is beauty. Color is strength. Pencil is hammer. Paper is anvil. These sentences will help you, give you confidence, and give you strength, power, and control over your art-piece. Good or bad."
Faubion, who believes that every industry needs to demonstrate a high level of creativity to remain competitive and relevant in today's economy, was elated. Her student was not only taking ownership of his work and progress as an artist, but also wanted to affect others the way he had been.
"This is the best kind of feedback for me as a teacher," she remarked. "It means I'm on the right track."
Owner: Rebecca Faubion
Where: Laguna Beach Community and Susi Q Center, 380 Third St., Laguna Beach; Top of the World Elementary School, 21601 Treetop Lane, Laguna Beach
Year founded: 2013
Specialty: Art classes