Young Exhibiting Artists!

Fueled by the success of Don’t Throw THAT Away!’s first six episodes, I took a roadshow production to local elementary schools. It was time to share. Two exhibits with elementary school Artists and a third exhibit featuring teen artists were on the agenda. Each school was given copies of Don’t Throw THAT Away! and the students were shown the videos to introduce them to YEA!, myself, and what projects we would be discovering. A date was set. Once a week for 7 weeks we came into the classroom and shared with our young artists.

With a desire to elevate the status of art in the minds of young people and to elevate the status of young people in the minds of the community, this program was created to support the visual art of Sonoma County Youth.

Young Exhibiting Artists! (YEA!) promotes an environment for young artists to explore and experience the process of creating a work of art from the first spark of imagination to its culmination in exhibition. YEA! was created to give children the opportunity to create and exhibit art, freedom of expression and pride of exhibition.

Maxine Reah, Principal
R.L. Stevens Elementary – Santa Rosa, California

“I am pleased to write this letter in praise and support of the Young Exhibiting Artist Program we were fortunate to have had at Robert L. Stevens School this past fall. The high degree of organization Director Lisa R. Fredenthal-Lee brought to the project, her incredible enthusiasm and encouragement she parlayed to the students, and the superior teaching strategies she used made for a rich learning experience for our students.

“The program was brought to four classrooms in grades 3,4,5 and 6 at R.L. Stevens School. Each week, for seven weeks, Lisa and her team brought the joy of creative expression to our students. She communicated frequently and well with the four classroom teachers whose rooms were used for the lessons. Her materials were always well organized and her meticulous attention to detail assured that the footprint left in the classroom was minimal. Lisa always made sure to communicate with me, the Principal, to inform me of any needs she had or any changes that had to be made. She was flexible and willing to work around the many scheduling demands of an elementary school.

“Lisa’s joy for the process of creating art was infectious. The projects that she inspired our students to create were original, fun and all made from re-use materials. The art processes she taught encouraged children to make art whenever they want to, with whatever they can find, using both familiar and unfamiliar materials. Lisa’s emphasis on process was evidenced by the many photos she and her team took of the students involved in making art.

“Lisa and her team know how to make vocabulary and concepts clear and accessible with props, gestures, and acting. Before meeting her young artists, a DVD copy of her PBS television show, Don’t Throw THAT Away! was given to each classroom as a visual learning tool to introduce the students to the art of re-use and to the artist herself. Her very first lesson had students interacting with a large panel of picture frames imaging themselves in a museum, as they learned the meaning of the word “exhibit”. Lisa knows how to break processes down into small steps so that the children can understand. All of this would have been enough to make her program outstanding but, the truly professional evening exhibit Lisa and her team prepared at the Finley Community Center in Santa Rosa, California was the grand finale! First, she dignified the event by creating postcards announcing the exhibit. The press was invited as were city dignitaries. A lovely artist’s reception for our students, their families and community at large .was provided. Most dazzling were the exhibits themselves. The big, bold, and snazzy way Lisa and her crew displayed our student’s art was professional, original, and just beautiful. Additionally, she had all the student artists’ names largely displayed next to their work, and photos of students in the process of making art abounded.

“The Young Exhibiting Artists program is exemplary. I hope that other schools will have this opportunity that Lisa provided to our students. It was among the best enrichment programs I have seen. I invite you to call me for further testimony.”

(click on picture to see movie)

YEA! – Exhibit #1

YEA! – Exhibit #2

YEA! – Exhibit #3


by Rayne Wolfe – The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA), City edition, Features section, 18 July 2006

Lisa Fredenthal-Lee is on a mission to turn five aspiring teens into real, show-worthy artists. For two summer months, several days each week, when they could be sleeping in, heading to the beach or catching up on summer movies, five students gather at studio space at Riley Street art supply store in Santa Rosa. At YEA, which stands for Young Exhibiting Artists, the teens do more than just dream about their professional futures in the arts. They are instructed by several guest artists, receiving free training they need to believe in themselves. “When we started I just thought, OK, these are art people. They aren’t afraid to turn anything into art,” said 14-year-old Lindsay Anderson, who will be a sophomore at Analy High School in the fall. “But they are really art people. They’ll walk up to anybody and say, `Hey, can I have your scraps?’ And then what we make from them turns out awesome.” Some of the students responded to fliers posted around town. Others had worked with the teacher on other projects in the past. All jumped at the chance to fill their summer with art. Surrounded by bins filled with wine bottle foils that can be used for gilding, paintable wood scraps and egg crates that can be converted into papier-mache lizards and snakes, the five students hunch over their tables, working to launch their own August 18 debut on the gallery walls at the Finley Community Center. They plan to go from zero to art show in one summer.

Not only will they create several pieces of original art each, but they will also write artist statements, send out news releases to the media, create and mail invitations, and host the opening. And the work doesn’t stop there. “After the show, they have to take the show down and clean up. If they are lucky enough to sell anything, they have to negotiate prices and make deliveries. We want them to be responsible artists,” Fredenthal-Lee said. Best known for her kid-centric art training cable show Don’t Throw THAT Away!, Fredenthal-Lee created YEA to encourage young artists. With a degree in fine arts from the San Francisco Art Institute and a focus on early childhood education, Fredenthal-Lee was among a group of artists in the late 1990s who worked on the Rainbow Bridge Arts Education Program through the Cultural Arts Council of Sonoma County. “Oh, that was such an amazing experience. It was like these artists and musicians and actors all got to become resident artists in the schools. When it ended I missed it. That’s why I started YEA,” she said. “These kids deserve to be inspired, and I want to be their spark plug.” 

The current group of teen artists includes two boys and three girls, and they receive all their instruction and supplies for free. The program is funded through private grants. Alex Mingoia is an 18-year-old Santa Rosa Junior College student who focuses on digital art. Andrew Ozkaya is a 19-year-old painter who embellishes his art with multiple layers that can include wire. He attends the SRJC and yearns to be more like the artists he meets working part time at Aaron Brothers frame shop. Anderson, the Analy student, dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She said she draws and paints fantasy figures compulsively. Jeena Trejo, 14, a painter with hopes of becoming a professional artist, attends Piner High School. They’re all more excited than nervous. “I know at the end of this I’ll have a lot more confidence. This experience will be another golden block in my pyramid of life,” Anderson said. The fifth young artist serves as a sort of artistic ambassador for the group. With one foot in the world of emerging young artists and the other firmly planted in a home where both parents are working artists is the daughter of Lisa Fredenthal-Lee and husband Robert Lee, Emma Fredenthal-Lee, an 18-year-old theater major at Santa Rosa J.C.. If the Fredenthal-Lee family were running a railroad, Lisa Fredenthal-Lee would be the engine, her husband would be the engineer and daughter Emma would be the cordial conductor. An actor, painter and a photographer, Emma Fredenthal-Lee is working on a series of paint-embellished photographic self-portraits for the next YEA show. She has helped her parents lead elementary and middle school students to produce their own art shows. Her relaxed demeanor shows other students they can say anything, ask anything, suggest anything, accept or reject advice, roll their eyes and take artistic chances without any fear of being judged. “My family, we’re very close, and I think we keep each other balanced. We all believe that even the littlest kids have artistic power within them,” Emma Fredenthal-Lee said. 

The first YEA project was a recent 8-week program at R.J. Stevens School. “Robert did the props. Emma and I did this performance piece introducing big words like “museum” and “curator” to the children, who got up and played different parts. We made it fun. And BOOM! the kids responded by creating this amazing art,” Lisa Fredenthal-Lee enthused. Lisa Fredenthal-Lee has been an artist her entire life, long balancing creativity with teaching. With her Bette Midler persona, Fredenthal-Lee, a former punk-rock vocalist in 1980s San Francisco, peppers her speech with comic book one-liners like “BOOM!” “WOW!” and “LAKKA-LAKKA!” Her nearly two-decade marriage to Robert Lee wedded their talents. His skills as an artisan woodworker, fabricator and theater set builder bring nuts-and-bolts sensibilities to every project. She calls him her “possible-ist.” He’s good at offering dry advice on wet canvases. While Emma talks much less than her parents, often working with a headset oozing music into her ears, she makes it easier for the other students to just be themselves. Through YEA local students, some of whom received very little arts training in school, learn that anything artful is possible. The emphasis is on utilizing recyclable resources. “Half the world convinces themselves that they can’t make art, but art is at every child’s fingertips. This summer, I’m looking forward to amazement. Not just me being amazed, but these students amazing themselves,” said Robert Lee, whose Liverpool accent softens all his suggestions to teens. 

For Ozkaya, the art show is an opportunity to do an ambitious piece, a large, horizontal cityscape of Istanbul, which he visited last fall. “I’m really excited about the show, and I want to have at least three really nice pieces done for it,” he said. All the teens in YEA say they love art, but at least one girl credits art with saving her life. Early in her life, Trejo faced challenges that made her feel very isolated. Art was always her sanctuary. “For a long time I was really troubled, because I was having problems fitting in in elementary school. By middle school I had no friends. I was really alone. All I did was art,” she said. By trusting her love for art and not worrying about what others thought of her, Trejo has blossomed into a much happier person. “That kind of experience does something to a kid, and art helped me so much. Now my life is good. I have friends that love and respect me. I know that art saved my life,” she said. To learn more about YEA, future sessions, and its upcoming exhibit at the Finley Community Center, visit The YEA show debuts with an artist’s reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, and runs through Oct. 6. You can reach Staff Writer Rayne Wolfe at 521-5240 or

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