Meg Biddle ’68 began her career as an artist while she was still a boarder at The Shipley School, where she received the keys to the art room and eagerly spent many late nights working on art projects. From there, she crossed the country to further her art education at California College of the Arts in Oakland, where she earned her BFA. After graduation, she traversed the art world and worked in a number of artistic domains—from producing an ongoing weekly comic strip and creating illustrations for advertising agencies, to showing her artwork in galleries and painting some murals along the way.
Throughout her extensive and varied career, however, Biddle says that her “longest ongoing, living-breathing, conceptual art piece” has been the creation and cultivation of the Youth Arts Collective (YAC), an after-school mentorship program for teenagers and college students with an interest in art. The non-profit organization services eight high schools, three colleges, and many homeschooled students. Current working artists aid the students in developing their own pieces, providing them with the studio time and art supplies necessary for pursuing their craft. Biddle and her wife, fellow working artist Marcia Perry, “always wanted to be valuable to a community,” and their idea to found YAC together stemmed from there.
Biddle describes working with youth in this way as fascinating and fresh. “It’s like catching fast balls, or dinner theatre: you never know what to expect.” The students, without knowledge of the business of art, create pieces that are “totally from the heart and mind,” Biddle says. Without the structure of assignments, students are able to develop their own ideas, allowing them to flourish. She describes the program as “artist-to-artist instruction,” not only providing students with the space to take creative risks, but also teaching them to honor their own voices. Mentors go beyond teaching art skills to provide “individual and longtime mentoring in life skills, job skills, and emotional counseling as well. It is truly a life-changing and sometimes life-saving sanctuary for high school and college kids on the Monterey Peninsula.” Biddle says that her work with the students has provided immense value to her life, as much as the program, in turn, provides value to the students’ lives.
Biddle has lived by four mottos throughout her life. First, the Shipley motto, “Courage for the Deed; Grace for the Doing.” Then, the motto from the California College of Art, which revolves around being “Creative agents of change. Make art that matters.” Now, the Youth Arts Collective motto: “Do art. Be kind.” Finally, she lives by her own mantra: “Just keep moving.” These have guided Biddle on her journey through her art and, subsequently, on her life’s path.
When asked about what it’s like to work so closely with the students in the Youth Arts Collective, she says: “Today I was able to help several YACsters with questions about technique and composition, and another YACster with designing a series of little books; I directed another to a few artists’ sites for inspiration specific to their interests. Later, I photographed YACsters’ art for their portfolios, while having general in-studio discussions with a bunch of them about current world events; I spoke privately with one of them about their broken home life, with another about their emotional struggle with self-esteem, and celebrated with yet another about getting into the college of their choice, with scholarship. All in a day’s work.”
Learn more about Biddle’s work as an artist/cartoonist/author at www.megbiddleart.com
. Learn more about the Youth Arts Collective at www.yacstudios.org