Youth Artists Taking Action

About Us

Youth Artists Taking Action is a leadership group for students who are interested in using their artistic skills to address challenges in their community and promote social change.  

Each year, our students embark on the task of designing, developing and creating artistic projects aimed at sparking action on a social, environmental or health issue directly affecting students across the county. Some of our previous projects include a video collaboration addressing youth mental health, a pair of murals advocating for the protection of our oceans, and a tile mosaic mural dedicated to the sacrifices and contributions of our service workers across the county. 

YATA meets in-person once a week after school at a location and time that works best for each year’s participants. Over the course of the fall semester, students experiment with various mediums and choose a topic to address with an action project. In the spring semester, the group focuses on executing their project for the year under the mentorship of a professional artist. The students are in charge of creating, designing, and developing each project.  

Have a say in the direction of our community! Paint the world as you see it!

Join YATA!

YATA Promo


We are currently recruiting YATA Leaders for the 2023-24 school year! 

For more information contact Andres Ortiz at or Audrey Sirota at  


Meeting Times

* Our orientation and first meeting of the 2023-24 school year will be on Saturday, September 23, 2023 from 11am-2pm at the Santa Cruz County Office of Education building (400 Encinal St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060). At this meeting we will confirm our weekly meeting times and location. 

Weekly Meetings - Wednesdays from 4:30-5:30pm, physical location TBD (Hybrid option available)

YLLA Monthly Meetings - Generally first Saturday of the month 10am-2pm with the other YLLA groups (In person only):

Projects & Events

Sticker Making at the STEAM Expo

Our YATA group facilitated a sticker making activity at the annual STEAM Expo on Saturday, March 9th, 2024. We had artists of all ages stop by to create their very own designs to take home as souvenirs. It was a wonderful contribution to an event that highlighted all forms of creativity in the fields of science, tech, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. Looking forward to next year!


Community is the Heart of Connection - A Tile Mosaic Mural

Our project for the 2022/23 school year centered around the sacrifices and contributions of the valuable service workers around the county. This year's YATA students wanted to use their art to showcase the many people who work tirelessly in various sectors of our local economy to keep our community going.

The students were keenly aware that many of these service workers never stopped working, even through the darkest days of the pandemic. They believe that had it not been for their willingness to persevere  through health hazards, poor working conditions and other unforeseen challenges, society would not have been able to function. 

The YATA team also wanted to underscore the fact that through the services provided by workers in every sector, we are all directly connected. Every student in our group was able to name a friend or family member who works in one of these vital industries. Working with guest teaching artists, Josefina Rocha, the students were able to illustrate this connection through the colors they chose, the stylistic design of each tile, and the sense of movement they were able to create within the piece.    

Protect Our Ocean - Twin Murals 

The YATA students of the 2021/22 school year chose to focus their efforts on environmental advocacy. Under the mentorship and guidance of professional muralist, Jessica Evanjelista, YATA was able to design and execute a pair of murals in the front parking lot of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education building. 

The murals are meant to bring awareness of the connection between our oceans and storm drains. Anything that ends up in a storm drain will inevitably reach the ocean and affect the rich ecosystem of our California coast. 

The first mural was painted around the storm drain of the parking lot to remind observers of our collective responsibility to properly recycle and dispose of our trash so that it doesn't get swept out to sea. The arms painted around the grate are meant to portray every community member as a protector and steward of the ocean. 

The second mural represents the wide variety of life that exists in our region of the Central Coast.  


Andres Ortiz

Andres Ortiz has been working in the theater since the age of 13. After receiving his BFA in Acting from Southern Methodist University in 2010, Andres worked for many theater companies throughout Texas and California including Dallas Theater Center, Center Theater Group and Teatro Campesino.

His career in education began as a substitute teacher in San Antonio shortly after graduating from college. In 2014, Andres began working for the Arts Council Santa Cruz County as a teaching artist. For the past nine years, he has been able to bring his passion for theater to various classrooms and campuses throughout the county and share it with a wide range of students. In 2020, Andres began working as the Arts Education Manager for the Arts Council coordinating such programs as Mariposa Arts, Artist Teacher Partnership, and Family Art Nights. Andres is now working for the Santa Cruz Office of Education as the new Student Leadership and Engagement Coordinator, and is excited for this new opportunity to help students activate their voices through their own passions.

Audrey Sirota

Audrey began her career at the age of 8 when she held her first summer camp in Chicago, Illinois, teaching music, dance, drawing, and painting to 12 neighborhood children and earning $50 for her work. Many lessons were learned in that first summer of teaching and learning including the importance of the arts, creativity, and collaboration. Thus began a 30+ year journey of teaching and learning spanning preschool through the university level. Audrey initially worked in the art form of contemporary and creative dance before exploring other mediums including tile mosaic work, theatre and writing.

As the Arts Coordinator for the Santa Cruz COE since 2016, Audrey focuses on issues of equity and access to the arts as well as the great importance of the arts for social and emotional learning. Working with many local and state-wide arts organizations in addition to all of our local districts, Audrey collaborates to bring high quality, standards-based arts residencies and programs to our students throughout our county. She still engages in dance and yoga and writing. She has also been known to pick up a paintbrush!