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Budding Artists Get First Break


Some artists spend years trying to get their work on the market--longer, even, to see it displayed in a major museum. For five Highland Park fifth-graders, both happened almost overnight.

Each of the Loreto Street School students spent two class periods in July designing Christmas card covers for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Now, 10,000 cards featuring their designs are being sold in the museum's stores, and more are expected to be distributed soon to national and international markets.

"I feel famous," said David Rubio, a 10-year-old whose card depicts a colorful string of Christmas lights.

The watercolor and pastel designs of David, Evanina Argaez, Linda Lam, Iliana Mendoza and Van Tran were chosen by the museum's staff from among dozens submitted by Diana Donan's fifth-grade class. Donan's class has participated for three years in the museum's Contemporary Art Start program, which trains teachers and sponsors classroom programs to educate elementary school students about post-World War II art. This year, the museum invited Donan's students to draw holiday designs, then chose five of them to print onto cards, Donan said.

Evanina's and Iliana's cards depict trumpeting angels flying over a smog-free Los Angeles and Earth. Linda drew a Christmas ornament framing a person looking for the right tree. And Van, in a style that would have made Jackson Pollock proud, splattered watercolors on his card and left the holiday message open to interpretation.

For their efforts, the students were honored at a school assembly, and the museum gave $500 to the school for art supplies.

Meanwhile, the cards--at $12 for a box of 10--have been selling briskly at the museum's stores, which also has the designs on display, museum officials said.

"They've been doing very well," said Tim Clare, a buyer for the store. "People are always surprised to find out that children did them because the artwork is so beautiful."

The children's cards will probably be marketed nationally in May or June at a convention for museum stores. Los Angeles museum officials will also be looking for a broker to sell them internationally, Clare said.

Revenue from sales will be used by the museum for exhibits and educational programs such as Contemporary Art Start, he said.

Donan's budding artists, busy finishing math and English homework and preparing for their next art assignment--macaroni angels--seemed unaffected by the fame or commercial aspect of their work.

"It's an angel flying around the city," Iliana said of her card, "telling people about Santa Claus and telling them to believe in him like they believe in other people."

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