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NOT IN THE CARDS : Hallmark's 'Kaleidoscope' Recycles Discards With a Creative Spin

May 09, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Face it. This recycling stuff can get pretty dull. Rinse the jam jars, smash the pop cans, stack the newspapers. Valuable? Yes. Stimulating? Hardly.

But this week, local grade-schoolers can get a thrill out of trash at "Kaleidoscope," a traveling art workshop that arrived in Costa Mesa yesterday and continues through Wednesday. Sponsored by Hallmark Cards Inc., the free program helps children ages 6 to 12 explore their creative impulses with a half-ton of the company's leftover paper, yarn and decorative do-dads. The workshop, hosted by the Junior League of Orange County, is open to the public Saturday only and to school and youth groups on weekdays. Because of the age-specific activities, children younger than 6 and older than 12 cannot be admitted.

The brainchild of Hallmark chairman Donald J. Hall, Kaleidoscope began in 1969 as a community service project for children in the Kansas City area, the company's headquarters, said tour coordinator Charleen Campbell. Since then, more than 1.1 million children in 250 cities in the United States and Canada have participated in them. In 1975, the company opened a permanent 8,000-square-foot Kaleidoscope facility near its offices in Crown Center, a commercial and recreational complex in Kansas City.

"Hallmark has a major recycling project that the whole company is active in, from clerical pools on up," said Campbell, "and Kaleidoscope is a big part of that. We use already processed materials and recycled paper on the tour, plus we recycle the scraps that are left over from the tour."

Tour organizers glean over 10 tons of art materials from Hallmark's card and party products lines each year, said Campbell, including a variety of papers, Mylar foil and brightly-colored trim. The loot is loaded into a pair of 45-foot trailers which can be converted into a two-room, 2,000-square-foot portable studio, fully equipped with its own air conditioning and lighting system.

Children visit Kaleidoscope in groups of about 60, with tours departing every hour, said Campbell. To get the creative juices flowing, children stop first in the "Discovery Room," a collection of 12 hands-on displays that include a pair of giant kaleidoscopes, a trio of fun house mirrors and a texture table for crayon rubbings. In the walk-in jukebox, kids can keep the beat to Calypso-style music on a satisfyingly noisy steel drum.

Thus inspired, they move on to the workshop area, where they can visit seven different art stations. They can make a mask or kite, fashion their own yarn jewelry or whip up a "honeycomb" puppet. An adult volunteer hands out materials and encouragement at each stop.

About 300 Junior League members have helped bring the Hallmark program to Orange County, according to Carolyn McInerney, Kaleidoscope coordinator for the women's group. Junior League also hosted the program in 1986, attracting nearly 3,000 children. McInerney expects a similar turnout this year, with about 30 central and South County school groups booked for the weekday tours.

There is, however, one sour note for doting parents. Kaleidoscope is a kids-only event; Mom and Dad must watch the fun from a viewing platform outside the structure.

"This is a chance for children to create something all their own," said McInerney. "We really don't want anybody over them. And the children seem to enjoy that freedom."

What: Kaleidoscope traveling art workshop.

When: Saturday, May 11. Tours are available at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. and at 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

Where: South Coast Plaza parking lot, Southwest corner near the San Diego Freeway and Bear Street.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Bristol Street north. Look for the bright yellow Kaleidoscope structure.

Wherewithal: Admission is free.

Where to call: (714) 435-2024.

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