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BOYLE HEIGHTS : Salesian to Offer Free Art Academy

October 25, 1992|MARY ANNE PEREZ

Artist George Yepes will open a free art academy at Salesian High School next month for students from throughout the county who have proven their interest and talent in the subject.

Yepes, 36, an accomplished muralist and painter known for his Eastside murals and cover design of Los Lobos' "La Pistola y El Corazon" album, is following through on a dream of Ricardo Valdez, the late Salesian principal who envisioned academies in art, drama, business and computer sciences at the all-boys parochial school.

Valdez died in May at the age of 44 after his first year as principal, but he had outlined a seven-year plan for these additions to the school, said George Caro, president of the school's alumni association.

The Academia de Arte Yepes, funded by a $6,400 California Arts Council grant, will take 10- to 18-year-olds for sessions of up to 18 hours a week. The students will create art for nonprofit agencies by researching the agencies' work and designing a project specific to that work.

"The whole purpose of the academy is to teach art to the kids and for it not to cost them anything," said Yepes, a Salesian graduate. "When I was 10, I wanted to take art classes but they were $10 a month. Looking back . . . $10 was a lot of money and it would have broke us. So I had to go back to drawing and sketching in my room, and I used paints that I found in the street. I want to reach these kids and pull them out of their rooms with an abundance of supplies."

In addition to helping young artists, the program may be able to pull Salesian out of an enrollment slump and the budget problems that have plagued it for the last decade, Caro said.

Valdez had been under pressure to increase enrollment, which has dipped to 285 from more than 900 in the 1970s. He saw the academies as a way to increase the 35-year-old school's standing in the community, Caro said.

"If you can do things to put it on the map in the eyes of the community, then the enrollment will follow," Caro said.

Salesian must also meet the needs of students who will not go on to college by increasing the variety of subjects offered there, said Principal Manuel Villarreal. The art academy provides the first step in that direction, he said.

"My vision is that we get into these partnerships where the whole community benefits," Villarreal said. "I really think it's the way of the future for both private and public schools. If you have kids in mind, you really have to join forces."

The academy will start Nov. 9 and continue through May.

Nonprofit agencies and students may obtain applications from Salesian High School, 960 S. Soto St., Los Angeles, 90023, or by calling the high school at (213) 261-7124. The deadline for the first session is Nov. 9.

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