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PARENTING : New Doors Open to the Arts : With cutbacks in school programs, parents learn they must find cultural activities for their kids. But there's a wealth of programs to choose from.

March 26, 1993|NANCY KAPITANOFF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Nancy Kapitanoff writes regularly for The Times

Last month in England, the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts hung an abstract watercolor in its annual show, unaware that it had been painted by a 4-year-old girl. Her mother submitted it to the show's judges as a joke.

Whatever the mother's attitude (did anyone make fun of Salzburg University for providing a 5-year-old Mozart with his first public appearance?), that girl was fortunate to have been given such an early opportunity to make art and express herself.

Today in the Los Angeles area, we can no longer depend on our schools to furnish children with the chance to draw, paint, dance or learn to play a musical instrument. Forced to make big budget cuts in recent years, sacrifices by school boards on the altar of the bottom line include instruction in the arts and field trips to concert halls, theaters and museums.

But luckily, all is not lost. Many of Los Angeles' art venues offer excellent no-cost or low-cost educational programs and special activities for children to undertake alone or with their families.

Some of these institutions also organize arts programs through the schools. Unlike the old days, when schools planned and paid for special performances and field trips, today it is often up to parents to find out what programs are available, coordinate the school's involvement and pay the price.

For those parents willing to be enterprising and resourceful, there are still many fine opportunities to introduce children to the magic of the arts.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, a resident company of the Music Center downtown, presents a variety of programs designed to acquaint children with the symphony.

"Symphonies for Youth," for kids ages 6 to 12 and their parents, will take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on four Saturday mornings this spring: April 3, April 24, May 22 and May 29. Featuring such themes as music around the world and musical heroes and villains, concerts are preceded by activities and demonstrations that help illustrate the day's musical topic. The April 24 concert offers a special treat: Philharmonic Music Director Esa Pekka Salonen will introduce and conduct Stravinsky's music for the ballet "Petrouchka." Tickets are $7.50 and $5. On that same day, conductor Salonen will also acquaint children ages 3 to 5 and their parents with the world of the symphony orchestra as part of the Philharmonic's "Open House at the Music Center" series. All tickets are $3. For information on both series, call (213) 850-2000.

This summer, the Philharmonic Assn., in conjunction with the Friends of the Hollywood Bowl, will present "Open House at the Hollywood Bowl," a six-week festival of music, dance and theater performances accompanied by arts and crafts workshops for children ages 3 to 12. For information, call (213) 850-2000.

The Philharmonic and the Music Center's other resident companies--Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Music Center Opera and Center Theatre Group--each has youth programs that they coordinate through Los Angeles area schools. For information on these programs and how to get your child's school involved in them, call: the Philharmonic, (213) 972-0703; master chorale, (310) 373-4072; opera, (213) 972-7219; Center Theatre Group, (213) 972-0720.

The Center Theatre Group will also conduct a theater training program for students ages 14 to 18 that runs from the end of June to August. Information and applications, which are due April 20, may be obtained by calling (213) 972-7654, ext. 9604

Beyond these events, the Music Center has an education division devoted primarily to bringing dance, drama, music and visual arts programs to the schools. Companies such as Ballet Folclorico do Brasil, Little Theatre of the Deaf, and the Aman Folk Orchestra visit schools to perform and conduct workshops that give kids firsthand experience with the performing arts. Under the same program, groups of students can also create their own individually designed arts activities and work closely with a professional artist in an artist-in-residence partnership.

Joan Boyett, the Music Center's vice president for education, says these offerings, for which schools must pay a fee, are often brought to the attention of the schools by parents.

"So much of the money for our programs comes from parents and PTAs," Boyett said. "I credit them with saving the arts from totally disappearing from the schools."

For a brochure on the Education Division's programs, call (213) 972-7285.

Offerings in the visual arts are available through the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which encourages children to explore their creative imaginations in hands-on classes offered in five-week sessions on Saturdays or Sundays. Courses use the museum's permanent collections and special exhibitions "to teach, but not to limit" children, said Lisa Waters, the art classes registrar. Classes take place right in the galleries.

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