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CRAFTS : Life-Affirming Lessons : Artists and Artisans Are Invited to Instruct People With AIDS

June 03, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition

Fine artist Mary-Linn Hughes says it enriched her work and gave her profound personal satisfaction. Besides all that, it was a great time.

"I think making art is fun, and making art with other people is even more fun," says the Huntington Beach photographer. "There was lots of joking around and playing and creativity."

It may surprise some, but Hughes is talking about her time at Laguna Shanti, a Laguna Beach AIDS service organization, where she led self-portrait photography workshops for people with AIDS from 1987 to 1991.

"It was one of the most joyous and life-affirming classes I've ever walked into," observed Carol Shiffman, a manager at the California Arts Council when the program began. The CAC, a state agency, funded the workshops.

Hughes is one of many artists across the country doing their part in the fight against AIDS, whether by donating paintings for fund-raisers or sharing expertise--and laughter--with AIDS patients.

Craftspeople have pitched in too, and if you're looking for a way to get involved, Laguna Shanti and another leading Orange County AIDS agency would welcome volunteer assistance with open arms.

Laguna Shanti already has classes in watercolor painting, acting and writing, as well as photography, but "we certainly would be open to additional workshops in any of the arts or crafts," said its executive director, Judith Doyle.

The AIDS Service Foundation in Irvine doesn't offer such programs, but "they would be a wonderful addition to our programming," said Priscella Munro, the agency's executive director.

Laguna Shanti helps about 105 people with, or affected by, AIDS. It also helps people with life-threatening illnesses other than AIDS. ASF serves about 500, including children whose parents or other loved ones have AIDS.

"We'd welcome people interested in working with children," Munro said.

Both agencies may be able to provide funding for materials, could schedule workshops during weekdays or evenings (Laguna Shanti could host them on weekends too), and would consider one-time-only classes or ongoing workshops.

ASF has some on-site space but may hold the classes at another venue with more space. Interested craftspeople should call the agencies, which are eager to accommodate volunteers' schedules and other needs.

ASF clients have requested hands-on art or craft programs, Munro said. Most are too sick to hold down jobs, but even those who do "have a lot of time on their hands and (would like to) do something that's fun and creative," she said.

Emotional support groups offered at ASF "are wonderful for some people," she added, "but they don't work for everyone, and craft classes would be another therapeutic tool to make people feel good about themselves."

Doyle agreed: "There's usually an emotional and spiritual aspect to creativity which gives hope and purpose and reason for being here."

Working with people with AIDS may not be for everyone, Doyle said. But "a lot of people are very able to look past their initial fears of people facing death to go beyond that and touch something very alive right now."


Laguna Shanti, 312 Broadway, Suite 101, Laguna Beach, (714) 494-1446. Ask for Judith Doyle or Sarah Kasman, director of volunteer services.


AIDS Services Foundation, 17982 Sky Park Circle, Suite J, Irvine, (714) 852-1010. Ask for David Armendariz, volunteer director.

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