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RESEDA : 3-D Mural Made for Visually Impaired Kids

June 04, 1993|SCOTT GLOVER

A mural of a coral reef done in brilliant colors came alive for many visually impaired students in Reseda on Thursday as part of a special project designed to benefit the handicapped.

Adding a third dimension to the mural made of cloth, dozens of students pasted colorful seashells and starfish along its 27-foot length.

"This way, even the kids who are blind have a wealth of information here," said artist Elizabeth Criss, who with her husband, David, created the work that graces a hallway in Lokrantz Special Education Center.

Nine-year-old Wyatt Andrews could not have known it, but his appraisal of the art project met precisely with what Criss had in mind.

"The reef is crawling," the autistic 9-year-old said, after tracing his hand across several varying textures while searching for a suitable spot to place his tiny starfish. "It is fun."

The mural, made of brightly painted, heat-treated scraps of carpet, became home to hundreds of marine animals. And besides providing a lush backdrop in the school's cavernous hallway, the reef and its inhabitants will be used in lessons in counting, color, animal life and spatial relations.

The "hanging classroom" was specially designed for the mentally and visually challenged students at Lokrantz, part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. It is one of six special education centers in the Valley, with 250 students ranging in age from 3 to 22. All are severely handicapped.

"They really focus a lot on tactile learning. That's why I couldn't just paint a mural on the wall," said Criss.

Children at the school have been involved with the assembly of the project since it began in November, said Lokrantz principal Cecellia Simmons.

"Somehow she has arranged to include almost every child on this campus in this project," Simmons said of Criss. "And that's our goal here--full participation."

Criss, whose 7-year-old daughter, Emily, is a student at the school, has received two grants totaling $25,000 for the project, one from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and another from the Ella Lyman Cabot Trust, a Massachusetts philanthropic trust fund.

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