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Lots of Elbow Room : Explore CSUN now while the masses are away, then return in a few months when a full menu of activities envelop the campus.

July 09, 1993|MARYANN HAMMERS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Maryann Hammers writes regularly for Valley Life.

Summer may be the best time to explore Cal State Northridge. The 350-acre campus is calm and quiet, parking is ample, and you don't have to elbow your way through thousands of students rushing to class. Many galleries and exhibitions are padlocked during the off-season, but visitors can view sculptures dotting the grounds, arrange for a backstage theater tour, stroll through shady garden paths and even take a dip in the pool. Get to know your way around campus now, then vow to return in a few months when a full menu of activities, exhibits and productions are scheduled.

10:30 a.m.: At the information kiosk on Prairie Street and Darby Avenue, purchase a parking pass ($1.75) and ask for a campus map. Begin your tour at the kinetic sculpture, "Two Up, Two Down," which looks like a flagpole with delicately balanced, gently moving metal arms. Head for Sierra Hall North and stop in rooms 107 and 109 to admire brilliantly hued murals, painted by Chicano studies students in the mid-1970s. On the first floor of adjoining Sierra Hall South, examine a large circa 1950s globe that depicts the world when CSUN was founded. After twirling the globe and exclaiming at the bygone political boundaries, stop in the Geography Department office, Room 117, to purchase a $5 plant atlas, written by a geography professor, that identifies the flowers and trees on campus.

10:45 a.m.: Walk south on Etiwanda Avenue to the far end of the Fine Arts Building. Turn left to view sculptures in the Fine Arts Plaza, then enter the building to see a few showcased student works. Unfortunately, the galleries are closed in summer. You may suddenly feel terribly creative, so stop in the Mixed-Media Store on the second floor for art supplies.

11 a.m.: You're in the Speech Drama Building for your behind-the-scenes theater tour. During the school year, this building is the focus of plays, concerts, readings and lectures, but today your footsteps echo in the vacant hall. Theater general manager Jeffrey Levy escorts you through the campus theaters, costume shop, scene shop, prop room, dressing rooms and lighting booths. (The free tour is by appointment only, so call ahead.) Double back to Lindley Avenue.

11:30 a.m.: Head east on Nordhoff Street and cross Lindley. Walk through the eight-acre orange grove, a tiny sliver of the Valley's agricultural past and one of the last remaining groves in the area. On Nordhoff and Zelzah Avenue, make like a tourist and pose in front of the school's well-known landmark, the 1975 "noodle" sculpture that reads CSUN from all angles. Double back to Lindley.

11:45 a.m.: At the Matador Bookstore complex, you browse through jewelry, computer, music and clothing stores. Several food outlets, snack shops and an ice cream parlor are also at the complex. You hungrily sniff the air, thick with aromas of pizza and hamburgers, and have lunch at an umbrella-shaded picnic table.

12:15 p.m.: Proceeding north on Lindley, you pass the dome-shaped stellar observatory, which offers public viewings during the school year. Walk through displays in the science buildings to pick up information on earthquakes, rocks, minerals and chemistry. Next stop is the botanical garden, a lush, peaceful haven near Lindley and Prairie. Stroll the tree-shaded paths, or take a break on one of the benches. Turn to your plant atlas to identify the dense vegetation. Continue north on Lindley.

As you pass the large, not-quite Olympic-sized pool, you wish you had brought a bathing suit. The pool is open to the public in the afternoons for $2.25.

1-1:30 p.m.: Walk toward the center of campus to the Delmar T. Oviatt Library. With about 1 million books stacked floor to ceiling, it has more volumes than any other local library. Stop at the information desk for user's guides, including a self-guided tour. You decide to browse the stacks another time and take the escalator to the second floor where African artifacts, including masks, puppets and figures, are showcased. On the third floor, the Hans Burkhardt Gallery displays dozens of paintings, pastels and prints by the renowned artist, a former CSUN professor.

After three hours walking the campus grounds, you may want to conclude your tour. Or, maybe you'd rather collapse in one of the library's overstuffed chairs with a good book. After all, you have a million to choose from.

Where and When Location: Cal State Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St. Hours: Vary in summer; call ahead. Call: (818) 885-1200 or individual departments: Art Gallery, (818) 885-2226; Matador Bookstore, (818) 885-2931; Oviatt Library, (818) 885-2285; Stellar Observatory, (818) 885-2775; Theater Department, (818) 885-3086; University Student Union, (818) 885-2251; University Student Union pool, (818) 885-3604.

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