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Drawn Into Art : Videos can help spark children's interest in a world of creating and exploring. Viewing artists as they discuss their techniques 'seeds inspiration,' expert says.

August 12, 1994|BARBARA BRONSON GRAY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Barbara Bronson Gray is a regular contributor to The Times

With budgets universally tight, the wide range of arts programs for children that were once offered in the schools, parks and libraries have been cut to near-extinction. Although there are some privately funded or for-profit arts classes available, they can be tough to find and sometimes expensive.

Now, in addition to classes, it is possible to send out for arts training, through art videos designed for children.

Experts say videos can be useful in stimulating art interest in children because what kids need most is to be exposed to real artists.

Mark Jurey, a professor in the Art General Studies Department at Cal State Northridge, says the key factor in selecting an art class for children has little to do with materials or setting. He feels that putting children in contact with a real artist is enormously valuable.

"Education in the arts is more and more moving toward having the artists in contact with students," he says. Listening to artists talk is essential, he says, because they have unique perspectives and points of view on the world. "Listening to an artist seeds inspiration," he says.

It's not essential, says Jurey, that children have live contact with artists.

Even watching programs on video or television in which an artist is interviewed or shown talking while working is of great value, he says. Such videos are widely available in bookstores.

The 10-video "Behind the Scenes" series (Ambrose Video Publishing Inc., 1992, $14.95), funded by a $1.5-million production grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is one example.

These half-hour videos feature such famous artists as David Hockney, David Parsons and Max Roach, discussing how they go about their work. The tapes are geared to appeal to children and are hosted by magicians Penn and Teller, who use animation and music to better explain what the artists are saying.

In the video with Hockney, for instance, children can listen and watch as Hockney discusses why his art does not always look just like the real world.

He describes, step by step, how his sketch of a chair reflects to him the way the furniture looks as he walks around it, and how his finished work reflects the changing view of memory.

Co-producer Jane Garmmey says the videos help parents and children realize that the arts are not esoteric. "We need to demystify the arts. The idea is to get kids to be more open," she says.

School-age children like to be shown how color, perspective and texture can fool the eye--something the videos do well, using actual experiments to prove points.

Paul Bradford, a pottery and ceramics artist who teaches children at Everywomen's Village in Van Nuys, says that artists convey the joy they find in their work, and typically will allow children the freedom to explore.

"In my classes, I show the children the basic techniques of how to use clay--the pinching, the rolling--and then I encourage them to have fun and let go," says Bradford, who is also a member of the board of directors of the San Fernando Valley Arts Council.

Part of the value of exposing children to the exploration of art, says Jurey, is that it helps children realize their inherent power to create.

"Our day-to-day reality is so prepackaged by the media, it's real important to come into contact with another reality, to see that there are different ways of looking at things," he says.

Where to Go

What: "Behind the Scenes" videos from Ambrose Video Publishing Inc.

Price: $14.95 each.

Call: (818) 345-2690.

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