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VALLEY FOCUS | North Hollywood

5th-Graders Draw on Community Lesson

October 10, 1998|MICHAEL BAKER

With the stoic concentration of a trained artist, 9-year-old Maddi Marroquin carefully applied the finishing brush strokes Friday to a masterpiece her class has spent weeks preparing.

The class has worked under the watchful guidance of a Cal State Northridge graduate art student.

Marroquin and 29 other students in her fifth-grade class at Oxnard Street Elementary School were completing work on a clay sculpture that will eventually stand 7 feet tall.

The students from the North Hollywood school painted five columns, which Chris Turk, a master's student in the CSUN fine arts department, will glaze and attach--one on top of the other. A bronze plaque will be placed at the base to list those who worked on the project.

With a colorful array of clay faces, peace symbols, hands, crosses and hearts, the "community totem pole," as it has come to be known, is meant to portray what can be accomplished by working together.

"The real issue here is to get the kids to think about community and that through community they can do great things," Turk said. "They really haven't been told that there are rules in art yet, so they're really not afraid of failing. They're cultivating a togetherness, and they're starting to get it."

The students have worked on the sculpture with Turk over the last month as the culminating event in an artist-in-residence program sponsored by the Valley Cultural Center in Woodland Hills.

The center provided Turk with about $2,500 for supplies and labor during his 14-week stay.

Since July, Turk has taught the students about murals, ceramics and paints.

"He's taught us everything we wanted to know about art," said Guessepi Rodriguez, 10, as he wiped paint on his shirt. "It's just been real fun."

But the bigger point was to foster a sense of togetherness, said teacher Arlene Delaney, "The theme is community, how we bring the community into our lives," she said.

And the children seem to be getting the message, confirmed Irene Sandoval, 10. "I've learned that we work in a community, and I feel closer to my classmates."

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