Monday, December 9

Festival celebrates youth creativity


Tuesday, November 26, 1996

ARTS:

Mentor program gives at-risk children opportunity to succeedBy
Daniel Jimenez

Daily Bruin Contributor

Ruben Guevara had not slept in three days. Greeting guests at
the entrance of the Los Angeles Theater Sunday, only a faint
semblance of exhaustion crossed his face as he answered questions
and enthusiastically directed guests to various parts of the
spacious room.

Guevara, a fourth-year world arts and culture student at UCLA,
had worked too hard, and a lack of sleep would not thwart his
efforts to direct the fourth annual Arts 4 City Youth festival.

"Ruben has been through so much, you don’t even know," said
Willie Loya, director of the Pico Rivera Center for the Arts and
co-assistant director for the event.

Founded by Guevara in 1993, Arts 4 City Youth provides free art
instruction through mentors for at-risk kids. This year’s festival,
funded by the California Arts Council and the National Endowment
for the Arts in partnership with the world arts and culture
department at UCLA, featured visual art exhibits and poetry
readings by several disadvantaged students.

The students represented six housing projects and seven
elementary schools in East Los Angeles, Downtown and the Pico
Union, said Sarah Streng, co-assistant director of the
festival.

The art display also included a small exhibit of paintings from
three of the mentors. For Guevara, mentors are crucial for the
long-term success both of the program and the students. "To keep
the students interested and coming back, we are trying to develop a
long-term and supportive relationship between the students and the
mentors," Guevara said.

Admiring the work of his own students, Vincent Oliva, a mentor
in the program and former UCLA student, stood in front of three
muslin cloth banner paintings depicting Mayan warriors. Oliva knows
from personal experience how crucial the role of a mentor is in a
child’s life.

"When I was growing up in Ontario, I wanted to do something more
positive other than gang-banging," he said. "I was fortunate to
have a mentor that gave me direction and allowed me to go to school
and realize my dreams."

The muslin cloth paintings were part of a larger exhibit which
some parents and guests viewed as a tangible representation of the
students’ hard work and affirmed the support of the mentors.

"Art is life, and you have to have people show up here and
support the results and embodiment of the students’ effort and hard
work," said Jean Rebholz, a fourth-year world arts and culture
student.

The young students themselves, accompanied by their parents and
wearing beaming expressions of pride mixed with awe, are the
ultimate concern of Guevara and the other festival
participants.

"One of my long-term goals for the kids is to create a community
of culturally sensitive artists and leaders to take us through the
21st century," Guevara said.

The importance of influencing the adult community by starting
with young kids was not lost on other festival participants.

"Once the students’ flexible minds are influenced or molded,
this will be extended out to the parents, which is the core of
learning. Through the children, the parents will become more
involved," said Frances Awe, a graduate student in ethnomusicology
and the main performer in the Nigerian Talking Drum Ensemble.

Other world dance and music performances throughout the day
displayed a variety of colorful dance styles. Guevara felt that the
solo Korean dance performed by Sen Hea Ha, a graduate student in
the world arts and culture department, was a prime example of the
cultural diversity displayed by the event.

"I have been in arts a long time, and I did not even know that
Koreans had that style of dance or drums," he said.

Poetry readings preceded the multi-ethnic performances,
featuring three elementary school-age students reading various
poems describing their role as artists, their parents and their
friends. In one poignant moment, a student ­ reading a poem
written in a letter form to her friend ­ broke down in tears
and could not finish her reading. The crowd was moved to
silence.

Guevara said the readings expose and hopefully promote a
multicultural identity. "By exposing kids to different art forms, I
hope to create an inter-barrio dialogue," Guevara said.

GENEVIEVE LIANG

Catheleen Coreas, 12, shows her parents the Dia de los Muertos
papier-mache skeletons that she and her brother made.

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