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September 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, September 17, 2004

Kids mull future, create mural Kids mull future, create mural (September 17, 2004)

Art reacting to war, terrorism on display at City Hall

By Huong C. Pham

Mixing paint and 20 kids sounds like a recipe for mayhem, but in five months they combined to produce a colorful patchwork mural of symbolic images, which is titled "Back to Our Future." The mural is 8 feet by 10 feet and is made of 2-by-2 individual wooden panels.

The children's anxiety about the war in Iraq sparked the idea for Charlotte Davis, a marriage and family therapist at the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC), who led the project. CHAC is a local center that provides counseling and support services for troubled teens.

"Some of the kids had concern about what was going on in Iraq and the terrorists attacks, and feared for their future," said Davis. "I wanted to do this to give them hope."

After she secured funding for the project from Resources For Family and Children, an agency based in San Jose, painting commenced in April.

Ranging from elementary to high school students, the young artists from Mountain View High School, Graham and Crittenden Middle Schools and other local schools, met every month with volunteers at CHAC to express their thoughts about the war in Iraq, terrorism and their concerns for the future.

"The project was open to any kid who wanted to participate," said Davis. "This project took lots of hours, but the kids don't want to stop coming."

While the work is almost complete, Davis is working with a contractor to create a frame large enough to hold the wooden panels that make up the mural. Some of the common themes are gardens, animals, people, poems, and words and phrases such as "equality," "be free," "no ignorance," and "no racism."

Bethany Elliot, 15, painted animals and the elements of earth, fire, water and air in her panel of the mural.

"I don't have a definite title but I call it 'Equality,'" she said.

Ashley Crist, 14, described the garden she painted, her artistic interpretation of the mural's themes: "There are four stages to the blooming garden because each person has a potential to grow like each flower."

The mural will make its debut at Mountain View's City Hall on Sept. 24 at a 3:30 p.m. presentation and will be on display through Sept. 30. Davis is debating where to permanently locate the artwork; she is hoping to have it placed at CHAC or have each artist take his/her own panel home.

After assembling 20 kids and art materials, Davis said she is thinking about starting another project or program to help the students reach their fullest artistic ability.

"(The mural) is an opportunity for kids to shine through the artistic process," said Davis. "It's a labor of love."

E-mail Huong C. Pham at [email protected]

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