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Students bring Venice to Newport Harbor

December 11, 2002

Deirdre Newman

Newport Harbor already has its gondolas -- sleek and sophisticated

watercraft that lend an air of romance to the area.

Soon, one of the harbor docks will bear a closer resemblance to

Venice when a vibrant mural depicting a quintessential Venetian scene

is installed.

The mural, created by students from Santiago Creek School for

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Priority Kids, shows four gondolas cruising a canal of royal blue

water against a backdrop of a fiery orange and yellow sky with

periwinkle blue and gray clouds providing a dark contrast to the

bright, sparkling canal.

The students delivered the mural Wednesday to Adventures at Sea,

in advance of its being installed in the dock area.

Many of the students at the Santa Ana school have been involved in

gangs or have social and academic problems. Painting the mural

enabled them to channel their artistic talent into a project that

benefits others by adding color and culture to the harbor.

"I think it's a fabulous chance for our kids to reach out and be

part of the community instead of socially unaccepted like they are

perceived at times," said Janeen Antonelli, principal. "They're

incredible kids."

The project was conceived when Santiago teacher and Newport Beach

resident Cyndie Borcoman asked Kathy Leek, public relations director

for Adventures at Sea, what her students could do to aesthetically

enhance the nearby dock area. Borcoman teaches the school's Art Based

Healing program.

Leek suggested a mural of Venice, providing the students with an

opportunity to research the ancient Italian city. Ten students rolled

up their sleeves and readied their paintbrushes three months ago,

working on the mural in between doing their regular schoolwork.

They were aided in their painting by Jose Simon, 19, a former

Santiago student. After the students studied the architecture of

Venice, Simon engaged them in a collaborative discussion about what

the three-panel mural would look like.

"It was very interactive, we got to talk a lot, it was very fun,"

Simon said.

He then drew a model of the Venetian scene and painted the sky.

The other students pitched in to complete the mural, which also

features Mediterranean-style villas lining the canal. The only

challenge ensued when Simon painted one of the panels with green

water and the other students painted the canal blue. The mismatch was

easily resolved when Simon painted over his to match the others.

Greg Mohr, president of Adventures at Sea, was ecstatic, as a

gondolier who sings Italian love songs, to see the results of the

students' efforts.

"I love it, just love it," Mohr said. "I love the different

depictions of gondolas. I love the use of color. The sky is very

dramatic. I think it draws people's eyes to it. I think it will

really add an extra element [to the dock]."

While the student artists were mostly a shy bunch, preferring to

let their artwork speak for itself, a few commented on the

experience.

"It was fun painting it," said Marcos Millan, 16. "I'm proud of

it. It keeps me out of trouble."

* DEIRDRE NEWMAN covers education. She may be reached at (949)

574-4221 or by e-mail at deirdre.newman@latimes.com.

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