Is she crazy or a hero? In our hit production of Bakersfield Mistnow playing at the Fountain, Maude Gutman owns a spattered painting that she bought at a thrift store which she now believes is a masterpiece by Jackson Pollock worth millions. Is it real or a forgery? Last Friday, thirty-two 5th grade students from Ramona Elementary School around the corner visited the Fountain Theatre to try their hands at creating their own abstract expressionist paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock. Says teacher Eric Arboleda, the experience was “priceless”.
The students gathered in the theatre for a lesson on modern art from Sarah Boulton, educator and coordinator of the day’s event for the Fountain. The group then moved upstairs, where a long table waited with paper, paints and brushes. The students were instructed to freely paint what the feel, to think of images that express their inner selves, not literal pictures. The students leapt into action. Grabbing brushes, the kids spattered and swirled their paints in a wild flurry of colors. Paint landed not only on paper. It ended up on the floor, on the walls, and peppered the kids themselves with bright colored freckles. Everyone had a blast.
After the paint session, the kids moved into the cafe for donuts and drinks. They relaxed on our outdoor balcony and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon sun. All agreed it was an extraordinary day.
Friday’s event was the third visit by Ramona Elementary School students in two years, part of an ongoing educational partnership between the school and the Fountain Theatre to offer an enhanced art experience for young people in our community. The event was made possible through Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain’s educational outreach program making art available to underserved students.
Another unforgettable afternoon at the Fountain Theatre. Thirty students from Ramona Elementary School around the corner on Mariposa Street walked over to the Fountain Theatre Friday morning for a special visit that included a lesson on Native American storytelling and the making their own colorful animal masks.
Teacher Eric Arboleda’s 3rd grade class have been studying Native American culture prior to their visit. The Fountain’s current hit production of Dream Catcher offered the perfect invitation for the theatre and Ramona School to partner for the benefit of the young students. The project is made possible through Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain’s educational outreach program that makes art accessible to young people.
The same class from Ramona Elementary School visited the Fountain in November during the run of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. For that production, the students painted their own stones in bright colors and patterns.
Sarah Boulton guides the class on Native American creation stories.
Friday morning’s visit began with the students gathering in the theatre to see Dream Catcher’s in-the-round dirt setting. Fountain colleague Sarah Boulton guided the students through a lively lesson plan exploring the creation stories from a variety of Native American tribes.
Eric Arboleda and Stephen Sachs
The students were then ushered outside where a long table covered with art supplies waited for them in the parking lot. There they enjoyed an exuberant get-together of mask making, grabbing paper and colored markers and scissors and bright vibrant feathers. It was a joy to watch the kids create their animal masks with such laughter and festive chatter, sharing in this art adventure they would not otherwise experience.
“Reaching out to young people is an important commitment for us. It’s what we do and who we are,” explains Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “Offering art and creative expression to students who may otherwise have no access to it. For us, there is no higher calling. Plus the pure fun and joy of it is rejuvenating for all of us.”
The Fountain will expand and enlarge its ongoing partnership with Ramona Elementary School. And, through Theatre as a Learning Tool, will continue to broaden its reach to serve young students throughout Southern California.
One of the great things about working in a theatre is you get the opportunity to bring people together.
Theater starts the minute the lights go down and the outside world stops. In the darkened theater, the to-do lists and personal hardships fade into a different world that will be yours for the next two hours. In the dark, we are no longer different people but a collective group sharing the same experience. We taste the love Romeo has for Juliet, cry with John Proctor as he asks for forgiveness, and laugh with Eliza Doolittle as she dances all night. Theatre lets us reexperience first kisses, our first heartaches. It evens the playing field so we all can experience the same thing regardless of how different we are. As we experienced it with our last production, Citizen: An American Lyric. In the dark we were the oppressed and the oppressor. We became a collective unit attempting to understand racism.
But Friday, we got to experience a very different type of unifying. Friday we were able to have Eric Arboleda’s third grade class from Ramona Elementary School come to our theatre. And we stopped being actors and children and started becoming one collective unit.
Lexi Lallatin holding photo of Nukain Mabuza to students.
We started the day with a tour of the theatre which ended on the stage set up for our show The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. There, surrounded by intricately designed rocks, sand, and a set we were able to discuss found art- particularly relating to Nukain Mabuza (The subject of the play). The children were able to see through the eyes of someone who lived during the apartheid. They talked about how they would have wanted to “express their emotions”. And once again, it testified to the unifying power of theatre. Where else would third grade children and theatre artists be able to bond over the artistic genius of an untrained artist during apartheid in South Africa? In the end, the kids were able to express themselves independently by painting their own rocks.
Lexi lallatin with Ramona School student on the set of ‘Painted Rocks”.
I speak for the Fountain Theatre when I say that this experience spoke to us on why we do theater. Theatre has the power to unify. To bring together. Every child was different. Some were too shy to speak and others couldn’t wait to tell you every detail of their day. Some spent the whole time making sure their rock was perfect, while others were more eager to get to the doughnut and play “duck, duck, goose”. Every rock came out different. Some were intricate, with dots and swirls. Some were blobs of a color the child swore was “marbled.” But in the end, all of the students were so excited to share and talk about their rocks.
I am so thankful for the wonderful Ramona Elementary School, to Eric Arboleda and his wonderful class, to American Builders Supply in Pacoima who donated the rocks, to Stan’s Doughnuts, and to all the people at the theatre who helped make this possible. This is the epitome of bringing people together. We are so thankful to be part of this community, and we are proud to say this is the type of thing we strive for.
Students from Ramona Elementary School.
Come to the Fountain Theatre and see The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. Be part of the shared experience. See the children’s rocks in our lobby. Hear about Nukain Mabuza. On Friday, as the sun set on our collection of wet rocks drying in the sun, each with its own story behind it, I wondered what Nukain would have thought if he knew all the different people he brought together, on Friday and throughout therun of this play, to pay homage to his memory and his work.
Lexi Lallatin is from Portland, Oregon, and now an intern at the Fountain Theatre.The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creekruns to December 14th.Info/Tickets
Students from our neighborhood Ramona Elementary School on Mariposa Street only had to walk around the corner to experience a unforgettable day of creativity, fun and artistic expression at the Fountain Theatre. The kids joined Fountain staff for ‘Painted Rocks Day’, a community arts event inviting the students to visit the theatre, learn about Outsider Art and rock painting, then choose and paint their own smooth rocks to express their world view and inner selves.
The educational activity was a satellite event of the Fountain Theatre’s west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, dramatizing the life and vision of South African artist Nuzain Mabuza who painted hundreds of rocks on a hillside in bright colors and patterns to create his visionary “flower garden” .
Led by teacher Eric Arboleda, the twenty-four 3rd graders arrived Friday morning and were given tours of the Fountain Theatre by staff members. The group was shown the remarkable ‘Painted Rocks’ set on the main stage, complete with real dirt, plants and a vibrant collection of painted rocks and boulders.
Fountain intern Lexi Lallatin lead the class in a lesson discussing examples of Outsider Art and how art can be created by ordinary found objects. Lexi shared the story of Nuzain Mabuza and encouraged the students to imagine how they might transform everyday objects in their daily lives into magical art pieces.
The group then moved outside to the Fountain parking lot where a long art table holding rocks, paints and brushes was waiting. The students excitedly dove in and went to work. Each chose their own rock and were told to paint it however they wished, with as many colors and patterns they imagined, to express who they were and their own inner vision.
The results were extraordinary. Simple gray stones were transformed into vibrant talismen of color and bright patterns. The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They painted, laughed and chatted excitedly as they worked for one hour. Donuts and juice were served.
The rocks painted by the students will remain on display in the lobby of the Fountain Theatre throughout the run of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to December 14th. At that time, the rocks will then be given to the students to take home.
We wish to thank American Builders Supply in Pacoima for donating the rocks for the students to paint, and Stan’s Doughnuts for the snacks. A shout-out to Fountain staff members Lexi Lallatin, James Bennett, Scott Tuomey, and Barbara Goodhill for helping to make the event a joyous success.
‘Painted Rocks Day’ with Ramona Elementary School was created through Theatre As a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program dedicated to making art accessible to students and young people in Los Angeles.