Through A Child's Eyes
A new generation takes the Carmel art scene by storm.
Thursday, February 21, 2002
Photo by Randy Tunnell; Mr. Mendez''s second-grade class.
Long a haven for artists, Carmel is now home to a new gallery and workspace in the Crossroads. The walls are vibrant with wild color, and the shelves are adorned with art and the supplies with which it is made. Hammers and pliers and paintbrushes of all sorts hang on one wall, and furniture models sit on a high table in the workspace, half-finished. Paintings hang here and there, and some are even painted onto the walls themselves. The whole place is a work in progress, according to gallery director Debbie Ray, and keeps expanding. They''ve been in their new space for about four months, and already she''s hinting that they may need something bigger in the future.
"The new studio has only been here since October," she says. "I had a smaller spot in the Crossroads and we outgrew it immediately. We''re actually still growing--there''s never enough space. It gets better and better."
Such optimism is refreshing. The Carmel art scene, while formidable and the host to some great talents, can often be rather stuffy. Ray''s unbridled enthusiasm and that of the people who came to attend the gallery''s first opening last week is like a breath of air into the dying lungs of a stodgy art community.
The opening coincided with the last day of an unseasonable warm spell that conspired to make the population of the entire Central Coast a little giddy, the creative talent being no exception. The artists themselves seemed very happy to have the opportunity to have their art so displayed, and while excited to know they were going to be in the newspaper, they didn''t provide much interesting commentary.
"I think it''s cool," said artist Scarlet Tanous before running off again to join her shrieking fellow creators.
It seems clear that artists are an unusual kind of people; one has to take into account that the creative impulse brings with it erratic behavior. Still, it''s rather unusual to find a group of artists chasing each other around and screaming at their own gallery opening.
Then again, the name of this particular gallery is Kids ''n'' Art, and the artists enjoying their premiere this evening are the members of Jon Mendez''s second-grade classroom.
The Carmel River School students recently learned to draw in the style of Picasso, and did some rather moving and insightful portraits of their model, Mr. Mendez himself. They also learned about the way animated cartooning is done, and painted vivid ocean scenes on acetate. These works are displayed now in the gallery space of Kids ''n'' Art, along with other pieces scattered around the rest of the workshop.
To look at the portraits of Mr. Mendez, one would think that he was a multi-colored, fanged monster. The works themselves are not exactly worthy of Picasso just yet (although with more practice, who knows?), but all the passion and verve of great and seasoned artists is there to behold. Their use of color and shape is interesting, and the feeling behind their work seems strong. The ocean scenes on acetate are positively brilliant in their use of color. Drawn on the back of the page so the color shows through, the scenes of octopi and deep-sea creatures, boats and sunshine show the viewer our area''s natural beauty through children''s not-yet-jaded eyes.
"Mr. Mendez had contacted me about coming into the school and doing an art project," says Ray. "Coincidentally, I was just getting started on this program called ''Art to Go,'' where I would go as an outreach to schools or parties. So it worked out pretty nice--he was like my guinea pig for the program. They did great stuff. It''s interesting to see their different characters and personalities. The kids are having a great time seeing all their stuff."
"It''s a chance for them to express their creativity," said Mr. Mendez, holding his very cute baby in his arms. "I love the way it''s set up, too."
The baby, although smiling brightly, did not comment.
As well as offering outreach work, Kids ''n'' Art has after-school classes and preschool art discovery. What is most exciting about something like this is not so much the fact that children are creating things. Classrooms all over are wallpapered with the weekly art projects of students. Rather, what makes Kids ''n'' Art special is the way the art of children is embraced as something worthy of adult consideration, something beautiful and honorable and deserving of prominent display. The exhibit of Mr. Mendez''s students'' art is up until the end of February. Come see it, and maybe come away with a new, younger perspective on art and its place in the world.
Kids ''n'' Art''s current exhibit runs through February. 234 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel. 625-9471