Artist guides Laguna Blanca students toward an art-filled gala evening

Russell Young touches up finished artwork by Laguna Blanca students. KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS
Russell Young touches up finished artwork by Laguna Blanca students.
KENNETH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

Laguna Blanca art students got a chance to work with a pop artist Thursday when Russell Young – former photographer and music video director, now fine artist – returned to the school for a final class of instruction and inspiration.

The finished work, a mosaic of a peace dove created by Laguna’s sixth-graders, will join other works from other grades that received a visit from Mr. Young.

The works will be shown and auctioned at the school’s annual fundraiser March 14 at the Bacara Resort and Spa.

Last year the event raised around $700,000. The money supplements tuition and scholarships to the school, a total that nears $1 million per year.

Mr. Young lives and works in Carpinteria and is married to “General Hospital” actress Finola Hughes. They have three children who go to Laguna Blanca – Dylan is in eighth grade, Cash is in fourth and Sadie is in first – so the time they give to the school is personal.

It was Mr. Young’s and Ms. Hughes’ idea to conceive of eight class projects – early kindergarten through sixth grade – that could be seen as a whole and consist of individual paintings.

One grade has done Jackson Pollock-style action paintings. Another has created a work in the style of Matisse’s later paper works. The fourth-graders got a class in graffiti.

Being an artist, Mr. Young often helps in introducing art to kids.

“The energy off kids is fantastic,” he said. “They get so excited and animated sometimes you can’t hear the instructor.”

In a way, Mr. Young is replicating what one art teacher in the U.K. did for him. Growing up in the north of England, in a “cold and depressing” factory town, he would skip school a lot until his art teacher let him stay in the art room.

He was missing class anyway, she thought, so he might as well hide out somewhere creative. “I didn’t tell anyone else in the school, or my mum!” he said.

“And in schools across the

country,” Ms. Hughes said, “the lack of arts funding is a detriment to the children who are coming through. The loss of art and creativity – because of the curriculum, everything is to the test, constantly – is terrible. And children need that push in creativity.”

People who buy one of the pieces also get a photo book of the process.

“Parents are excited that their kids get a chance to work with an internationally acclaimed pop artist,” said Sherry Hlavaty, auction chairwoman and “volunteer mom.”

“It’s super exciting for this kids too,” Ms. Hlavaty said. “My son has his art on our walls, one we bought at one of the auctions. And he loves to walk in and introduce the works to people. Every student gets to see their art, but also see how it fits into the whole.”

The entire project has lasted six weeks, and Mr. Young and Ms. Hughes are delighted.

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