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Ivy grows in students' 'Raisin in the Sun' garden

February 2, 2012 |  8:30 am

For proof that digging a little dirt and poking a plant into the ground is an investment in hope, look to the frontyard of a run-down house next to the Kirk Douglas Theatre, where five human forms have been sculpted from chicken wire. Over time, the ivy planted within them is meant to climb over the wire and fill the characters.

Through a Center Theatre Group program, students from Culver City High's Academy of Visual and Performing Arts worked with a set designer to come up with the art installation related to the current production, "A Raisin in the Sun," said Traci Cho, Center Theatre Group’s director of school partnerships.

"In the play, one of the main characters is the matriarch, and she keeps a potted plant. It’s a symbol of her dreams for the family," said Azalie Welsh, 17, one of the students. "It’s sort of like the garden she could never have."

Four groups of students created installations on the high school campus.

Eric Sims, the Kirk Douglas operations manager, was among the guests at the opening reception for the installations. He said he was excited by the way the Lorraine Hansberry play — which opened on Broadway in 1959 and recounts a family’s struggle to leave its run-down apartment for a house — resonated with a new generation.

Sims asked one student group to move its work to the Washington Boulevard yard for the run of the play, which ends Feb. 19. The sculptures were installed in front of a 1927 house that once was a doctor’s office, Sims said. (The theater uses part of the property as production space; soon it could become the new home of the Jazz Bakery.)

"It just kind of clicked. Home is such an image in the play," Sims said.

The five students behind the piece, all beginning gardeners, wanted something that would "beautify the school and a green space on campus," said Max Malsich, 17. "We have a lot of under-utilized land that could be really nice."

The installation was originally set on a small slope of land near a walkway, with five characters arranged to reflect their relationship to one another.

"By the time we’re all graduated, it will be more like an art piece that former students made," Ahin Ju, 18, said.

Simone Miller, a junior, is the only one of the group not graduating this year, so her schoolmates’ hopes that their work is maintained are planted with her.  

-- Mary MacVean



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Top photo: The student installation in the garden by the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Bottom photo: Eric Sims and Traci Cho in the garden.

Photos by Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times