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Lifeguard towers on L.A. County's coastline to be decorated with vibrant colors

February 20, 2010 |  2:35 pm

Photo: Cups of paint were set up on Friday for students, teachers and parents to decorate colorful panels as part of a project to decorate more than 150 lifeguard towers on the Los Angeles County coast. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

From the Palos Verdes Peninsula to Malibu’s Zuma Beach, vibrant artworks will soon sprout from the bland sands of Los Angeles County’s coastline.

For five months starting in May, more than 150 lifeguard towers spanning 31 miles of beach will be enveloped in panels and rooftop canvases painted fuchsia, turquoise, orange, green and yellow by thousands of Los Angeles-area children and adults.

“Summer of Color -- Lifeguard Towers of Los Angeles” was conceived by brothers Ed and Bernie Massey, founders of Portraits of Hope. The 15-year-old nonprofit group develops large-scale, hands-on art projects for adults and children, many of whom are coping with poverty, serious illness or disabilities.

Photo: Palisades Elementary Charter School students Grant Ebner, Elise Angelich and Nina Polishook, left to right, use rollers to paint panels on Friday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times Among the projected 5,000 children and young adults preparing the lifeguard-tower artwork were 45 1st- and 5th-graders from Palisades Elementary Charter School. They arrived Friday morning with a dozen chaperons at a Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors building in Marina del Rey, which Portraits of Hope has converted into a studio.

Kneeling amid the youngsters on a paint-splattered floor, Ed Massey demonstrated the best techniques for avoiding blobs and wayward swipes. First dab the paint in the middle of one of the white spaces, then hold the sponge roller like a piece of chalk and spread the color. The children and adults then went to work on the 5-foot-by-10-foot and 4-foot-by-8-foot panels.'

Kelsey Tsuchiyama, 10, applied bright-pink acrylic paint to a panel section printed with the stylized black outline of a flower.

She said the project was “really cool,” adding: “I can look at my work if I go to the beach later on.”

Her mother, Jane Tsuchiyama, said she appreciates the program’s emphasis on civic engagement. Portraits of Hope projects that 45 million beachgoers will see the public exhibit.

This is art writ large, akin to the temporary “environmental” works by Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude.

Portraits of Hope’s high-profile public art projects serve as creative therapy and teach students about involvement in civic activities, Ed Massey said. The group has transformed a DC-3, a blimp, buildings, tugboats, NASCAR race cars and the New York City taxi fleet. Closer to home, school students and hospitalized pediatric patients in 2000 painted the panels adorning the Beverly Hills High School oil derrick.

Each lifeguard tower will have a sponsor paying $10,000, organizers said. Ed Massey, a painter and sculptor, credited Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe for championing the effort. The Los Angeles County Lifeguard Assn., the union that represents lifeguards, is collaborating.

Frank Bird, a member of the union’s board, said he expects that a lot of visitors this summer will be asking about the enormous flowers and other patterns. Creative locals, he said, have decorated the occasional tower on the sly. But, he added, “there’s never been anything on this scale.”

For more information, visit www.portraitsofhope.org.

-- Martha Groves

Photo: (Top) Cups of paint were set up Friday for students, teachers and parents to decorate colorful panels as part of a project to decorate more than 150 lifeguard towers on the Los Angeles County coast.  (2nd photo) Palisades Elementary Charter School students Grant Ebner, Elise Angelich and Nina Polishook, from left, apply paint with rollers. Credits: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

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