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Arts and Entertainment

155 Lifeguard Towers to Become Public Art for 5 Months

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Remember when taxis all over New York City were covered in flower paintings as one massively big mobile public art project? The same non profit that organized it is now working on one for Los Angeles, but with the goal of bringing public art to every lifeguard tower in Los Angeles County, which equates to 155 of them along some 30 miles of coast.

"This is the biggest public art project in the country right now," explained Steve Ricci, a coordinator with Portrait of Hope, which is based in Los Angeles. The projects, titled "Summer of Color," will launch in May and be on display through October, but preparations are already underway.

Monday through Friday, the organization works with schools and hospitals--tonight, for example, with the Special Olympics--in painting canvasses that will be applied to the lifeguard towers. "Summer of Color" has three themes: shapes (because children shape the future), flowers (for beauty, inspiration and healing) and the ocean (for the environment).

"Developed initially for seriously ill and physically disabled children... [the] program conceives and develops one-of-a-kind motivational art projects that merge the production of dynamic public art works with creative therapy for hospitalized children and civic education for students of all ages," explains Project of Hope's website.

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"We use public art as a way to showcase the human ability to achieve," explained Ricci, who said their large scale civic projects around the world are also meant to unite communities and to teach collaboration and teamwork. "We're a social issues based company, very grassroots."

Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Don Knabe have helped facilitate the project to reality along with county lifeguards and the Department of Beaches and Harbors, but Project of Hope takes the stance of not taking any government money. "We just stay away from it," said Ricci, explaining that if these projects are to happen, the private community should show its support it with heart. Ford, Image Options and Laird have been big corporate donors.

When the artwork goes up on lifeguard towers, over 5,000 people, mostly children, will have participated. And you can be one of them, too. Starting next week and through May, the public can volunteer and help paint every Saturday in Marina del Rey. You must sign up, however, in order to be guaranteed a parking pass.

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