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Park ‘Kidzartz Festival’ Is Still a Dream

Times Staff Writer

Elaine Krieger hopes to see thousands of San Diego County children in October cavorting in Balboa Park to performances in drama, music, art, dance, literature, puppetry, poetry and mime.

Krieger’s vision would be the first “Kidzartz Festival” on Saturday, Oct. 17, a showcase for local artists to turn on students countywide to the arts at a time of funding crunches for the fine arts in school districts.

But Krieger needs about $75,000 to pull off her dream, and she has commitments at present of less than $15,000.

“I created the idea because I think it would help a lot of children,” said Krieger, an events producer who has helped put on telethons and arts fund-raising events. “And I don’t discourage easily.”

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Krieger has gotten tentative approval for $6,500 from the San Diego City Council and $1,000 from the county Board of Supervisors, she said. Krieger is busy trying to line up corporate sponsors to help pay for hiring artists and equipment needed to produce a major one-day show. The San Diego Unified School District and the county Office of Education have promised in-kind support to the extent their already over-stretched budgets will allow.

Julian artist James Hubbell and his Ilan-Lael Foundation have also agreed to support the concept.

Caught Up in Idea

“I hope it works out, it’s a wonderful idea,” said Kay Wagner, fine arts basic education director for the San Diego Unified School District. “At this point there’s a lot of work to be done but let’s see what can come of it.”

Jack Hill, curriculum specialist for the county schools office, called the festival a major effort to show students, and the general public, that fine arts should not be considered as an adjunct to academic subjects usually considered more central to education.

“We get too caught up in the idea of academics versus fine arts,” Hill said. “This festival would sure be a good thing to recognize what fine arts can do for children.

“I know that the idea (of a festival) has a long way to go but I don’t think Elaine Krieger gives up easily . . . that’s how things do happen.”

Krieger hopes to have several local companies decide within the next couple of weeks to participate in the festival. She is in the process of setting up a fund raising committee of volunteers to involve community groups. As many as 40 artists will be contacted this month for their agreement to perform in October.

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“I’d like to have hands-on experiences for children and to have as much quality as possible,” Krieger said. “If I have to scale back (plans), then the quality starts to go.”

Because of the complexity of planning such a festival, however, Krieger has as yet not made contacts with organizations such as the San Diego Institute for Arts Education, which sponsors arts programs in schools countywide.

“I haven’t heard anything about it but I’d like to,” said institute director Elizabeth Bergmann, who suggested that similar festivals usually require extensive planning so that there are sufficient funds to pay artists. “Otherwise, if there isn’t enough money, then artists go without being paid and the reputation of (the arts community) suffers.”

Krieger maintains optimism that San Diego companies and individuals will respond to her appeals.

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“I want children to see something beautiful and positive,” she said. “Let’s show that they can be uplifted through something besides sports.”


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