Santa Monica : Fire Damages Art Center

The Westside Art Center, a private nonprofit facility that provides classes in the arts for children, was hit by an arson fire over the weekend. One bungalow was gutted by the blaze and another was severely damaged by smoke and water.

Fire Department arson investigator Lyle Lentz said the fire was reported about 3 a.m. Saturday and was believed to have been deliberately set from the outside. He estimated damage at $50,000 to the building and $25,000 to the contents.

Carlyn Clark, executive director of the center, said video and stereo equipment, musical instruments, art supplies and the children's artwork were destroyed.

She said classes will meet outdoors for the next two weeks to complete the summer session. However, she said she does not yet know where classes will be held for the fall session, which begins in late September.

The center, which was formed in 1981 and serves about 300 children weekly, rents the bungalows on the McKinley School grounds from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. District officials were not available for comment.

"The children's reaction has been mixed," Clark said. "They have been terrific in terms of pitching in and cleaning up. They are feeling sad, but they also have a sense of real ownership and want to make it back the way it use to be."

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