CANOGA PARK : Center Brings Parents Into the School Picture

How do you make parents want to come to school? Hand them a paintbrush and leave them alone.

At Canoga Park Elementary School on Friday, that approach seemed to work as a handful of parents took brushes to work beside their children, creating table-sized murals to be displayed at school.

The program was part of Canoga Park Elementary’s new parent center, started this school year to involve parents in their children’s education. The center is one of 21 such facilities at schools in the San Fernando Valley.

Throughout the school year, the center will recruit parents for counseling, English classes and relaxation classes. But to start the year, coordinator Maria Fuentes brought in art teachers from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.


Painting “helps them explain to us how they are feeling,” Fuentes said of the parents. “It’s like a therapy class.”

The mural project was the culmination of eight sessions with Museum of Contemporary Art staff members, including a field trip to the museum and an artist’s studio.

For the museum, the combination of parents and their children provides a perfect audience for outreach programs.

“This is the exact audience we want to reach,” said Bob Kitzmiller, assistant director of education at the museum. “You can work with kids, but if you don’t get parents too, it doesn’t do anything.”


After a discussion in Spanish about the works of artists such as Jackson Pollock, the group set to work on an abstract project that combines cutouts from magazines with thick dabs of paint.

“It’s real beautiful what they do,” said Susana Rivera, who brought her 6-year-old son. “You learn little things from other parents, things you can use at home with your kids.”