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Kids Have Chance to Leave Own Artful Impressions on Park Walkway : Thousand Oaks: Children invited to decorate ceramic tiles for area outside Civic Arts Plaza.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Swashbuckling Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, X Men and other cartoon characters may soon lay claim to cultural immortality, seizing spots of honor in a seven-acre park outside Thousand Oaks’ Civic Arts Plaza.

Hoping to get the city’s youngest citizens excited about the cultural center, Thousand Oaks arts commissioners have invited children to decorate ceramic walkway tiles at a workshop today in Conejo Community Park at the corner of Dover and Hendrix avenues.

Up to 6,000 kid-painted tiles will then be set into a meandering path, providing a vibrant contrast to the blocky earth-tone building and its plush concert hall.

The cartoon figures expected to pop up on many of the tiles will no doubt look hopelessly dated in a few years’ time. But Power Ranger and Ninja Turtle sketches will still be welcomed in the Civic Arts Plaza walkways, along with any other design youngsters can dream up.

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Organizers have suggested a few themes--such as “If I could give the world a gift"--but are also urging creativity.

“It’s not a matter of trying to match” the tiles to the theater, Councilman Frank Schillo explained. “The main thing is to have children participate so the whole family can be part of the celebration.”

Family involvement has become a mantra for volunteers planning the Civic Arts Plaza’s grand opening weekend in late October.

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Adults will have their moments, especially a black-tie concert featuring the Conejo Symphony Orchestra and Broadway singer Bernadette Peters. But organizers have also put together several child-oriented events, which the City Council will consider at Tuesday’s meeting.

Council members will vote, for example, on letting local children help build a giant sculpture made from recycled aluminum cans.

The sculpture--a roaring lion dubbed “Recycle Leo"--would be covered in wire mesh, so kids could hang crushed cans over its 23-foot-high frame. Sitting proudly in the Civic Arts Plaza park, the lion would reflect the site’s former incarnation as the Jungleland wild animal park, arts commissioner Nancy Peloso said.

Peloso will also ask the council to approve an art event for older children, an exhibit of high school students’ sculptures and paintings in the Civic Arts Plaza’s community gallery.

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While the lion sculpture and high school art exhibit are proposed as temporary displays, the tiles will become a permanent part of the Civic Arts Plaza.

“They’re like a time capsule,” Arts Commissioner Bonnie Roth said. “Imagine how great it will be for the (artists) to take their grandchildren back to the Civic Arts Plaza years later to see their tiles.”

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Today’s tile-decorating workshop will take place alongside the first Young People’s Performing Arts Celebration.

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From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Conejo Community Park will buzz with brief musical, dance and drama performances. More than 1,100 students, representing two dozen public and private schools, will strut their stuff on an outdoor stage, as food vendors peddle snacks and face painters work their magic.

Admission to the performance festival is free, but the ceramic tiles cost $5 apiece.

“This is too big an event to miss,” Roth said. “It’ll be a real happening.” And then, wistfully, she added: “I wish I were little.”


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