PACOIMA : Children Turn Quake Fears Into Artworks

With orange and brown markers, 8-year-old Cindy Llamas drew a picture of all the members of her family in their house. Her aunt is screaming, her uncle is mad, one cousin cries. Cindy's father is trying to kick down the door because they are locked in. Cindy and her big brother Humberto just watch.

These are the images Cindy recalled when she was asked to draw her impressions of the Jan. 17 quake in an art workshop at the Boys & Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima.

To help children between the ages of 6 and 17 overcome their fears of things that go bump in the night and measure 6.8, the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health created art workshops through its disaster recovery program, Project REBOUND. The children in the workshops are encouraged to express their anxieties about earthquakes through art, some of which will be used to make a calendar for next year to commemorate the quake.

"A lot of the kids have a lot of apprehensions about the quake, especially with all the aftershocks," said Stephanie Angel, a counselor with Project REBOUND. Angel said she has found that the children draw not only images of cracked buildings, but also catastrophes that could have happened.

Guillermo Lopez drew himself reaching for his dog to keep himself from falling into a chasm that opened up underneath him. "I imagined that hole," Guillermo said.

Outreach coordinator Adam Desantis said that although a lot of the drawings are of frightening experiences, some children also depict happy families and neighbors working together to clean up quake damage.

Using paint, crayons, cutouts, airbrushing and clay, Desantis said he encourages the children to "express their feelings in their own language."

The children's art workshop is offered for free at the Boys & Girls Club this week. Other support services from counseling to hot lines are also available to help kids and adults overcome their quake fears. Call (800) 854-7771.

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