At the back of the Irvine Fine Arts Center's current exhibition, "Teaching Tolerance," 12 tiny aluminum houses stand shoulder to shoulder. Identical, each is centered on a velvet-topped pedestal. The pedestals don't touch, and each is an identical distance from its neighbor.
From across the room, artist Nick Adid's installation, "Racism," seems the picture of uniformity and equality. It isn't until you're upon it that its differences become disturbingly clear.
In neat block letters on the sides of each house are quotations, observations and nursery rhymes reflecting views on race, religion or nationality. Each house holds two selections, apparently chosen for their opposing viewpoints.
For example: "I am willing to love all mankind except an American" (Samuel Johnson, 1778). "Though it rained gold and silver in a foreign land, and daggers and spears at home, yet it is better to be at home" (Malaysian proverb).
Disparity is a common thread in "Teaching Tolerance," an exhibit of visual art created by professional artists and local schoolchildren.
Developed by Dorrit Rawlins, the Irvine Fine Arts Center's curator of exhibitions, the show runs through May 21 at the center's gallery in Heritage Park. (Complementing the exhibit is Youth Arts Day '95 for children 3 to 10. It will be Saturday in and around the center and will feature multicultural drop-in workshops and entertainment. See story on Page 10.)
Intermingled in the gallery, the children's and adults' work includes poetry, collages, photography and paintings. Most express a distaste for intolerance, but the delivery and intensity of the messages vary widely.
Students from UCI Farm School, an experimental learning center for ages 5 through 12, put together booklets of original poetry, and much of it appears hopeful, such as sixth-grader Elizabeth Gutman's untitled piece: "I sit at night, thinking about bigotry, and hating the world for it. / Then, I think what silly children we are, and how much we have to learn. And forgive myself."
Farm School students also created a five-panel mural, around the corner, that pictures a grim cartoon of Hitler and a portrait of Anne Frank. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Frank's death in a concentration camp. At the bottom of the mural is an excerpt from "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl": "I twist my heart round again so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside."
Rawlins, recalling her Southern California childhood in the 1950s and '60s, said she is impressed by the awareness reflected in the student pieces. (In previous years, she has curated student art shows on themes such as homelessness, feeling awareness and overcoming disabilities.)
"I think I was brought up in an environment of intolerance that was pretty common in those days," Rawlins said recently at the gallery. "Today kids accept the fact that this is a very diverse place, and I think they see the dangers of closed-mindedness."
"That doesn't mean those feelings don't exist," she added. "In a way, this is a time of imbalance; there's been a backlash from this idea of being politically correct that has made the whole thing very confusing for people of all ages. But art can be a remarkable tool for exploring ideas and impulses, and hopefully, this show may help people come to terms with that."
* What: "Teaching Tolerance," an Irvine Fine Arts Center exhibit of visual art by children and adults.
* When: Daily through May 21. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m.
* Where: Irvine Fine Arts Center, 14321 Yale Ave., in Heritage Park.
* Whereabouts: From the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, exit at Culver Drive and head south. Turn left on Walnut Avenue, left on Yale and make an immediate left into the parking lot.
* Wherewithal: FREE.
* Where to call: (714) 724-6880.
MORE KID STUFF
IN COSTA MESA: CRAIG 'N COMPANY
Children's entertainer Craig Taubman and his band present a kid-friendly concert of his original pop and rock tunes Sunday, March 26, at 2:30 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theatre of Orange Coast College. $5 to $13. (714) 432-5880.
IN SANTA ANA: IN A FAMILY WAY
Alternative Repertory Theatre takes the plunge into family theater with "Aesop's Fables: Rags, Rope & Sticks," an adaptation by Diane Doyle. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through April 15. $8 to $16. (714) 836-7929.
IN IRVINE: THE FLYING KARAMAZOV BROTHERS
In their new show, "Club Sandwich," this off-kilter troupe blends physical comedy, wordplay, music and juggling into a spoof on 1930s detective movies. Performances are Saturday, March 25, at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. $16 to $20. (714) 854-4646.