Natural Born Artists

The event: Preview party for "Color It Orange," a juried art exhibit featuring works by Orange County students at the nonprofit Art Institute of Southern California in Laguna Beach. Saturday's reception was staged by Designing Women, an institute support group.

Portrait of the artists: About 100 guests wandered through the exhibit, giving raves to works by aspiring Picassos. "Some of the works are phenomenal," said Sylvia Rodriguez McGregor, preview co-chairwoman. "These children start out with no limitations." Many amateur critics were impressed by drawings and sculptures by elementary school students, including a still-life interpretation of Beanie Babies by 8-year-old Dominick Hall of Irvine.

Color it art: The 24th Annual "Color It Orange" was open to all Orange County students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Judges selected about 650 works out of 4,000 entries for the show and awarded their favorite works honorable mentions. Ten high school students received scholarships to a pre-college summer session at the institute. "Professional artists judge the work. They see beyond the technique to the individuality," said Nancy Lawrence, event chairwoman. The show will be open to the public through April 5.

Quote: "The experience of making art is so vital to the students' development," Lawrence said. "It engages their creativity and thinking process, and it gives them recognition. Nothing succeeds like success."

Faces: Alan Barkley, institute president, and his wife, Linda; Sharon Lambe, preview co-chair, and her husband, Brian; Jim and Doretta Ensign; Bob and Juin Foresman; Art and Jackie Jacobson; Doug Payne and JoAnn Killingworth; Harry Lawrence; Chuck and Sylvia McGregor; Sharon Mencken; Jack and Pam Smart; and Jane Willet.

What's ahead: Eleanor Neil Coppola will speak about the documentary she made during the filming of "The Rainmaker," directed by her husband, Francis Ford Coppola. The talk will be held at the institute May 17. For information: (714) 376-6000.

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