Why Riverside students are painting plastic spheres that are 6 feet in diameter

Why Riverside students are painting plastic spheres that are 6 feet in diameter

The inflated plastic orbs towered over the students. To paint them, most children had to stand on their toes. Only then could their brushes reach the top of the 6-feet-diameter spheres.


Gigantic as the achievement looked to each student, it was a relatively small piece of a massive public art project planned for Riverside in spring.


The artistic plan involves covering Lake Evans in Riverside’s Fairmount Park with more than 350 of the colorful spheres. The goal is to draw attention to the park and raising money for local art education.


A festival at the lake from May 11 to June 1 — which will also include events such as a Mother’s Day Brunch and a discussion with local commentator Dan Bernstein, a former Press-Enterprise columnist — will show off the spheres to the public.


But that’s only part of the draw of the program, Riverside Unified School District board member Kathy Allavie said.


“It’s a great project,” Allavie said as she helped a class of 6th-graders at Riverside’s Pachappa Elementary School prepare to paint. “Thousands and thousands of kids are going to get to participate, and it’s going to reach a lot of people in the community.”


Allavie got the idea for the project after seeing a similar installation in 2015 in Los Angeles by the L.A.-based arts nonprofit group “Portraits of Hope.”


“When I saw that, I said, ‘We have to do that in Riverside,'” Allavie said. “Only it will be better here, because Fairmount Park is better.”


So far 30 schools have signed up, with the principal from each choosing which students can participate, said.


6th graders Madison McHugh, 11, left, and Camila Nuñuz, 11, take turns painting a sphere on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 at Pachappa Elementary School in Riverside. Students from area schools are hand-painting spheres that will float in Lake Evans for a three-week festival. The project is a fundraiser for the Riverside Art Museum, with businesses or community members sponsoring each sphere for $350.(Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Sixth-graders Madison McHugh, 11, left, and Camila Nuñuz, 11, take turns painting a sphere Thursday, Nov. 2, at Pachappa Elementary School in Riverside. Students from Riverside schools are decorating the orbs that will float in Lake Evans for a three-week festival in spring. Photo by Stan Lim, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG

Volunteers use a vacuum to pump up each orb, which has pre-drawn lines for children to color between. Then small teams of students follow their imagination, after which adults do some light clean-up if necessary.


It’s a fun process and exciting to think how many people will be able to see the art, said Pachappa 6th-grader Garrell Pickens, 11.


It’s also important to do well, he told Cynthia Mendoza, 11.


“You’ve got to have long, neat strokes like me,” he said, which led her to laugh.


The public can buy a sphere for $350, with the proceeds going to Riverside Art Museum’s Art-to-Go program that teaches art to children in kindergarten through 8th grade.


The orbs then belong to the donors, or they can donate to schools for physical education classes, Allavie said.


Partners in the project are the Riverside Art Museum, Riverside Unified School District and City of Riverside Parks, Recreation, and Community Services.


By the numbers


350: Number of spheres


100: Spheres already are sponsored


30: Schools that have signed up, from the Riverside Unified, Corona-Norco and Alvord school districts and a charter school


May 11 – June 1: When the orbs will be displayed on Lake Evans in Fairmount Park