San Diego Business Journal

There's a common belief among local graphic artists, and perhaps artists as a whole, that without the creative skills developed in art classes, children have trouble solving life's complex problems.

The problem increases as greater pressures for academic success, as well as peer pressure, are placed on today's youths while, at the same time art classes are eliminated from their education, said the local chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

The most affected are San Diego's disadvantaged children, said MaeLin Levine, president of the local AIGA chapter.

So on Oct. 21, the chapter hosted 35 students for a birdhouse-building workshop at the Jack Dodge Building in the Gaslamp District Downtown.

The mostly urban, student group was a mix of 7- to 12-year-olds from an after-school program called Kidz with Heart and high school students from the LINK project , a program that promotes the graphic arts profession to youngsters.

Last year's outreach event resulted in the splashy painted city utility boxes that adorn the sidewalks of East Village, Levine said.

The birdhouses of this year will garnish an inner-city lot donated by the Centre City Development Corp. Or at least some will.

"Because of the materials (the 7- to 12-year-olds) used and the way the kids constructed things it isn't in the best interest of the bird," to display them all, Levine said.

However, for those that don't pose an imminent health risk to the Downtown bird population, the AIGA plans to hang them outside The Birdhouse Project on Dale Street near the El Cortez Hotel in February. Inside the building all of the birdhouses made Oct. 21 will be displayed along with other related birdhouse sketches.

Levine said she saw a lot of promise in the children that day even if they were only doing it for fun.

"That's really the (sad) thing, I think," Levine said. "They don't even realize they could make a living as an artist."

San Diego's chapter of graphic artists has 350 members.