Danville Express

Newsfront - March 16, 2007

Inviting the muse

Student artists find inspiration at Tao House

by Jordan M. Doronila

High school students painted, acted and wrote together at Eugene O'Neill's Tao House in Danville last week.

"It's been an inspirational day for me," said Kelly Sun, a senior at Campolindo High School.

More than 100 pupils from 12 high schools from throughout Contra Costa County convened at the estate to participate in the 2007 Student Days, a program put together by professional artists to help youths develop their talents.

The Eugene O'Neill Foundation and the National Park Service sponsored the event, which began with an art workshop March 7 and included a drama session March 8. There were workshops this week on photography and on writing.

At the art lecture, dozens of students listened closely and received information about sketching techniques from professional painters Debby Koonce and Roswitha Kress in the old barn, which is now a theater. Afterward, they explored and sketched several areas of the estate's green and hilly landscapes.

They reconvened and critiqued one another's work later in the day.

Students said they enjoyed the experience.

"It's something new that we don't normally do," said Becky Kim, another senior at Campolindo.

Pulitzer Prize winning American playwright Eugene O'Neill wrote two of his most prestigious works, "The Iceman Cometh" and "Long Day's Journey into Night," while living at his home in the west hills of Danville from 1937-44.

The mission of the Eugene O'Neill Foundation, Tao House, is to celebrate and promote the vision and legacy of O'Neill. It collaborates with the National Park Service in restoring and preserving Tao House.

The organization started the youth outreach program in 1991. The workshops explore four disciplines: art, photography, drama and writing. High school teachers select the students who attend the event.

The foundation staff said the serenity of O'Neill's estate and his spirit helps bring their creativity to life.

"I love teaching young adults," said Koonce, who is from Newark, N.J. "They are forming. This is such a unique opportunity for them."

"The goal is to give them a great experience," she said. "I give them several ideas, briefly."

Contact Jordan M. Doronila at jdoronila@DanvilleWeekly.com


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