More than 100 of the iconic Los Angeles County lifeguard towers will undergo a vibrant transformation this summer with a Portraits of Hope public art and civic project titled “Summer of Color.”

For five months, vivid designs and colors — and unique to this project, aquatic elements — will adorn the outside and roofs of lifeguard towers along approximately 30 miles of beach at Zuma Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and ultimately to Palos Verdes.

Portraits of Hope, the brainchild of brothers Ed and Bernie Massey, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 that works to develop one-of-a-kind motivational art projects “that merge the production of dynamic public artworks with creative therapy for hospitalized children and civic education for students of all ages.”

“The symbol of the Portraits of Hope program is a flower in an array of vibrant colors,” the Massey brothers said. “The flower is the universal icon of joy, life, youth, beauty, hope, inspiration, and renewal.

“Geometric shapes are also core design elements in the public projects as the young participants will be responsible for ‘shaping the future.’ Together, both icons represent the essence of the Portraits of Hope message,” they continued.

On Sunday, February 28th, family members of Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors employees, their children and other volunteers participated in painting the form-fitting panels that will be installed on the lifeguard towers.

The Department of Beaches and Harbors was originally contacted by county Supervisors Don Knabe and Zev Yarovslavsky regarding participation in the project, said Kerry Silverstrom, deputy director of Beaches and Harbors. Knabe represents the Fourth District, which includes Marina del Rey, and Yaroslavsky represents the Third District, which includes Santa Monica.

Portraits of Hope projects provide creative therapy for thousands of children and adults facing cancer, burn trauma, spinal injuries, and other serious medical problems with innovative, fun and therapeutic activities that let them enjoy and take pride in themselves during their medical care and rehabilitation, a Knabe spokesperson said.

After several months of meetings and a right-of-entry permit were accomplished, the county volunteered the use of the facility — formerly the offices for The Cove development project at 13535 Mindanao Way in Marina del Rey — because it was spacious and close to the water, which “fittingly lent itself to the project,” Silverstrom said.

The priority was that the integrity of the lifeguard towers had to be maintained, said Silverstrom.

Santos Kreimann, director of Beaches and Harbors, said Silverstrom had approached him about the project and he thought it was an “outstanding way to instill public service ideals in children participating in the project and a unique way to involve them in something so meaningful.”

Bernie Massey said that over 2,500 people have volunteered for the project in the last month-and-a-half, including one day when 105 individuals from UCLA and various local high schools were on hand to paint the panels.

Massey said the program typically works with students in third grade up to high school, and volunteers come from hospitals and social service agencies. This is believed to be one the largest public art projects anywhere in the world and one of the largest civic projects happening anywhere, he said.

“This is quite spectacular. We have 6,000 young people working on the project, and 1,500 to 2,000 adult volunteers, 2,400 panel boards and 100,000 square feet of lifeguard towers that are part of the project,” he said.

Massey told the volunteers that the project began in January and will be completed by May 1st, at which time the colorful, flex-thin panels will remain installed on the lifeguard towers until early October.

Once the panels have been removed from the lifeguard towers, they will be donated to participating institutions and sent to social service agencies all over the world, including in regions affected by natural disasters such as Chile and Haiti, explained Massey.

During Bernie Massey’s orientation speech, Ed was involved with getting the panels and paint together and overseeing the painting project for the many volunteers who were eagerly waiting to begin painting.

Over $450,000 in donated recyclable material has helped to make this project viable, and the paint, which is very saturated, bright and capable of withstanding the elements, can cost up to $100 per gallon, noted Massey.

There are still a large number of panels to paint, and Massey said they welcome volunteers on Saturdays to help paint the pieces in order to reach the program’s goal of completion by Saturday, May 1st. Open sessions for volunteers are on Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.

Information, or to RSVP for a parking permit, poh@portraitsofhope.org/.

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