Calling all California Children’s Services students from Valley View Elementary School who participated in a mural in 2007:
The artist behind the initiative, Marc Kolodziejczyk, and his wife, Wanda, are looking for the students who were not only actively painting, but also became the subjects of Disney artist Frank Armitage’s collection of oil portraits.
Marc is the executive director of the Special Children’s Art Foundation, an organization he founded in 1998.
“I started the foundation because I have a daughter with special needs. With me being an artist, I wanted to find a way to incorporate art into my daughter’s life [along with] other children with special needs,” Marc said. “The first mural the SCAF foundation [worked on was] for the California Children’s Services unit at Valley View Elementary School.”
Using his expertise as a Disney artist at the time, he wanted to create an opportunity for the children to not only enjoy the process of art, but also to leave a lasting impression on their school grounds.
“We started the process, [which is] where these pictures and these paintings came from. Frank Armitage was a Disney legend and artist, who I worked with his daughter, Nicole Armitage, and we would design the murals for these projects — usually it was a citywide-sponsored project.”
The process entailed Marc creating the murals, and working alongside Nicole, and eventually Frank, in creating both lasting memory and memorabilia for the students.
“I would design [the murals], Nicole would [color them]. And then her father, one day, came over and saw what we were doing, and he wanted to paint one of the murals,” Marc said. “While we were doing the project for California Children’s Services over at Valley View, Frank was watching and seeing the interaction of the children along with the adults, and he had asked me to submit eight or nine of the students’ pictures. Next thing I know, he [made] portraits of them in oils.”
The purpose of the portraits was to auction them off to fundraise for future murals. However, as time went on, with other major murals taking precedence, such as the Santa Clarita Valley Golden Valley Bridge Project, the auction didn’t occur. Now the family wants to focus on gifting the seven portraits of the students to their families.
“Recently, I talked to Nicole, Frank’s daughter, since Frank passed away. I said, ‘Hey, I have these portraits. I would really love to give them away to the parents.’ And she agreed,” Marc said. “So now we are on the search for the families — our quest right now is to find them and reunite them with these beautiful portraits.”
Wanda elaborated on the premise of the new project, and said many of the portraits are located in her Your Accounting office.
“We have all these paintings that we’d love to get to go with the families to research to try and find the families,” Wanda said. “We were a little bit at a standstill because there’s a confidentiality thing where the schools can’t release information to us. I felt we really want to give them to the families because it’s their beautiful art pieces by Frank.”
Finding the families 16 years later is no easy feat, but they are determined to return the paintings.
“The challenge is trying to find the families, so that’s why we wanted to get some sort of story out there. Maybe somebody [might] know the families and go, ‘Oh, that’s this person, call them, [or] just have them call.”
Expecting all outcomes possible, Wanda is hopeful to capture images of the now adults to reflect the years that have passed. “Maybe we can take pictures of them and [have] a followup [after] the families [have been] reunited [with the images].”
If a portrait looks familiar, you can reach Marc and Wanda by email at [email protected].