Takoma Park's Green Young Artists
'06 Campaign Signs Now Carry Peace and Conservation Slogans

By Rachel Beckman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 8, 2007

Sasha Schneer, 6, is an environmentalist. At a Takoma Park event on Saturday, he painted a poster that said "No Cars." Above the phrase, he painted a purple car with a slash through it. Sasha's mother directed all press inquiries to the artist, who was unavailable.

"The artist stuck his rubber glove in his mouth and discovered it didn't taste good," she said. "He's in the bathroom washing up."

A few minutes later, Schneer emerged from the bathroom ready to talk politics, albeit with a purple mouth.

"I'm trying to convince people to stop using the products that are polluting," he said.

Like what?

"Cars, lawnmowers, factories," he shot back.

Al Gore would be proud.

Sasha, along with about 50 others, participated in a public art project called Vote for Art, hosted by the Takoma Park Arts & Humanities Commission. After the November elections, the group collected 100 or so campaign signs that they painted over with new slogans, most of which leaned toward Earth-friendly causes. Families will post the signs on their lawns on Arts Advocacy Day, Tuesday.

José Dominguez, chairman of the arts commission, was inspired to create Vote for Art when he saw the thousands of campaign signs as well as direct-mail literature littering his community last fall.

"It was such an uncreative time," he said. "I thought, what if there was art in all these places? What would that feel like?"

Karen O. Brown, a Mount Rainier-based artist, led orientation for participants. She brought people outside the Heffner Park Community Center to show them a repainted sign that said "Learn Green, Teach Green" and an "Art Lives" sign that she made from cereal boxes and other recycled materials.

Back inside, Randy Cohen brainstormed about ideas for a sign with his 11-year-old daughter, Mattingly. The Cohens built an addition to their Takoma Park home a year and a half ago and added a corn-burning stove, a solar hot water heater and a carpet made from recycled two-liter Pepsi bottles, which he insists "feels like any normal carpet."

Mattingly Cohen decided on the slogan "Earth Belongs 2 Everyone." Her father says that Mattingly has really taken to the green lifestyle. The Cohens rented the film "An Inconvenient Truth" and Mattingly watched it twice the same night, her father said.

The Vote for Art kids aren't always on a mission to shrink their carbon footprints.

"I walk to school," Sasha said, "because my mom makes me."

Independent Film Festival

Pat Morita, best known as Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid," appears in his final role at the Washington, D.C., Independent Film Festival this weekend when a portion of "Royal Kill," a thriller directed by Arlington filmmaker Babar Ahmed, screens.

Morita died in his Las Vegas home in 2005 of natural causes.

"Because of him, this movie took off," Ahmed says. "It was a unique experience to work with him because I could immediately tell he was of a different caliber as an actor."

Morita signed on to the film after Ahmed spoke to him in a conference call set up by a mutual friend. He plays a mentor to a man who is charged with protecting an heiress to a fictitious kingdom.

Ahmed will show a 15-minute rough cut of the film at the festival in which Morita appears once and has only a few lines: "A moment can last a lifetime. But a lifetime can be lost in a moment."

The cast of "Royal Kill" also includes professional wrestler Gail Kim from the Spike TV show "TNA Impact"; teen actress Lalaine, from the Disney show "Lizzie McGuire"; and Eric Roberts, actor and brother of Julia Roberts.

Morita filmed his scenes on the American University campus, where students took cellphone pictures with him and called him "Mr. Miyagi."

"When he was filming he was in top mood. . . . He really brought a lot of life to the set and constantly encouraged the crew," Ahmed says. "He even did his 'Wax on, wax off' joke once."

Excerpts from "Royal Kill" will screen at 4 p.m. Sunday during the independent film festival, Auditorium 46, University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Ave. NW, $10. 202-537-9493.

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