July 20, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Hunters Point residents will soon see splashes of color in the neighborhood thanks to a kid-envisioned mural currently being painted with the help of local children.
The mural, called “Rising in the Community”, has already been laid out in recent days onto a large section of the wall bordering LIC Dog Park to the north, on 48th Avenue, and will take up to three months to complete.
Designs soon to come to life on the wall include images of nature and of a past Long Island City, wrapping up to convey a sense of where the world and neighborhood have been and where both are headed.
The project is being run by CITYarts, a long running New York City-based public arts and education non-profit that focuses on engaging children in the creation of public art with professional artists.
The mural made its way to Long Island City after a local resident, Sindy Aprigliano, approached the non-profit in recent months about what she felt was a lack of artwork in the area.
Tsipi Ben-Haim, executive director of the program, recalled Aprigliano saying that the neighborhood retained an industrial feel, even though many people have populated the area since.
“‘It doesn’t have the identity of a community and a neighborhood like we want it to have,’” Ben-Haim recalled Aprigliano saying. “We thought that a mural would help the issue.”
The search for the perfect wall then kicked off.
“The first thing I said was walk around the community and identify the walls that you feel cry for attention.” Ben-Haim said.
The long stretch of barren cement on 48th Avenue ended up being the best fit, and managed to make it out of a convoluted permits procedure—the wall, while operated by New York State Parks, is owned by the Queens West Development Corporation, the group responsible for the earliest developments along the Long Island City waterfront.
“Within two weeks we had the permit,” Ben-Haim said, adding that Oluwatobi Jaiyesimi, president of the Queens West Development Corporation, accelerated the project’s track by immediately approving the mural on the wall.
The concrete wall has since been primed and prepped in preparation for the artwork to be painted on beginning today, with children mainly working on the piece for three days out of the week and participants in the Summer Youth Employment Program filling in on other days.
The murals depictions are by freelance illustrator Annabelle Popa, but stem directly from the ideas brainstormed by local children during a workshop in the community weeks ago.
“We just decided to take a walk around the area to try to get inspiration,” Popa said.
The artwork features the life of “Mother Earth” and mankind through creation, medieval times, the industrial age, and more. Within the timeline are images of a past, heavily industrialized Long Island City and depictions of the present and possible future of the neighborhood.
The mural, which has about 40 percent of its required funds raised so far, has also seen auctions and donations from corporations and other groups to help realize it.
While anyone on the street can join in and help paint the mural, the majority of the project’s painters so far are children from local schools, community groups, and from PLAYDAY, a neighborhood creative space for children.
Those interested in helping to paint, however, should e-mail [email protected]
Ultimately, Ben-Haim emphasizes that the mural is about activating the imagination and sense of community among youth.
“The idea is really to open up peoples minds to think about the environment as their own,” Ben-Haim said. “It’s the feeling of satisfaction, the feeling of pride, the feeling of ‘I did that and I worked on that’—it’s wonderful. It changes a persons life.”