New mural debuts in Sunset Park

August 17, 2011 Heather Chin
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For 17-year-old Wy Ming Lin, applying for the summer job ofhelping to design and paint a mural in his home neighborhood ofSunset Park was the easiest and best decision he could have madefor his last summer before his senior year at Brooklyn TechnicalHigh School.

At the Summer Youth Employment Program job fair, mural paintingstood out because it’s not office work or taking care of kids. Iget to be out with the community, said Lin about the GroundswellCommunity Mural Project, which coordinates mural-paintingsthroughout the city. I just want to give back because the area ispretty bland and boring; that’s why I wanted to be a part ofit.

This desire for something that illustrates the vibrancy, prideand unique workings of a community is what Groundswell strives totap into.

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For the past 15 years, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit has, throughpartnerships with community organizations, local artists and publicschool youth, simultaneously created high-quality works of publicart in under-represented neighborhoods, empowered and educatedyouth about community issues, and brought a feeling of pride andownership through the beautification of streets.

A partnership with the Department of Transportation’s (DOT)Office of Safety Education and Urban Art Program has, for the pastthree-plus years, brought additional recognition for the nonprofit,which has nine youth programs serving nearly 600 youths eachyear.

[The DOT has supported] about 70 projects since October, 2008,as part of the commissioner’s effort to beautify communities, saidEmily Colasacco, manager of the DOT’s Urban Art Program. It’sexactly what we wanted: safety education, illustrating alternativemodes of transport, and encouraging people to use the streets.

This year, there are four Groundswell murals being painted inBrooklyn. The theme of the Sunset Park mural, at 63rd Street andSeventh Avenue, is to highlight the importance of shared streets,chosen because of its location on a heavily trafficked overpass andcommercial district.

With its symmetrical pattern of stop signs, caution signs and anall-capital message to LOOK and SLOW DOWN, drawn around acenterpiece of red, amber and green circles that represent stoplights, the mural is made up of iconic images that people willrecognize, said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Alex Battle, 17.

People tend to neglect that there are certain instances wherepeople are endangered in traffic, said Battle, who isparticipating in the Groundswell Summer Leadership Institute.Inside each [stop light] is an image of community safety andenvironment… We wanted this image to be a bold message as well asa beautification project.

Lead artist Conor McGrady, who has been working with Groundswellfor seven years, said, This year, we have a strong group withcommunication and leadership skills. I’m really impressed with howthey work together as a team and [show] their creativeinitiative.

Community support has been incredible, as well, he said,noting that Maimonides Medical Center hosted the mural team, andpeople have stopped and drivers have honked horns in praise of thekids’ artwork.

Parents and community residents will get the chance to see thefinalized mural at its dedication ceremony on Wednesday, August 31,at 10 a.m., and hopefully for a long time after. And maybe theother side of the overpass will one day be painted to match.

For more photos, check out the gallery in the link to the leftof the story, or click here.

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