Friends of New Utrecht Public Library unveil mural paying homage to Bensonhurst
It’s a work of art and a tribute to the neighborhood they call home.
The Friends of New Utrecht Public Library has unveiled a mural entitled “Bensonhurst 2018,” a large painting created by members of the community that depicts the neighborhood and its surroundings, including famous local stores, landmarks, churches, the Coney Island skyline and the Verrazano Bridge.
The unveiling, held on Thursday, March 15 at the branch, was attended by all those who contributed to the painting, as well as community leaders, a representative from the 62nd Precinct, and FNUPL President Sonia Valentin and Secretary-Treasurer Ruth Dallas.
“This is a very exciting moment for us here at the library,” said Valentin. “As far as I know, we are unveiling the first ever large mural of Bensonhurst and the environment so we’re very pleased.”
The piece itself is acrylic, watercolor, ink, pencil, marker, wood chips, and paper on canvas. It’s 84″x54″ and along with Bensonhurst, features surrounding neighborhoods such as Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Gravesend. The concept was conceived by Valentin and Dallas, who also taught many of the the 27-plus artistic participants.
“It all started because we went to an art class,” Dallas said. “They had something similar but we wanted to make it even bigger. It was at another library years ago. Sonia and I said we can do it and do it better.”
Valentin discussed how satisfying it was completing the detailed and colorful depiction of the neighborhood.
“This was really a labor of love because some of the patrons that came here could only draw a stick figure at first,” she said. “But they learned about tones and how to draw and color. They loved seeing the finished product. Ruth and I were on the same page with the implementation of the project and people helped us paint the background and glue some stuff on.”
The work was done by people with a wide range of skill sets, from novices to experts.
“We taught some of them in the beginning basic things like how to draw a tree or a car,” Valentin added. “We taught how to do a face, the body, perspective on buildings.”
“I am proud of everyone that participated,” Dallas added. “We had a lot of artists but we also had beginners and most of them were older adults. We also had children come and help during their days off. We wanted to include people with different backgrounds so we integrated that into the mural to make it diverse and beautiful. It has everything.”
The impressively detailed mural includes local fixtures and traditions such as a Lunar New Year celebration, the procession on Good Friday outside St. Athanasius Church, New Utrecht High School, L&B Spumoni Gardens, Tasty Bagels, New Utrecht High School and much more.
Participants were thrilled with the finished product.
“I think it’s wonderful. Women who were not artists to begin with, but had the ambition to draw, actually produced very nice work,” said Susan Louie, who contributed the Staten Island Ferry and the landmarked FDNY 253 station. “And for those of us, like myself, that did have experience, it was nice to see how everything melded together. I was pleased and impressed that people were turning out beautiful trees and leaves and drawings of people. Everyone was so dedicated and everyone here is so friendly, it was like a community experience.”
Attendees were equally impressed.
“I think this is wonderful,” said Marnee Elias-Pavia, district manager of Community Board 11. “I’m so proud of the library community and all of its participants. They just really captured Bensonhurst and its diversity. It shows the multi-cultural ethnic community that we are today. We have lots of collaboration here and we’re a diversified community.”
“It’s outstanding,” added Police Officer Carmelo Vendra. “The detail, the time put into it, the dedication. I’m very proud of this organization for doing something like this. I love it.”
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