Over 100 people collaborate on mental health mural outside Sunset Park school

May 21, 2019 Jaime DeJesus
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They didn’t let the rain stop them.

Rather, Sunset Park residents gathered at P.S. 24, 427 38th St., on May 4, paintbrushes at the ready, as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began work on a new mural for the facade of the school.

Entitled “Feeling All Four Seasons, Bridging All Four Seasons,” the concept for the mural — part of the NYC Mural Arts Project — was designed by artist Julia Cocuzza and members of Baltic Street, AEH, Inc., a peer-run, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with mental illness.

According to Yumi Ikuta, director of rehabilitation programs at the city’s Health Department, the day was a success.

“Despite the weather, over 100 community members came out to paint a mental health-themed mural,” she said. “Everyone worked so hard that all the mural panel assignments were completed before the end of the event, and many children were engaged in the art activities, so much so that they sat in the rain continuing their work!”

Beyond the art, Ikuta said, the project also engendered a conversation about mental illness. “P.S. 24 partnered with the Health Department and greatly supported the efforts to get the community involved in mental health discussions throughout the program,” she told this paper.

According to Cocuzza, the theme of the seasons reflects the fact that, “We have more that connects us than isolates us.” Cocuzza said she used the seasons as an overarching motif because everyone experiences them. “There are beautiful and dark moments in every season and regardless of everything else, getting to know one another is what breaks down barriers.”

The participants were happy to participate in the project, the goal of which was to destigmatize mental illness.

“They’re proud the mural will be installed on several exterior walls of their school this summer,” added Ikuta.

Ikuta added that participation in the project impacted perceptions, with 65 percent experiencing a “positive change” in their attitudes toward people with mental illness, and 58 percent demonstrating an increase in mental health awareness and education.”

The program was funded by the State Office of Mental Health and the NYC Health Department through the Fund for Public Health of New York City. 

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