Anti-Violence Mural Unveiled in Washington Heights

By Ben Fractenberg on September 2, 2011 6:55am 

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — Dozens of Washington Heights community members and leaders came out Thursday evening for the unveiling of a mural depicting how violence has impacted their community.

Artists Frank Parga, 39, and Crystal Clarity, 28, worked with over a dozen high school students to design and paint the mural, called "Weaving Change Beyond the Shadows," on Amsterdam Avenue and 159th Street.

The 70 foot wide, 14 foot high work — which runs along the Amsterdam Avenue and 159th Street side of the Community League of the Heights headquarters — shows people impacted by violence being connected by a multi-colored quilt.

"They really just helped kick-start a lot of the process," said Parga about the student involvement. "That made people really feel something about it."

Adam Palermo, 18, said an image in the mural of a woman holding part of the quilt and weeping was inspired by Lisa Baez, whose daughter Cheyenne Baez was shot and killed in Harlem last October.

"When she lost her Cheyenne she couldn't stop holding her daughter's blanket," said Parga.

Both artists volunteer with a group called Groundswell, which organized the project. The organization pairs artists with young people and uses art as a means for social change.

"It [the mural] is a way to have our community look at change. Changing their mind. Changing their hearts and spirits," said Groundswell director Amy Sananman.

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