Young Painters Create Murals With Positive Messages in Tremont

By Eddie Small on August 26, 2014 8:42am 

 The mural at 764 East 176th St. is entitled "The Bridge Back to Life" and centers on the themes of recovery and rebirth.
The mural at 764 East 176th St. is entitled "The Bridge Back to Life" and centers on the themes of recovery and rebirth.
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Groundswell/www.groundswellmural.org

TREMONT — Murals meant to create awareness of chemical dependency and improve a new playground are coming to Tremont.

The two paintings at 764 East 176th St. and 2050 Prospect Ave. are part of a project that the New York arts group Groundswell has been working on this season through its Summer Leadership Institute, a job-training program for more than 100 youngsters.

The mural at 2050 Prospect Ave., entitled "We All Share One Sky," is meant to serve as the backdrop to a new playground. Work on the playground at the C.S. 300 Twin Parks campus is set to start this fall and be complete by spring.

Groundswell partnered to create the painting with The Trust for Public Land, which is helping to build the new playground.

"We really want this playground to be a place that everyone feels comfortable," said Mary Alice Lee, director of TPL's NYC Playgrounds Program, "and we think that the mural helps spread that message."

Lead artist Pasqualina Azzarello worked with 15 youth participants on the 20-by-92-foot mural, which centers around the theme of freedom, flight and sky.

Although some of the young participants are Bronx natives, many come from neighborhoods like Sunset Park and Midtown. Ify Chiejina, assistant artist on the project, described the mural as a good opportunity for them to get to know another part of New York City.

"One of the benefits of working with The Bronx is you get to learn more about a community that you probably wouldn’t have gone through otherwise," she said.

For the 32-by-68-foot mural at 764 East 176th St., called "Bridging Transformation," Groundswell partnered with VIP Community Services, a group that offers help to people with histories of chemical dependency.

Groundswell worked with 20 adult clients from VIP to create the mural, which is meant to have a positive message centered on recovery and rebirth, according to VIP's Assistant Vice President of Special Projects Christine Perez.

"There are so many negative tags to this community that we really wanted to focus on the recovery side of things and the whole idea of rebirth and transformation," she said.

It was challenging to illustrate this theme without emphasizing the substances people had been dependent on, according to the project's lead artist Marc Evan. He decided to concentrate on mythology and comic books as a way to dive into the painting.

"We discussed a lot this idea of being the hero of your own story and these kind of Zen philosophies of being in the present," he said. "You’re not defined by your past, and you shouldn’t fear the future. It’s all about who you are right now."

The mural consists of a person walking down a bridge toward a collage of symbols that include a turtle representing longevity, a whale representing the desire to achieve impressive goals and birds representing the desire for freedom.

The two murals in The Bronx will be dedicated on Friday, Aug. 29 starting at 11 a.m. at 764 East 176th St. and continuing at 1 p.m. at 2050 Prospect Ave.

"I haven’t seen it fully unveiled," said Perez of the VIP mural. "So even for us, it’s going to be pretty amazing."

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