HUNTS POINT — A busy intersection now has a bright heroine.
Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate into a white elementary school in 1960, can now be seen walking over a bridge in a new mural on Hunts Point Avenue. Local graffiti artist Sharon De La Cruz based the mural on Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting of Bridges walking to school, "The Problem We All Live With."
“She’s shown walking here because her struggle for equality is still continuing today,” said De La Cruz, 27, who creates street art under the name Uno Seis Tres.
The rainbow-colored mural, next to the Bruckner Expressway, was commissioned by the Department of Transportation’s Urban Arts program, which gives grants to local artists to create temporary street art across the city.
De La Cruz, who grew up in Hunts Point, chose the location hoping it would beautify a dreary area crowded with trucks and people scurrying to cross a six-lane expressway.
Carey Clark, visual arts director at The Point, a local youth development nonprofit, said the mural is much needed in the area.
“It mitigates the horror of the Bruckner Expressway and make people’s walks more pleasant,” Clark said.
Rockwell's 1964 painting shows a 6-year-old Bridges walking to school surrounded by U.S. marshals, with a racial epithet scrawled behind her and a tomato splattered on the wall next to her. Bridges, carrying a book and a ruler, looks straight ahead as she walks.
In De La Cruz's version, Bridges walks alone, and it has a brightly colored backdrop. She is shown walking towards the Hunts Point neighborhood, which De La Cruz chose intentionally.
"Hunts Point has so much character," said De La Cruz. "You don't have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one."
De La Cruz wanted to show something not usually depicted by graffiti artists.
“It's a positive image of a female,” said De La Cruz. “Most graffiti artists have sexualized images of women.”
De La Cruz, who is half Dominican and half Puerto Rican, said she wants the mural to inspire conversations about the past.
“The only way we'll move forward is if we know what’s behind us,” De La Cruz said.