JACKSON HEIGHTS — A park named after a Sunnyside boy who died from a blood disease after being misdiagnosed is getting spruced up, thanks to some local school kids.
A wall at Rory Staunton Field, on 78th Street across from Travers Park, will be covered in a mural inspired by the community and painted with help from fourth grade students at the Renaissance Charter School.
Local artist Carlo Nieva, who spent years as a graffiti artist, began working on the project after searching for a wall to paint — with the right approval.
"I really wanted to move on and give back to the community by getting approval and acceptance," he said.
The 44-year-old father said he was also looking for a way to be creative while passing on his love of art to his 9-year-old son, Elliot.
Ultimately, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance hooked him up with El Museo del Barrio, which had worked with P.S. 222 on a mural design at the park a few years ago. Staunton lived in Sunnyside, but went to School in Jackson Heights.
The museum then connected with Nieva's son's fourth grade class at The Renaissance Charter School and helped facilitate the design process.
Students learned about art and expression, and brainstormed about the things they loved in Jackson Heights.
"When [the students] learned that there would be this wall that they get to pass by and they could make their mark on, they wanted to focus on the things that they love," said Valentina Velez-Rocha, the museum's education program coordinator.
Last week, the students rolled up their sleeves and painted on the wall for the first time.
"They are the inspiration for it," said teacher Christina Howard, 30. "The kids wrote things like community, love friendship. Peace, love, unity — we made it with them."
Students also created their own graffiti name throughout the process, drawing inspiration from their friends, family and hobbies, which will be incorporated into the larger "Peace, Love, Unity" design.
Fiona Shea, 9, chose "Queen Tiny," a family nickname. Her favorite part of the mural, she said, is how it's connecting the community.
"I really like the way all the ideas are fitting together," she said. "I feel like it will really mean something for the community."
Priya Verma, also 9, chose "Love 3" — "I love my brother, Henry, and he's three," she said.
"I like that we all get to work together, and have fun," she said, before dashing back to paint around the word "LOVE."
The mural will be finished and unveiled on June 7, and students will also have their art displayed at El Museo del Barrio on Saturday, May 17 from 11 a.m. until noon.