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High School Student's Mural Comes to Life in Washington Heights

By Carolina Pichardo | March 16, 2016 12:20pm
 The Ralph Lauren Company joined a group of art students at a local high school Tuesday as part of an effort to beautify the school while promoting the arts.
Washington Heights Student Mural
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WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — A high school student’s music-themed mural got a few touch-ups from volunteers from the fashion brand Ralph Lauren on Tuesday.

At an event held at the High School for Media and Communications, volunteers from the label and the nonprofit Citizens Committee for New York City helped student Austin Peña, 18, paint his sprawling mural as part of a push to promote the school's arts programs.

Ralph Lauren himself had been scheduled to attend but ultimately did not make it, leaving staff from his company staff to help with the work.

The project started in Peña's art class, where teacher Edwin Montalvo asked students to submit ideas for the mural early in the school year. 

Montalvo said Peña jumped at the opportunity, arriving at school the next day with his idea.

"It just came to me," Peña said of the mural, which feature several different pieces from his sketchbook, including a man wearing headphones, a man standing before a large piano and speakers, and another of a band playing with different musical instruments. 

Montalvo found that Peña had also drawn other amazing pieces and decided to incorporate those into the mural, as well.

“I realized he had much better work, so we included those,” Montalvo said. “It’s sort of autobiographical."

Although Peña has been drawing since he was a young kid, he said he never thought his idea would make it to the wall of his school.

"I like when people pass by and see my work,” the student said, adding that as the first artist in his family, he's proud to have his mural up at the school.  

The Ralph Lauren Company volunteers with hundreds of organizations each year, including at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care in Harlem, a spokeswoman for the company said. 

Citizens Committee for New York City provided 366 grants this past year, with several going to Uptown nonprofits, including the Dos Puentes Elementary School Parent Association, Inwood Canoe Club and Morris Jumel Community Garden, a spokeswoman said.