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'Love Letter' Artist Paints Literary-Themed Mural at Clinton Hill School

By Alexandra Leon | October 18, 2016 1:41pm
 The mural features the opening lines from 12 new titles published by Riverhead Books.
Steve Powers Redesigns Mural at Clinton Hill's PS 11
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CLINTON HILL — A decade-old mural at a neighborhood school is getting new life thanks to a redesign by the artist behind the prominent "Love Letter to Brooklyn" in Downtown Brooklyn.

The new mural by artist Steve Powers, originally painted by P.S. 11’s students in 2006, now features the opening lines of 12 books slated to come out in  2017.

Powers redesigned the mural — located near the school’s yard on Washington Avenue, between Gates and Greene avenues — in partnership with Riverhead Books to promote the publisher’s new titles.

The artist incorporated words from each of the books, along with illustrations that represent the school’s culture, over the green hills and blue skies featured on the existing mural. 

A large yellow pencil with the words “I am on purpose” and brightly colored arrows that say, “Go fill and be fulfilled,” join the authors’ words on the school’s brick wall. Ruled sheets of paper drift across the bottom of the mural, spelling out “W-R-I-T-E.”

A fish, keys and a clock are among the images that illustrate the books’ opening lines.

The mural is signed by “Mark Surface, Age 48,” a play on words and another moniker for the prolific artist also known as ESPO, who painted his “Love Letter to Brooklyn” on a Downtown Brooklyn parking garage in 2011.

Riverhead Books and the school’s principal, Abidemi Hope, gave Powers full artistic license over the mural, which displays powerful lines from adult fiction and non-fiction books whose topics range from environmental concerns and refugees of war to pop psychology.

“This is a lot to ask to paint this here really with no explanation,” Powers said. 

Steve Powers redesigns the mural at P.S. 11 in Clinton Hill/ (DNAinfo/Alexandra Leon)

The artist said Principal Hope gave him the green light, explaining that the elementary school’s 900 students were up to the challenge of engaging in thought-provoking conversations about the work.

“For me to hear that is probably what it’s like for a plant to hear the sun’s coming out,” Powers said.

Like the books on the wall, the mural is representative of the surrounding neighborhood’s diverse culture.

One of the authors, Katie Kitamura, even lives in the neighborhood with husband and novelist Hari Kunzru.

“We represent varied voices from all over the world, and the school felt like the project really aligned with their ideals,” said Helen Yentus, an art director at Riverhead Books.

The mural also features words from Carlo Rovelli, Samanta Schweblin, Heather O’Neill, Mohsin Hamid, co-authors Steve Sloman and Philip Fernbach, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Anne Lamott, David Owen, Patricia Lockwood, Charlie English and Jorge Cham.

While Powers completed the mural on Monday, he said he will return to the school sometime in the near future to speak with students about the work and its featured titles.

“I have a responsibility to the people that live here, regardless of where I go home and sleep at night," he said. "The wall will be here and the wall will continue to work for the people of this community."