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Young Mott Haven Artist’s Work Displayed on Times Square Billboard

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A young Mott Haven artist’s work recently shined in the heart of New York City.

Since she was seven years old, Nina Rivera has developed her skills in drawing, painting and sculpting. Currently finishing her term at Legacy High School for Integrated Studies in Manhattan, the 18-year-old aspiring artist is ready to make a name for herself in the Big Apple.

As part of a Speak Up NYC!, a citywide youth violence prevention program from the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development, Rivera won a competition to design a message to promote reporting threats of violence.

On Tuesday, July 12, Rivera’s winning artwork was unveiled on a digital billboard in Times Square at the MTV studios on 1515 Broadway.

“It’s crazy, I mean something that I designed was put up on a billboard in Times Square,” Rivera said. “When I saw it hanging up right in the middle of New York City, I wanted to cry. I couldn’t believe it.”

The billboard showcased her art in Times Square from Monday, July 11 until Sunday, July 17. When it was formally unveiled, Rivera was joined by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, DYCD commissioner Jeanne Mullgrave, members of The Center to Prevent Youth Violence, and dozens of her friends and family.

The billboard portrays a young girl with a bandana covering her mouth. The bandana says the word “violence” on it, symbolizing that if anybody sees any violent actions, to “Speak Up!” about it.

“CPYV has been instrumental in ensuring young people have a safe and confidential way to talk about threats to their public safety,” Quinn said. “This billboard will advance those critical goals and represents a creative and innovative mechanism to communicate to the youth of the city that they can and should speak up against threats of violence in their schools and communities.”

Rivera spends her spare time at the BronxWorks Betances Community Center on 465 St. Anns Avenue. Rivera says she likes to take her time when she puts together new artwork, but the drawing that was used for the billboard only took her a couple of hours.

She was astonished that something that only took her a short amount of time was selected out of the whole city.

Rivera, who grew up and attended school in Mott Haven, said she witnessed a lot of violence within her school and community. She also said that a lot of her friends saw much of the same, but were always afraid to say something about it.

“I saw a lot of violence, especially when I was in middle school,” Rivera said. “A lot of kids perform violent acts, but shrug it off like it’s nothing. We have to have people say something if they see something.”

An artist in several other ways, Rivera is also a ballet dancer, can play piano, and is currently learning to play the guitar.

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