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Hunts Point teenagers paint mural for change

Bronx Times

A group of Hunts Point teenagers are painting the change they wish to see in their neighborhood.

The teens, participating in Groundswell’s Summer Leadership Institute, worked with artists Adam Kidder and Jazmine Hayes for several weeks over the summer to research, design, and fabricate a mural on a wall on Edgewater Road.

Groundswell, an organization that uses art for change, partnered with the City Department of Transportation on the project.

The youth muralists created a mural showing Hunts Point residents enjoying a beautiful green park on the local waterfront.

The teens said the theme of the mural was to encourage sustainable industry in an area that was once polluted by factory waste, and also to acknowledge the achievements of the community in gaining access to the waterfront.

“The theme is a collaboration between several community partner groups,” said Michelle Kaucic, a DOT representative. “The DOT’s concern is liveable streets and street safety around Hunts Point. It also reflects a lot of the changes that have come into this area.”

Students came up with the theme after several weeks of research, talking about their own observations, and working through a series of workshops, Kaucic said.

The mural is one of five to be completed over a two year span in the area, depicting different community issues.

The first, completed last spring, depicted Hunts Point heroes.

Not only are the teens gaining artistic experience, but they’re getting paid too.

Aylin Gonzalez, 16, from Hunts Point, said the group works from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, earning minimum wage for the hours they work.

“It was a really great experience,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about so many different things. I figured I was just going to be painting, but we learned about the history of the area. I would love to do more in the future, I had a really good experience.”

Tamika McLean, 16, of adjacent Longwood, said of her participating in the project: “Other than the 95 degree weather, it was fun.” “Coming up with the ideas, bringing it together, painting the wall, priming it - my favorite part has been seeing it all come together,” McLean said. “When we come down the hill to here we see it and it looks great.”

Jazmine Hayes, 22, one of the lead artists on the project, said she started out as a youth artist as well.

“I think its really important for the youth, because a lot of them didn’t have art experience or have art programs in their schools, so it’s a way for them to express their ideas creatively,” Hayes said. “Groundswell’s mission is to beautify the neighborhood and also to bring up awareness in every neighborhood not just in Hunts Point. I think it’s an excellent program.”

Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at ksanchez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3394

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