Teens Paint Mural Outside East New York Subway Station
A summertime project aims to bring beauty to the city while teaching young people the skills they'll need to find jobs by creating works of art in some unusual places, like a subway station in East New York, Brooklyn. NY1's Tina Redwine filed the following report.
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Shakira Jones says East New York is a tough place to live and tough to look at.
"It look dead," she says. "It looks dull, black and gray, like a black-and-white movie. But now we'll bring the color to it, one mural at a time."
Shakira is one of 20 teens getting paid to design and paint a mural outside the Broadway Junction subway station, one of seven murals the nonprofit arts group Groundswell is sponsoring throughout the city this summer. Its theme: "I Love East New York."
The teens first went online to research the area. They came across John Pitkin, one of the early developers of East New York and learned that one of America's greatest composers, George Gershwin, was born just a few blocks away.
They also did research on their design, which they found on window grillwork and fences throughout the neighborhood. They discovered it’s an African symbol meaning a safe and welcoming place.
They brainstormed what they liked about the neighborhood, such as block parties with open hydrants and the legacy of street artist Dandy. Then, working artists helped them create the design.
Muralist Maleek Joseph hopes the mural will be an inspiration for his neighbors.
"Maybe not right now or a couple of years from now but the mural will probably change the community and it's probably a stepping stone for progress," he says.
It's the first job for most of these kids. Few of them want to be artists but Groundswell says all can benefit. It hopes to beautify the neighborhood and teach their "employees" life skills.
"Being prompt, working hard throughout the day and you also have to deal with a lot of people, so that just applies towards any job," says Frank Parga of Groundswell.
"We actually learn something from each other," Joseph says. "It can be something small, but we take something from each other and grow.
Their work is already winning smiles.
"I like the fire hydrant and the heart that says love," says one child.
It's just the kind of response the muralists are hoping for.