Monday, October 22, 2012

Justice Community Works With Artists to Restore Community Mural on US Post Office

We began our collaboration with Ralph Perez and Xmental when they were contracted by the Department of Probation to install a mural here at our shared offices in the Brooklyn NeON.  Two of our members, Sean and Pedro, who have a particular interest in art, collaborated with Ralph and his crew to help select some of the imagery and do some of the painting.


Next we collaborated on a big mural restoration in Betsy Head Park.  As part of Probation week we brought out several dozen volunteers -- Probation and Center for Court Innovation staff, probationers, YMI participants and staff (including East New York Justice Community), and restored a substantial community mural and concrete bleachers next to the baseball field and track at the center of this major community park. 




Many of our members took this as an ongoing weekly project as well, returning to complete the entire site (below).


Finally, our partnership culminated in the restoration of two mural panels on the front of the United States Post Office for 11212 on Bristol Street.  At this location, two murals were over twenty years old and chipped and faded almost beyond recognition, which originally depicted images honoring the community's graduates and seniors respectively.  The District Manager of Community Board 16 brought us together with the U.S. Postal Service to collaborate on restoring these panels.  Through discussions together, we decided to install new murals depicting an updated version of the imagery of graduates on one side and a variety of images depicting an intergenerational Brownsville on the other side.

Our members cleaned up the weeds and trash around the building, and scraped, sanded, and primed the panels (below).   At the same time members took pictures of things that symbolized daily life in Brownsville to them, which were collected and used by Ralph to help select images for the new murals. 



Then, Xmental brought a crew of five amazing urban artists to install the new artwork.  Two of our members, Dexter and Jayquan came out to help with the set up and painting for the art installation.



To me, our collaboration with Xmental together with another one of my other favorite collaborations this year with Groundswell to install a monumental art piece on the side of a building next to a community garden that invites conversation with all the viewers in this prominent location regarding the past, present, and future of their identity (below) represents the true justice reinvestment that I hope the Mayor's Young Men's Initiative delivers. 



Our members are engaging in incredible service learning while making real, tangible community beneifts.  And through art, they are engaging with the community and giving a voice and a stake to young people in the revitalization of the neighborhood. 


-Benjamin Smith

Justice Community
Program Coordinator

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