Wesleyan Participates in Mural Project with Local Youth

Green Street Arts Center students are working on designs for the community mural. (Photo courtesy of Marela Zacarias)

Green Street Arts Center students are working on designs for the community mural. (Photo courtesy of Marela Zacarias)

The Green Street Arts Center is launching the Green Street Community Mural Project, an 18 month-long art program that will culminate in a large public mural, to be installed in the spring of 2009 on the corner of Main and Green Streets in the North End of Middletown.

Led by mural artist Marela Zacarias, the project’s participants are a diverse group of Middletown children, their families, professional artists, Wesleyan students, and other community members. A core group of students in Green Street’s Afterschool Program will work with the artists on the project regularly.

The primary goal of the Green Street Community Mural Project will be obvious to every driver and pedestrian who passes Green Street.

“This mural will brighten Main Street with the colorful art of our students,” says Zacarias. “It will also help to raise awareness of the wonderful activities that the Green Arts Center offers for the Middletown community.”

The Green Street Community Mural Project is funded by a $10,000 grant from Citizens Bank and the Citizens Bank Foundation, which are the project’s lead sponsors.

Over the summer of 2008, themes were finalized and designs drawn up by current Green Street students. Zacarias also considered the wall’s location, size and characteristics such as windows and materials.

“Sometimes I feel like a channeling device,” Zacarias explains. “All the information comes through me and it comes out as visual images on a wall.”

The advance work of the Mural Project crew wrapped up last fall. During the winter and spring, participants are doing the priming, painting, and sealing of plywood panels will be affixed onto the brick on the north side of the building at the intersection of Main and Green Streets.

The process of creating the mural is an important objective of the project. The Green Street Community Mural Project intends to provide hands-on artistic and civic education to young people who desperately need both—like the ones who first sparked an idea in the mind of Green Street Artistic Director Janis Astor del Valle in autumn of 2007.

According to Astor, the seed of the Mural Project was planted by a group of young vandals. The Middletown Press ran an article about the teens, who had been arrested in Middletown for graffiti in public spaces. Recalling TATS CRU, a group of Bronx-based professional muralists whose work in aerosol changed the perception of graffiti as art and who she’d met while working at a youth development organization in the Bronx, Astor was inspired to approach the Middletown Youth Services Bureau’s David Blumenkrantz and Justin Carbonella about a mural. Their meeting led to the Community Mural Project with the mission of channeling the youngsters’ creativity from blight into beauty.

The final unveiling will take place at the annual Green Street Arts Festival in June 2009.

(Story contributed by Adam Kubota, press and marking coordinator, Center for the Arts)