The Green Street Arts Center is launching the Green Street Community Mural Project, an eighteen 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. The Green Street Community Mural Project is made possible by a $10,000 grant from Citizens Bank and the Citizens Bank Foundation, who are the project’s lead sponsors.
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. According to Zacarias, “This mural will brighten Main Street with the colorful art of our students. It will also help to raise awareness of the wonderful activities that the Green Arts Center offers for the Middletown community.”
Over the summer of 2008, themes were finalized and designs drawn up by current Green Street students. In the words of Ms. Zacarias, “The ideas for the murals come from a variety of sources: The group that I work with (in this case, ten 4th graders), the wall and its particular characteristics (location, size, windows, etc), and my own artistic interpretation. Sometimes I feel like a channeling device: 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 and this winter is the execution. This entails priming, painting, and sealing plywood panels that are to be permanently screwed into the brick on the north side of the building at the intersection of Main and Green Streets.
An important objective of the project lies, not just in the finished product, but in the process. 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 felt inspired to approach the Middletown Youth Services Bureau’s David Blumenkrantz and Justin Carbonella. Thus the Community Mural Project was born, charged 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.
About Marela Zacarias
Zacarias graduated from Kenyon College with a major in Social Movements through Art and Religion. She did her thesis on Mural Art as a Tool for Social Change, and has gone on to teach mural art in Washington, DC, Mexico City and she is now teaching in New Britain and Hartford, Conn. Since graduation in May of 2000, she has become a recognized artist, having painted more than a dozen murals in the United States and Mexico.
Visit http://marela.org/ for more information.
About the Green Street Arts Center
Wesleyan University’s Green Street Arts Center, which opened in January 2005, is a vibrant center for arts education, serving residents of the neighborhood and the region. It is a project of Wesleyan University in collaboration with the City of Middletown and the North End Action Team (NEAT). Programming in the former schoolhouse at 51 Green Street includes an afterschool arts education program and a wide range of affordable classes and workshops for children and adults in music, dance, visual arts, theater, sound recording, media arts and creative writing. Visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/ for more information about Wesleyan’s Green Street Arts Center.