School’s new mural helps rock students’ world

Helping “drum up interest” in global citizenship, Joel Bergner, co-founder and co-director of Artolution, with the new mural at the P751 high school, at 113 E. Fourth St., between First and Second Aves.

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | Outside the P751 high school on E. Fourth St., the walls are now covered with a brightly colored and three-dimensional mural. Just last month, a team of teachers and students partnered with the public-art organization Artolution to paint it.

“This beautiful mural represents love and unity,” said Ewa Asterita, the principal of P751.

Artolution brings art around the world — from Syrian refugee camps in Jordan to poor communities in India — to address critical global issues and provide a creative outlet for children who have been through traumatic events. Bringing these projects to the Manhattan School for Career Development, Asterita hopes, will further the goal of teaching the students about global citizenship.

“The amazing part is that Artolution goes all over the world — to different refugee camps, to different communities that are in need of art and collaborative work,” Asterita said. “And we feel like we connected to the world through that art.”

The District 75 school, which is the city’s school district for students with disabilities, worked with Artolution co-founders Joel Bergner and Max Frieder to create “The Grand Mural,” which focuses on students with special needs and L.G.B.T.Q. youth. A second mural was also painted at Harvey Milk High School on Astor Place — a high school designed as a safe haven for L.G.B.T.Q. students — with Artolution again partnering on the project.

“It symbolizes the strength and beauty of our students and community,” Assistant Principal Yakeen Dinmahamad said of the project.

Recycled materials, such as buckets, keyboards, computer monitors, bottles, drumsticks and pieces of wood, created a 3-D effect on the mural. The drumsticks bring the piece to life, making it possible to “play” the sculptural mural like an instrument.

“It’s something that lives on in their schoolyard,” said Joel Bergner, one of the founders and directors of Artolution. “They actually came up with all of the ideas in the mural. We had an initial workshop with all of the students, and we guided them through the process of coming up with themes and imagery.

“And through that process, they decided what are the things that are most important to them and the messages they want to send to the community and what they want to say about themselves,” he added.

Though Artolution’s public-art projects have been organized around the world, Bergner himself is based in Brooklyn. For him, it is important to do local projects, as well.

Global citizenship is one of the pillars of the E. Fourth St. school. Asterita and Dinmahamad emphasize that value, as well as arts and theater and digital technology, in particular. Those principles will soon be applied to P751’s new location at 75 Morton St., which will fill a longstanding need for Downtown middle school students with disabilities. The murals at P751’s East Village high school location are a part of those goals — to get students to think globally.

“Artolution — being a part of that organization, being affiliated with that organization — allows our students to think globally,” Dinmahamad said, “which goes back to our theme of global citizenship.”

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