Painting at Carter Street with Vince.

Its been two weeks since we finished our first on-site murals at Carter Street R-Center, led by phenomenal guest artist Vince Ballentine- and we’re still processing the experience! A muralist and multi-dimensionally talented artist, Vince came all the way from Brooklyn to paint with us for the week. Just an hour into starting on the first day, it would have been easy to convince anyone watching that Vince had always been a part of our group- he fit right in, bonding quickly with our artists and seamlessly going from person to person to offer suggestions and praise. The final set of murals – each representing a different culture, yet tied together with flowing thematic elements- are a stunning debut for our team. Located right in the entrance to the Center, they are easy to spot and made for a particularly dynamic experience- there was constant activity in the areas we were painting, and many children watched, wide-eyed, as these teens worked their magic on the walls. Read on to hear the team share their account of our first week on location on the job. IMG-2933


What did you think about working on-site at an R-Center for the first time? Was it different in any way from what you expected? How did it feel to be looked at as an artist painting on the walls?

Lily: Working at an R-Center for the first time was exciting! I didn’t have any high expectations besides focusing on finishing the murals within 3 days. It felt great to be acknowledged as an “official” artist, where we painted in front of a community.


McKenzie: The people in the center were really respectful and gave us space to make sure that we were able to do our work and even asked some really good questions about the mural.  It was interesting to hear the kids ask the workers there what we were doing, and for them to respond that we were painting a mural for them. I’m not used to working in an environment where those who you’re making a piece for can watch you the entire time, but it was also nice to hear how the adults in the center enjoyed it and how the kids thought what we were doing was cool.IMG-2882

Nzinga: Though this is my third year in ROC Paint Division, I am still getting used to the R-Center atmosphere. The loudness of curious children and the squeaky sneaker noises on polished floors has become  familiar. Working on-site at another R-Center this year is still nerve wracking to an extent. You hope that what we are doing is something that the children will like. At the end of the day it is their mural and you want them to be as happy as possible. The children look up to you as someone who is only about 5-10 years older than they are. I believe it gives them an inspiring push of creativity.


No:  I personally feel good about working on the R-Center Murals because i really got the chance to see how it would really be like to be working while the area is very busy especially younger kids who really enjoy seeing us painting on their center walls. I feel great and proud of myself as people pass by seeing us paint those walls, and their comments really help me think that this work is far greater than just painting a wall. I feel like what we paint on those walls can bring a positive emotion to someone, just like a big smile from everyone that sees these murals.  

How did you feel about the process of coming up with the sketches that were used?

Nzinga: The process in coming up with the sketches was a long thought process due to the expansion of our minds that Vince emphasized with the concept of “Reflections”. The sketches that everyone did ended up being very inspirational and good ideas for the eventual mural.


McKenzie: The process of coming up with sketches was actually really fun. We were able to pick the poses and people in the mural and figure out the ways we wanted them to interact with one another on the walls, allowing us to have a good amount of power over the mood and impact of the murals.


Amari: The process was easy once we all worked together to come up with the poses. I liked how Nzinga’s would go first with her pose, so the bubbles from her would send a chain reaction to the other bubbles; like they would be coming from her almost.

Mei: i loved the process! it was so much cooler to be more involved in the planning and reference photo process. Last year we mostly just saw the sketch and then filled it in, but this was much more interactive.


What was it like it to go to the center beforehand to talk with the kids?  Did it influence how you felt once you started working at the center?

Nari: It was great going to the center beforehand because the kids were very sweet and engaged in what was coming to their rec-center. It was a good influence on me, because the kids were very well-behaved and they still were when more children came, everybody was so interested and it made me feel good.


Amari: To go to the center beforehand and talk to the kids about the theme was interesting. I liked to see how they interpret it, and I liked seeing their point of view on the theme of the mural. Just getting their input and listening to what they want to see was nice. And when we got there to start painting it was like we already knew the environment, so some of the pressure was kinda taken off since we had made a connection.


How did it feel to have a guest artist come all the way from Brooklyn to work with us? What did you learn from working with Vince specifically?  What did you like about working with him?

Mei:  I loved having a guest artist from out of town. I also loved that our guest artist was a black man with dreads. it’s different from last year because most of our guest artists were white, and that’s okay, but i enjoyed having a person of color lead us.


McKenzie:  What I liked about working with Vince is that he looked at all of our skill sets and planned accordingly. He was able to put us in roles that allowed us to thrive and make a beautiful end result, while still being able to challenge and teach us new things along the way.  Often I will get very into my own head and it will make me tighten up when doing something, which only makes the result look worse and for me to get more frustrated. He would continually tell me to loosen up and while it annoyed me at the time, eventually I was able to get more comfortable and start to get better results.

Amari: When Vince came out to rochester I thought like “wow we’re really important!” And people want to actually work with us. The idea that different artists from different places would come to help us with our murals is amazing. The lesson I got from Vince is to not be so stiff when I paint. Like don’t stress out over the littlest of things. Just let things flow and work on it and even though I wasn’t there the whole time i could tell that Vince was a chill laid back guy and i liked his energy.


No:  I’m so glad and happy that we had someone that far to come to us just to help us out and i think it’s one of the best things about the program, to have many different artists come and join us to paint the murals. Something i learned from Vince while working with him is you shouldn’t always just work straight on a project, instead you should sometimes take some times off and recapture your thoughts and feeling than look at others to see as inspiration. Everything about working with him was great and i feel like we should have him back this year again or for the next year team because they would really like his style of art and his personality.


Lily: I felt privileged to have a guest artist come and paint with us! The part I liked working with him was the clear communication and how he made sure we were included during the whole process. In a way, he showed great leadership when it came to collaborating with other artists.

Mya: I thought it was so cool how Vince was willing to come all the way here and work with us. He taught me that it’s faster to fill in all the blank space first and then go back and do all the details. I liked how he told me exactly what to do since I work really well with a lot of instruction.


Did you have any memorable interactions while working at Carter? 


Amari:  Even though i wasn’t there the whole time, i heard from others that the kids I met when we visited were looking for me and that felt good. When I got there some of them came up and gave me a hug and we talked.

Mei: i remember i was helping direct one of the children’s art activities that Lisa set up. a little girl was drawing a puerto rican flag in her piece and was telling me about her grandmother’s house. her grandmother has a coqui frog with the puerto rican flag on it in her house. this was the same thing on the wall that has alex’s portrait. she really loved that there was something that directly related to her culture on the wall.


Nzinga: One memorable moment that stands out to me the most was the day before my birthday, I was surprised with a box of pizza. Many of the children in the center, along with the ROC Paint Division team, sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Though we were only there for 3 days the children and staff made me feel at home.


McKenzie: The one interaction that has stuck into my head, which is actually several interactions, is with one of the people who went to the center.  Every time he would walk past our murals he would say how much he liked them and then say hello to everyone, and that just really stuck into my head.

 Nari: A specific memorable moment I had was this one photo Lisa took of me talking to one of the kids about art and how he liked art, I told him to keep practicing and he will get better like I did. Also a memorable moment I had with Vince was when he called me Spam, it was so funny.


What do you hope the kids at Carter Street will get out of seeing these murals?

No:  I hope the kids from Carter Center would get some feeling that they are special no matter what they represent based on seeing those murals. I hope they will know that no matter where they come from or who they are that they are the same people, who should love and respect one and another. The ones that said that they wanted to paint just like us, I really hope this program will keep running so they can be part of the team and do something just like what we have done.


McKenzie:  I hope that the kids at the center will simply be able to find some aspect of themselves in the mural. We painted this with the thought of representation in mind, and I hope that the kids are able to find themselves in a reflection of that.  carterpics-27

Nari: I hope they can feel like they are part of the mural like we are by creating it, it’s nice to see how a part of you can be turned into art.


Nzinga: I hope that the children at Carter Street will see some positive representation of their cultures, and cultures different than theirs. It is important to teach them the importance of respecting diversity, and embracing their own cultures.


How does it feel to have your portrait, and your culture, represented on the wall?

Nzinga: To have my portrait and culture represented on the wall feels like I am representing more than just myself. I am now on “display” so to speak, to shine light on some of the diversity of the human family.In R-Centers, I often see Muslim children who try very hard to simply “fit in”, and only preserve their culture, religion, and even Arabic language to home. Rather than changing who we are to conform ourselves, I think it is beautiful that we are celebrating people of all backgrounds.


McKenzie:  It’s a very interesting feeling to be captured on the wall. I’m hopeful that some of the kids come to recognise parts of their culture in my own, or simply take more pride in where they come from because it is not something that is meant to be hidden, but celebrated.


No: I thinks it’s really cool and awesome to have my portrait on the wall and it make me look famous because more people will know me around Rochester if they saw my portrait in the center. But at the same time it’s cool to have someone that’s Asian on a wall probably where barely any Asian would go. I just hope the murals would portray a positive outcome for the kids at the center.


Alex: It was really great to see the finished murals and also see my face in one of them with part of my culture like the coqui with the flag of my country and other details around. I really feel grateful and proud to see that mural with part of me in the physical and cultural aspect in the R-Center of Carter Street. It was a great experience to be part of all that work with Roc Paint Division and Vince Ballentine.




Meet our artists part 2.

We are in the midst of all sorts of exciting and busy projects at Roc Paint Division! We’ve just completed our first on-site mural last week at Carter Street, and are wasting no time: we will be starting the next one next week, this time at Adams Street. In between, we had one week back at our home base to work on the many colorful panels that are quickly being brought to life by our youth artists. These will be installed at several different R-Centers once our program is complete.


Next week, we’ll reflect on the process of creating our Carter Street murals- but this week, we’ll be letting two more of our team members introduce themselves and share a bit about the project they have been working on during our work sessions back at the lodge. McKenzie and Fran both join us from SOTA this year and have blown us away with their talent and enthusiasm. Read on to hear about the program, their art, and their experiences so far in their own words.

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Hello, my name is McKenzie Cutt and I am a senior at School of the Arts. I’ve always had a love for drawing, but never really got serious about being artist until around 5th grade when I realized that I wanted to audition to get into School of the Arts. I really enjoy working with pencils and doing portraiture, both human and animal. I learned about Roc Paint Division from one of my art teachers. She told me that there was a program that was looking for applicants to paint murals, and I decided to apply. I love art, but I have little experience with painting so I’m really just hoping to become more comfortable with it and be able to have fun making pieces with other really talented and cool people. Outside of the program I mostly just draw, play with my cats, or read. I really like literature and animals and have two rooms full of books and 5 pets. I really like that at Roc Paint I’m able to feel really comfortable with the other artists and have a nice work environment after the stress of senior year. My favorite memory from the beginning of the program is when Brittany put on Hakuna Matata and it was so late and we were all kinda half asleep that we all just started to sing along with the song.

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I think we can represent the concept of representation by showing things that are not  seen in our typical media. Things like traits, cultures, differences, personal identities, ect. can all be represented visually so that the children in rec centers can see someone or something in a beautiful way, not one that might be misrepresented by our media today. I really liked the collaborative drawing despite the difficulties that came along with it. It was fun to find a way that you and another person could make one piece together that represented you both individually.  What came naturally was probably just having a fun time talking to each other and learning more about each others backgrounds and families and seeing the ways in which our drawing styles were similar.


My name is Francheska Diaz and I’m a Senior at School of the Arts. I mostly work in colored pencils. I enjoy drawing cartoons and story lines, but recently I’ve been enjoying realistic portraits. The most consistent part about my art is my color use. I like to use every color available to me when working on projects. I pull inspiration from impressionistic art such as, Monet or Van Gogh, but I also am heavily influenced by music and cartoons that I watched as a kid. My art classes are very chill. Our teachers usually play music or let us talk while working, but it never gets very loud. So, it’s the perfect working environment.

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I love symbolism and I have a couple symbols I use consistently throughout my artwork. One of the most notable one is the Sun. One of the reasons I choose the Sun is because it represents my ethnicity. I’m Puerto Rican and I’ve visited there several times and everytime the Sun is always shining. Even in their “winter” it’s warm and sunny. I like that it tints the surroundings with a warm yellow/orange color. My personal piece is a self portrait. I aligned with me because I like to associate my being as the sun. I added water to further symbolize the Island that my family comes from. I put the cedar trees there because I looked at the French Zodiac chart, and my birthdate aligned with the cedar tree. I like the idea of being a tree, so I included that into my painting.

I like the direction we’re taking now, with the combination of animals and portraits. I think they are visually interesting and a good way to mix cultures or portray some we don’t see too often. I like working with a partner, it’ll be cool once we begin to work on site because we’ll get to work together as a big group. I hope that when the kids see the murals they’ll feel represented and I hope that they can find an interest in learning about other cultures too.


And now, these two talented ladies discuss the panel piece they are working on together. This panel, along with its counterpart (which you’ll hear about soon….) will be installed at one of the R-Centers after the conclusion of the program.

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McKenzie: When this piece first started off it was very different. The only element that we actually kept was the woman’s face. Originally, the drawing was of a woman wearing a coqui on her head as a hat/ scarf. What we found when we finished that sketch, however, was that the arms looked like a snake and the frog just did not look good on her head. After a talk with the rest of the group about the sketch, we decided to go with an elephant on her head instead and the rest of the elements evolved from there. The elements are from Asian culture, mostly Indian and Korean. The collaborative process has actually been really fun. Fran and I think in very similar ways artistically so it made working together much easier. The scale of the drawing can be intimidating, but is easier to handle with two people. We often switch back and forth in what we’re doing and we know what we each are stronger at artistically and plan accordingly. The entire painting itself has been a learning moment. While I have some experience with paint, it is very minimal. Painting something so big with so many elements has been an interesting challenge. I hope that when the kids see the piece that can see a culture that is not largely represented. Also, that they like the lady with four arms. Fran and I have developed a joke that the painting is our “eight foot daughter” so that is probably what I would name it.

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Fran: I agreed with the rest of the group about the removal of the frog and I think we have a more well-thought piece now. We went with the elephant on the woman’s head simply because that’s where the frog was, but in doing so we accidentally mirrored the Hindu goddess Ganesh. We added extra heads and even some henna on the opposite side of her head to further tie that influence together. It’s been great working with McKenzie because we have similar solutions to the problems that come up. We agree on most things and work in a trial and error sort of manner. She is very good at realistic portraits and hands while I’m pretty confident in my coloring skills, so we make a pretty good team. Our concept has been constant since our re-sketch, we mostly change our ideas in the colors we choose.

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I do find it very difficult to paint on a larger scale. I’m used to working on small papers, with small figures and scenes that I can manipulate easily. The scale of the board throws me off and forces me to take a step back every so often to see how its progressed. It’s also scary knowing that this art will be permanently placed in these centers where so many people are going to see for as long as the building is there. It puts a lot of pressure on us to make it perfect, but I hope that the kids will be inspired by the art to create their own. I hope that they will want to learn more about the cultures we portrayed, or feel good that they are represented. If not, I hope they think it’s a cool piece of art in their center.

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Meet our artists, part 1.

With a total of 11 youth artists, the third season of Roc Paint Division includes not only our biggest, but also our most diverse team yet.  Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing the 9 artists who are new this year and sharing some of what they’ve been focusing on.


First up is Alex Baez Rivera. Alex just moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico about one year ago, and several of our team members have been excited to begin learning Spanish by working closely with him. He may still be learning English, but that hasn’t stopped him from being one of our most deeply thoughtful, introspective, and thorough artists when it comes to sharing his ideas with the group.  As Spanish is Alex’s first language- and we are all hoping to learn more of it together- we’ve posted his intro in both Spanish and English.blog4_alex-4

Mi nombre es Alex Báez Rivera, puertorriqueño y tengo 18 años. Voy a la escuela secundaria James Monroe en la cual me encuentro en el grado 12. Y luego estaré compartiendo con ustedes un poco más sobre mí. No recuerdo muy bien cuando empezó a gustarme el arte, pero si fue a una temprana edad. Empecé a ver tutoriales en YouTube sobre cómo hacer graffitis, animales y otras cosas así que comencé a dibujar diferentes estilos. Estuve mucho tiempo sin dibujar pero volvi a esto porque realmente me gusta hacer arte. Mi estilo favorito es mezclar muchas cosas en un solo dibujo, pero obviamente con un significado. mi clase de arte de secundaria es realmente buena y mi favorita, por supuesto, es una motivación para seguir yendo a la escuela. Solo tomo la clase 2 o 3 días en la semana pero aún siendo una motivación en Parte.

My name is Alex Báez Rivera, I’m Puerto Rican and I’m 18 years old. I go to school at James Monroe High School and I’m in the 12th grade. And then I’ll be sharing with you a little more about me. I don’t remember very well when I started to like art, but it was at an early age. I started watching tutorials on YouTube about how to do graffiti, animals and other things so I started drawing different styles. I was not drawing for a long time but then I came back to this because I really like to make art. My favorite style is to mix many things in a single drawing, but obviously with a meaning. My high school art class is really good and my favorite, of course; it is a motivation to keep going to the school. I only take the class 2 or 3 days a week but still being a motivation in part.

Llegué a saber acerca de Roc Paint Division dejando saber en la escuela que me gusta pasar tiempo dibujando y cuando un estudiante vio que me gusta el arte, me dio un articulo donde decían que estaban buscando artistas jóvenes para el programa mientras ganan dinero haciendo arte en murales etc. Luego una persona que su nombre o apellido es Payton de la escuela a la que voy, me ayudó en los procesos para conseguir la entrevista y después de esta esperar recibir una llamada para saber si me habian aceptado para formar parte del programa. Así que así fue como llegué a ser parte de Roc Paint division. Y, ¿qué espero obtener de este gran programa?, espero aprender nuevas técnicas para hacer arte, conocer a personas que les gusta el arte también, al mismo tiempo ganar dinero, ahorrar algo para poder o intentar comprar algunos materiales necesarios para tatuar. Y cuando los tenga empezar a practicar técnicas de tatuar para que con el tiempo poder comenzar a tatuar en piel real. De esta manera el dinero que ahorre y gaste en algunos materiales para tatuar espero que sean una buena inversión y un gran objetivo en mi vida por lograr también, ser un tatuador profesional, y si, todo esto es una gran motivación para alcanzar eso y mucho más en mi vida.

I got to know about Roc Paint Division because people know at school that I like to spend time drawing and when a student saw that I like art, he gave me an article where they said they were looking for young artists for a job where they make money by making murals. Then one of my teachers helped me in the processes to get the interview and after this I waited to receive a call to know if they had accepted me to form part of the program. So that’s how I became part of Roc Paint division. And what do I hope to obtain from this great program? I hope to learn new techniques to make art, meet people who like art too, at the same time earn money, save something to be able or try to buy some necessary materials to tattoo. In this way the money I  save and spend on some materials to tattoo, I think they will be a good investment and a great goal in my life to achieve also, be a professional tattoo artist, and yes, all this is a great motivation to reach that and much more in my life.


Fuera de este programa me gusta pasar tiempo viendo películas de cualquier género, especialmente películas de terror, pasar tiempo en YouTube y otros pasatiempos. También me gusta ir a lugares abandonados como el subterráneo abandonado de aquí en Rochester. Por otro lado me llaman mucho la atención los cementerios abandonados o antiguos con mucho para explorar.La isla de donde vengo fue descubierta en 11493 por Cristóbal Colón, en su segundo viaje a América. Colón la bautizó con el nombre de San Juan Bautista y la ciudad con el nombre de Puerto Rico. Eso fue en 1521 cuando estos dos nombres fueron cambiados. Por otro lado un animal muy importante que extraño por su canto es el Coqui. Y aja, esto son unos pocos datos importantes sobre Puerto Rico.

Outside of this program I like to spend time watching movies of any genre, especially horror movies, spending time on YouTube and other hobbies. Also I like to go to abandoned places like the abandoned subway here in Rochester. On the other hand I am very struck by abandoned or old cemeteries with a lot to explore. I moved here from Puerto Rico about one year ago. The island of Puerto Rico was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus, in his second trip to America. Columbus baptized it with the name of San Juan Bautista and the city with the name of Puerto Rico. That was in 1521 when these two names were changed. On the other hand, a very important animal that I miss because of its song is the Coqui. And aha, this is a few important facts about Puerto Rico.

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Realmente me gusta todo sobre Roc Paint División. No sé muy bien quién es el gran jefe en este programa pero he estado compartiendo con 3 personas llamadas Justin, Lisa y Brittany que han sido muy amables y pacientes conmigo ya que no domino muy bien el ingles. He aprendido más acerca de cómo hacen los murales con stencils viendo videos que se nos han mostrado en el programa, además ya hicieron una demostración en el programa de cómo tratar con los stencils y comenzaron a bregar con ellos. Aprendí una técnica sobre cómo mezclar pintura y agua para usar en un diseño, y también aprendí un poco sobre las diferentes culturas de donde provienen los jóvenes artistas del programa. Mis 2 momentos favoritos en el programa hasta ahora han sido visitar murales grandiosos y enormes alrededor de la ciudad y compartir con Mei y Nzinga en el trabajo coloborativo.

I really like everything about Roc Paint Division. I’m not sure who the big boss is in this program, but Justin, Lisa and Brittany  have been very kind and patient with me since I do not know English very well. I’ve learned more about how they make murals with stencils by watching videos that they have shown us, and they have demonstrated in the program how to deal with the stencils. I learned a technique about how to mix paint and water to use in a design, and I also learned a little about different cultures where the other artists of the program come from. My 2 favorite moments in the program so far have been visiting great, huge murals around the city, and working with Mei and Nzinga on the collaborative project.



Mi pieza personal en la que estoy trabajando es un collage de cinco fotos. Puede ser relacionada con el tema de representación ya que tiene un gran significado. El gran sentido de la vida que representa un sentimiento dentro de nosotros. La historia detrás de esa pieza, bueno, tal vez los retos no pueden ver cuando siguen dentro del vientre pero si pueden sentir y por este lado estoy representando algo en contra de los abortos a la misma vez que ellos están vivos y pueden sentir igual sucede con los árboles, no pueden ver pero si sentir y esto otro representa algo en contra de la tala de árboles sin ser necesaria ya que ellos nos proveen el oxígeno. También están estas personas que quizás no puedan ver pero si sentir algo que va más allá del sentido común de la vista, en resumen, todo esto es como un gran significado de la vida. Y pues hasta ahora no me siento muy bien ni tampoco mal acerca de la pintura en la que estoy trabajando pero al terminarla espero sentirme mejor. 

Una de las maneras que pienso que podemos usar en un mural con el tema de representación es en un collage de diferentes culturas. Lo que espero de los niños deR-Centers es que ellos también pueden colocar belleza donde no la había antes haciendoarte. Y también espero que mientras nos ven dibujando, pintando, etc, sean influenciados de una buena manera por todos nosotros. Y para concluir me sentí realmente bien con el trabajo colaborativo. Pude ver algunos estilos de Mei y Nzinga las cuales son realmente buenas, como artistas y en su personalidad también. La parte más difícil fue escoger que dibujar pero una vez sabíamos que hacer lo demás se hizo fácil.

My personal piece that I am working on is a collage of five photos and can be related to the topic of representation since it has a great significance. The great sense of life that represents a feeling within us. The story behind that piece, well, maybe the fetus can not see when they’re still inside the womb but maybe they can feel; on this side I am representing something against abortions. Once they are alive and can feel the same happens with trees, they can not see but if you feel and this other represents something against the felling of trees without being necessary since they provide us with oxygen. There are also these people who may not be able to see but if you feel something that goes beyond the common sense of sight, in short, all this is like a great meaning of life. So far I do not feel very well nor badly about the painting I’m working on but at the end I hope to feel better.

One of the ways that I think we can use in a mural with the theme of representation is in a collage of different cultures. What I expect from the children of R-Centers is that they can also place beauty where they had not before art. And I also hope that while they see us drawing, painting, etc., they will be influenced in a good way for all of us.

And to conclude I felt really good about the collaborative work. I could see some styles of Mei and Nzinga which are really good, as artists and in their personality too. The hardest part was choosing what to draw but once we knew that doing the rest was easy.



One month in.

Its hard to believe we are already 5 weeks into the third season of Roc Paint Division. We will start introducing the rest of our teamof artists next week, but in the meantime, here’s a progress report of sorts regarding what we’ve been working on so far. Each of our youth are working on a personal piece related to the theme of representation-they’ll be sharing a bit about the concepts behind them in their intros. This gives everyone a chance to practice their painting skills on their own terms before we move on to bigger team projects.





Anyone familiar with Roc Paint Division will recognize the image of stencils being painstakingly cut out. In years past our artists have spent a good chunk of time in the beginning of program each cutting their own 4-5 layer stencil. This year we had a little bit of mercy on our artists (sorry, Roc Paint alumni…) and are instead cutting several stencils as a group. It makes for a nice break from painting and gives us the chance to work together on something we will be able to use over and over in our murals as we get started. blog3-7blog3-4


We’ve also reached an especially exciting early landmark stage in the program- getting started on our first large-scale projects as a team. Our first R-Center contributions come in the form of panels that, once completed, will be installed in the centers, giving our artists the chance to start learning new artistic processes in the comfort of our home base at the lodge. Next week we will talk more our youth artists’ roles in the designs of these panels! blog3-9

blog3-6Youth artists Nari has been the first to start experimenting with photography as part of this program, and took this great shot of Nzinga’s piece and work station while learning the basics of how to use our camera. 

Speaking of Roc Paint alumni- we were thrilled to have one of our all-star youth muralists from 2017 stop in for a visit a few weeks back. Etana worked with us last year and was also part of the the Roc Paint Wall Therapy team last year, after graduating from World of Inquiry School #58 in June(!). She’s currently working at Rochester General Hospital and had a chance to stop in on her afternoon off.  Etana had a particularly memorable experience working on the collaborative collage/painting exercise early in the program last year, and she had the chance to share her insights with our group while they worked on this year’s version of the same project.



After two years adorning the walls of Rochester’s R-Centers under the theme of Growth, the murals of Roc Paint Division Season 3 will have a new theme- and this time around we are happy to say that it was chosen by the youth artists themselves, through a series  of brainstorming sessions and in-depth conversations.  Read on to hear what our two program veterans, Mei Stephens and Nzinga Muhammad,  have to say about the meaning behind and the accompanying ideas for this year’s thoughtfully selected theme: Representation.



How did it feel to have the opportunity to choose the theme this yourselves year, rather than being told what the theme was right from the beginning?  

Mei: To have the opportunity to choose the theme this year was great. Definitely last year it was hard to just sit back and be told what the theme was, and what we would be painting. To be a part of the theme-choosing was really interesting and important to us. It also was nice to see the everyone’s different ideas and what’s important to them.

Nzinga: Having the opportunity to choose the theme as the youth muralists this year feels like we are even more incorporated in the painting process. Giving us the opportunity to choose a theme makes it feel less like we are coming in as employees without a lot of say in what we should paint about, in terms of  an umbrella theme.  It gives it more of a sense that we are coming into a space and are asked to paint what we as employees feel is best for an audience. This gives us more sense of ownership of the murals.



What did you feel were some of the important criteria in picking the theme that we’d be using all year?

Mei: Some important criteria in picking this season’s theme include: Would kids be able to understand / enjoy looking at the murals and having them at their R-centers?; Can we represent the theme in a lot of different ways?; Is it age appropriate for young children?; and of course Is it interesting / inspiring?

Nzinga: I felt that some of the important criteria in picking a theme that we would be using all year was that it had to be relatable to our lives and the lives of our audience; whether on a personal level, or on a communal level. I think generally themes in R-Centers should reflect the children in those spaces because at the end of the day, whatever we paint becomes part of their upbringing within the R-Center.


We narrowed it down to Love, Imagination & Possibilities, Transition, and Representation.  At that point, did you feel strongly about any of them? What is the significance of the chosen theme in the context of the R-Centers? 

Mei: I felt strongly about the theme being Culture / Representation. Representation of course has always been a theme of Roc Paint because the R-centers are filled with kids of races underrepresented in the media. They don’t often see black and brown faces on these massive, beautiful walls. They see white faces. And it’ so important to show them that they can be beautiful, too; that they are beautiful. The aspect of culture in the murals I thought was important because it would be awesome to paint, and for the kids to see, different cultures. A lot of kids aren’t exposed to other cultures until they are older; so to be able to see other people’s cultures represented in an interactive visual is extremely significant. This also happens to be a theme that we can show through animals, plants, people, architecture, clothing, hair… the list goes on. The theme of Culture / Representation I think also represents the Roc Painters this year. Between the eleven of us there are so many different cultures and personalities. The theme this year is perfect.


Nzinga: Because of the diversity within the group,— whether its various cultures, religions, or even languages,— I felt that Representation would be a good way for the group to collectively and individually connect to the theme. I felt strongly about Representation because within the past year, that subject has shown up in my life many times. Whether it was the Wall Therapy mural we did this past summer, or discussing what representation and diversity means in certain classes I have, I have been talking about and delving deeper into the topic of representation, culture, diversity, etc. it is important for me–as someone whose identity itself is diverse as a Black Muslimah– to keep the conversation going. 

 Representation  is important for our audiences  at the R-Centers because of the demographics in the majority of city R-Center are people of color, especially black and brown children. Though these children are the majority in R-Centers, they are the least positively represented in mainstream media. When children from underrepresented communities come into a safe space from worldly pressures and discrimination, it is powerful for them to see a change in harmful narratives on walls and the side of buildings. I like to see children of color and their faces light up when they are portrayed on a wall as art, and not as a stereotype.

blog2_M&N-1This year’s team looks at the panels painted by Season 2 Roc Paint Division at the Humboldt R-Center, which served as an early exploration of the concept of representation through last year’s theme of growth. 

What does representation mean to you?  What are some of your initial ideas ?

Mei: To me, representation means speaking for the oppressed / underrepresented / those incapable of speaking for themselves. We have this great platform at Roc Paint to do that in a unique way. The majority of the people at these R-centers we go to fall under this category of not being represented. It’s as simple as searching ‘portrait’ on Google Images and not seeing a single face that looks like yours for hundreds of white people’s faces before. We have to specifically type in “black portrait” or “asian portrait” or “hispanic portrait” to see ourselves. I think that’s the simplest way to put it; to get across to people why representation is so huge and needed and necessary. Some of my initial ideas include of course showing different races in each face for representation. As for culture, this can range from different significant cultural celebrations to the different plants / animals / foods / clothing / etc. you might see in another country or culture. It also would be cool to showing different cultures interacting somehow, though this could be confusing.

Nzinga: Representation to me means shining light on underrepresented peoples, cultures, and ideas. Representation is often associated with those who are not shown positively in the media. Negative connotations given to groups of people are the ones whom I believe should be given a space to be celebrated.  
I think that  in ROC Paint Division, our different perspectives are respected and the opportunity of dialogue is encouraged. My perspective is that I cannot stress enough the importance of raising awareness to oppressive systems such as colorism, racism, sexism, etc. If I have an opportunity to actually give appreciation and representation towards the despised in society, I would love to do so through art.  


About the artists…


Mei Stephens:


I am a senior at The Harley School this year. I enjoy painting and sketching portraits / the human body, and different forms of life in nature. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends.

As a second year returning artist this season I feel extremely capable, which is not at all how I felt last year. I knew that I had some drawing skills, but I had never really used anything except for graphite and paper. Roc Paint developed my skills as a visual artist; from how comfortable I am with the different media I now use, to the type of images I’m working from. As a second-year artist, I can help other roc paint artists who maybe feel lost like I did. For example, when we were painting the bathrooms the other day, I saw a girl dripping paint everywhere. The problem was that she was dipping her brush too far in the paint. This was an easy fix but I enjoyed helping her develop her basic painting skills. Also, there is a Roc Painter this year who is from Puerto Rico, Alex. He has only been in the States for a year, so his English isn’t that well-spoken. Myself and the other returning artist, Nzinga, have taken him under our wings. We have gotten to know him really well, and we try our best to make sure he feels comfortable here. We also have been teaching him English, while he teaches us Spanish. He is great to talk to, and we quickly found out that despite coming across as quiet, he has a lot to say. Coming back this year with more experience I am more comfortable, and I can help him become more comfortable as well.

Roc Paint has made such a huge impact on my life. Even just the basic skills you learn here about how to go about painting murals and different ways to use paint or represent a concept. I knew I loved visual art, but I didn’t know how much until this program. I found myself always creating art. I also organized my schedule this year so that I could spend more time doing the things I enjoy like social justice and art. The skills I learned / am learning at Roc Paint allow me to lead a lot of projects this year. For example, I am working on several murals outside of Roc Paint currently. I am painting a solo mural of important women in my history teacher’s classroom; I am also leading a mural at Mount Hope Family Center, with help from my art teacher and student volunteers; and I am applying for a grant by the Gandhi Institute to lead a mural project with LawNY to help create an informational mural for those (very generally) affected by poverty that doubles as a piece of art for the community. Without Roc Paint I absolutely would not have the skillset to do this work. I am so grateful for this program.


Nzinga Muhammad: 



I am a homeschooled senior in my third, and last, year of ROC Paint Division. Being back is exciting; new participants with different skill sets is each year is refreshing to see. In my experience, I can see myself taking  on a leadership role, because of the experience I have had as somewhat of a veteran in this program. I evolved from never picking up a professional paint brush, to helping with creating murals.

Because of ROC Paint Division, I have had wonderful opportunities with sharing my artwork. Last year, I won first place in the ROC Stars Talent Showcase in the category of Visual Arts. This summer, I also worked with two other members of ROC Paint Division during  our local Wall Therapy Week.

I am excited for the various interpretations of our new theme: Representation. Ironically, we as a program grew out of our previous theme, “Growth”.  I am also excited for fresh perspectives on this theme, the message we could send with the murals, and the talent of the participants to shine through for an amazing experience.



In other news……

The first official painting project of the year- updating the colors in the lodge- has been completed.


And with that, the collaborative creative process within the group has begun. We’ll be going more into the detail about this next week….Stay tuned.


Roc Paint 2018: Welcome to Season Three.

We are so excited to share that the third season of Roc Paint Division is officially underway!  We’re one week in and are having a great time getting to know our new crew of ELEVEN youth artists- three more than last year!  They’ll begin introducing themselves here in the next few weeks, but for now, here’s a look at how we are starting off the program this season.


Juts like last year, our first painting project will focus on refreshing the walls in our headquarters at Marketview Lodge, giving us a chance to learn basic painting skills and techniques before moving onto more elaborate murals. On day 1, the group was tasked with working together to choose the colors- given free range over the color wheel, with the only stipulation being that there had to be a clear group consensus in order to move forward.


Our first featured guest of the year was the mythical and multitalented Erich Lehman, co-founder of Wall Therapy  and founder of gallery 1975. He shared the story of his journey from a young skateboarder and t-shirt collector to his present-day multifaceted roles in Rochester’s art community.

We also gave the floor to our two seasoned Roc Paint veterans, Mei and Nzinga, so they could share their experience working as muralists in Wall Therapy this summer. We are thrilled to have two returning team members and are so excited to see them take on leadership roles within the group this year.


One exciting change this year: after two seasons creating beautiful the theme of Growth for our murals, we decided: its time to switch it up. We spent the second half of Thursday discussing and brainstorming potential themes for this year, and by the end of the evening had narrowed it down to four finalists: Dream and Imagination, Culture and Representation, Love, and Transition. The youth artists spent some unstructured time thinking about and sharing potential concepts for each, and we plan on finalizing our decision this week.


We also handed out sketchbooks to the crew and they got started on personalizing them……It will be fun to see them fill up over the next 19 weeks.

We have lots of exciting things coming up in the next few weeks- stay tuned!

NOW HIRING for Roc Paint 2018

NOW HIRING: Youth Artists for the third edition of Roc Paint Division, 2017-2018 


The City of Rochester’s Department of Recreation presents the third season of Roc Paint Division! Do you love to draw, sketch, or paint? Do you want to learn about public art and how it can improve your community? Have you always wanted to paint a mural…. and earn money while doing it?

If this sounds like you, you may be qualified to join us and become a member of the 2017-2018 Roc Paint Division team!

Job Description:

  • The position begins in December and runs through May.
  • Work will be approximately 10 hours / week  (2-3 days after school)
  • Pay rate: $9.75/hour.
  • You will work with local artists to learn how to conceptualize, design, and paint murals.
  • With a team, you will create murals to beautify City R-Centers.
  • You will get to explore the city and see the different public art it has to offer

To qualify, you must be:

  • Between the ages of 16 and 19
  • A resident of the City of Rochester
  • Currently enrolled in high school
  • Interested in visual art


  • Fill out the attached application   and submit it along with a cover letter clearly explaining your interest and qualifications for this project.
  • Email the application and cover letter to the Northwest Area Coordinator, Kendra Hayle, at, OR drop them off at the City office at 400 Dewey Avenue, marked “attn Kendra Hayle”.

DEADLINE TO APPLY: Friday, November 3, 2017.  

DEADLINE EXTENDED: Friday November 10th by 5pm. 

Email with any questions!