Gantt R-Center w/ Range

Last week our group completed our fourth and final on-site mural this year and set a new record for ourselves in the process- in just two workdays,  the team completely transformed the game room at the Gantt R-Center!


For our final mural we had the wonderful opportunity to be led by literal local legend Range. Range, along with graffiti crew FUA,  has been painting in the neighborhood for years, and was a familar and welcome face to just about everyone at the Gantt Center. It was the perfect artist-location pairing, and our youth artists were excited to try out working in his signature “b-boy” style a drastic departure and welcome change from the styles they’ve focused on for much of the season. And it was even a learning opportunity for Range, seasoned spray paint master- his first large scale mural using brush paint rather than cans!


In keeping with tradition, this mural included an art activity for the youngsters at the center. Our team painstakingly drew and cut out dozens of sneakers, baseball caps, and spray cans for the kids to paint and color- they now hang alongside the newly colorful walls.



Read on for a recap of the week by several of our talented team members.


What did you think of working in Range’s process and style for this mural? How did it compare, for you, with the other guest artists and styles that we have worked in?
Lily:  I really liked Range and his style, and it was nice to work with him on our last mural. His process was also very straight forward because of his cartoon style, which made things easier and more simplified compared to our previous murals. I did felt included in the process when coming up with the sketch because of Range asking us questions and wanting our feedback or ideas. We came up with a lot of ideas as a team and we were able to agree with what we want to put in the mural.


Nzinga:  Range is a very creative and inspirational artist. I felt very included in the process of coming up with the sketch. He shared his ideas and took ours into consideration. We all bounced off of each other’s suggestions and Range wrote everything down. He has an insight into this vision of a very beautiful and fun mural. Working in Range’s style was very different from what I am used to. The cartoonish style of painting was very interesting to undergo. There was little to no blending that was needed for the piece.


No: Range’s process of style was unique because he’s bringing old style of arts into modern day. And it’s pretty nice to bring this kind of style to today world into a Rec center where most kids haven’t really see it before. while sketching my own piece i had thought of drawing hats and big stereo which [are also elements] in Range’s final piece.

What do you think or hope  the kids at Gantt will think of these murals and why?

No: I really hope the kids would like to appreciate old b-boy style art in the Rec center where you won’t really see pretty often. what most kids learn in there art class really nothing to do with this style so seeing this would give me inspiration to make something like it or better.

Nzinga: I hope that the children at the Gantt Center will like the uniqueness of these murals because it highlights aspects black urban life that they can relate to whether it is basketball or the golden hoop earrings.

What was your favorite part of working at Gantt? / did you have a favorite memory?

No: My favorite part of working at Gantt is that we were able to finish the mural just in two days which was super amazing and it was a record too.


Lily: Oh man. Something that I can never forget is when the people at Gantt gave us a LOT of food during our break. I remember Justin coming in with some leftover pizza and after eating that, more food kept on being offered to us like soda, chips and even ice cream?!?! I can still remember how I felt which was just a mixture of confusion, amusement and appreciation haha. Besides the food, I liked the atmosphere at Gantt because it was slightly nostalgic. It was the same place where we had our interview for RocPaint 🙂 I also remembered that the room across from us had a karaoke? party? It was nice to hear them sing because we didn’t have any music playing so it was very quiet.


If we could do ONE more group mural this year, what would you wish for it to include?

gantt-10Alex:  If we could make another mural, I would love to be able to participate in one more, I would love it to be related to Africa, like its animals, etc, since it has always attracted my attention and I wanted to visit that place. Also, I am a Puerto Rican and is related to the 3 races of the Puerto Rican which are the Tainas, Spanish and African.

Nzinga: If we could do one more group mural this year, I would wish for it to include different languages, specifically Spanish and Arabic. These are two languages that I hear the most often in the City of Rochester. It shows how much diversity of language and culture is here, not just English.


Lily: Honestly, I don’t mind or care what kind of mural it would be, it can be any kind of mural. I wish we could spend more time in the program ;(





Onsite mural #3: the Edgerton R-Center

Spring break week was no break for our seasoned team of artists, who spent it cranking out on-site mural #3 of the season at the Edgerton R-Center. Now that we are in year three of Roc Paint Division, it’s getting harder to find an R-Center in Rochester that we haven’t covered yet. Until last week, Edgerton was an exception, but with its own special backstory: Edgerton does feature a large mural in the hallway, painted by Sarah Rutherford- accomplished local artist and the original founder of Roc Paint Division. That mural played a pivotal role in laying the groundwork for our program back in late 2015. It was exciting for our team of artists to make their mark alongside Sarah’s!


For this mural, we broke this year’s tradition of welcoming a guest artist from New York City- and in fact, this time around our roster did not include a guest lead artist at all, but instead featured the leadership of our fabulous program lead staff, Justin and Brittany.  Our youth artists have loved learning from and working with them back at our home base, and it was a nice change to get to follow their lead on a larger scale. Additionally, three of our youth artists collaborated on the design and execution of the second mural at Edgerton, in the hallway. We are so proud of Fran, Lily, and Mckenzie for their coordinated efforts, teamwork, and leadership!

And with our media coordinator, Lisa, on vacation, documentation of the week’s endeavors fell completely to our youth artists who (no surprise here) stepped  right up to the challenge. Special thanks to Narionna for coordinating the photo-taking as well as the children’s art activities at Edgerton- and painting, too!  Our multitalented team members continue to blow us away!


Read on for our artists’ reflections on the week!

How was it different to work under the leadership of Justin, Brittany, and your peers rather than a guest artist?

Alex:  I think the difference in having worked under the leadership of Justin and Brittany this time around was the trust and being less under pressure, because when a guest artist is present, the pressure increases as a result of fear of missing details or not finishing something on time.

Lily: I felt very relaxed and comfortable because I was working with people I already knew. I was also very excited because we finally worked with our bosses (because they’re really cool artists 😀 )


Nzinga:  It felt like we were working on a wall that was 100% ours, in terms of the style and design of the mural. 


McKenzie: For this location I did not work under the leadership of Justin and Brittany; Lilly, Francheska, and I created the second mural together. Working with them was really fun and we were able to bounce our ideas off of each other and create something that I think turned out really well. It was fun to be able to make our own decisions and decide what went where and the color pallet and delegate ourselves who we thought would be the best for the different elements of the mural.

What was the vibe of painting at Edgerton like?  Did you feel like you moved through it faster now that it was the third one you guys have done on-site?   

Nzinga: The Edgerton mural was finished so quickly for me. I was not there on the first day that the team started working, so I only had two days to complete the portrait. It did not feel like we were working for five hours; the time really flew by. Every mural we do it seems as though we get so used to working together, that every other mural after that gets done faster.


Lily: The space felt very big so it felt like there was more freedom to roam around and felt less restricted. The vibe was uplifting no matter what or how I felt.

Alex:  The atmosphere in Edgerton was nice and the work pace was fast, I mean we finished the murals quickly and we could have finished them in less than 3 days.  Since it was the 3rd mural we’ve done, and we worked more calmly taking our time and enjoying it.edgerton-19

McKenzie: The pace this time was really interesting. The first two days blew by like they were nothing but the third day seemed to take forever. We had done most of the  major work that needed to be done on the murals in the first two days, so the last day was doing whatever else we needed to finish and clean up any areas we thought needed it, which is why it felt like it took so much longer.


What was your role in the process of brainstorming/ coming up with the design for these murals? How do you feel the final murals compared with the initial planning stages?

Nzinga: I was in charge of the portrait of the mural. The final mural compared to the initial planning stages is always interesting in terms of editing ideas for the sketch. We knew we wanted to incorporate an animal into the sketch with a child, however, I was against having the animal on top of the child’s head; as we already painted on to other panels. I suggested to have it on the side of the person, as a companion, rather than a  “hat”. The mural was better than I thought it was going to be, even though I have high expectations for our team already. 🙂


No: I personally didn’t like my own sketch but it was interesting to put my thoughts onto a paper and see it for real. I really like how things [progressed from] the first stage to the finished mural, it looks amazing to me.


Lily: Fran, Mckenzie and I designed and worked on our mural all together. I made the sketch for our reference and Fran colored it. Mckenzie was able to help us brainstorm some ideas, such as having kite in the background. I feel like the colors that we chose were planned well although I was slightly skeptical and was worried that the colors wouldn’t look good. The overall trying to see the sketch turn into a mural was hard to see as well because of the huge differences of style that we were painting in. But seeing the final results of the mural made me reassured that we did a good job 🙂


McKenzie: The process of coming up with the mural was really fun because we all had different ideas of what to do and we were able to incorporate many of them in a way which created a really interesting mural. The final mural is not quite what I imagined it being, but is very close. We made some changes while painting it that led to the outcome being slightly different then the original plan, but I believe that they turned out well.


How do you feel you’ve progressed as an artist from the first on-site mural, at Carter, to this one?

Nzinga: As as artist, I feel that I have moved from different styles from our guest artists, and then given the opportunity to lead a portrait at this one. I was able to be put in unfamiliar methods of painting, and got the chance to work on my strengths in between with my personal piece. This helped me practice for the portrait at Edgerton.


Lily:  I definitely gained more experience/knowledge on murals and how to paint at a larger scale. As well with working with paint a lot more frequently than I would have on my own time. There were many techniques that I also learned while painting. Time management was another thing I learned as well.

McKenzie: I feel like I have been able to progress simply in how comfortable I have become while painting. When we first started I had barely touched a paint brush, so I was very nervous and stiff. Over time I have been able to become far more comfortable and gain some confidence when it comes to painting.


No: I feel like i’m still progressing as we keep working on murals and sketches, but i feel much better from the first mural to the one at Edgerton.

Alex: I think that my progress from the beginning until now has been good because before I started in the program I only drew in pencil and it was a great advance from the pencil to the brushes, etc and to work with paint. And I’m getting used to working with colors.


Did you have a favorite part of painting at Edgerton? Was there a part that was challenging?

Nzinga: My favorite, and most challenging, part was actually working on the portrait. Portraits are always difficult for me in the beginning stages of painting when trying to “map  out” the colors of the face. However once I got past that, I was able to get into my comfort zone, blending the skin tone.


No:  my favorite part of the painting was the birds on the wall and the stencil birds that was spray painted. it look so much better on the wall rather than on the paper.


Lily: There were many things that I liked that happened in Edgerton. Being able to come into work during the Spring Break made me happy overall because I wouldn’t have to isolate myself at home and do nothing; I was able to hang out with the Roc Paint crew and my friends 🙂 I remember on the third day where we were able to hear the step team upstairs above us practice while painting. Even though they were practicing, they were very synced up which I was really impressed with.


McKenzie: A challenge that was more personal was that I was stressing a bit because I was worried that we weren’t able to finish it to the point where we were satisfied. Although I wasn’t too stressed because getting feedback from the community and hearing them saying that they really loved it made me reassured and happy.

Alex:  my favorite part was to have sprayed on the Roc Paint Division logo since I’ve never worked with spray paint in a design.


As is customary during our on-site projects, the kids at Edgerton had the opportunity to participate as well: in sort of a throwback to our children’s project last year at the Ryan Center, the little ones, led by Nari,  painted their own birds that will fly alongside our murals.


Painting at Adams Street, Part 2

While part of our group worked with guest artist Aubrey Roemer to turn the hallway of Adams Street R-Center into a magical jungle a few weeks ago, several of our team members had a completely different experience just one room over. Adams Street also featured the very first completely youth-led mural project in Roc Paint Division history. In the activity room,  Lily led two of her fellow youth artists in bringing a combination of sketches from her own sketchbook to life on the wall. We are so proud of not only the fantastic results, but also of the leadership and teamwork these ladies demonstrated along the way. Read on for their account of the process.

First, Fran and Mei weigh on the experience of painting under Lily’s leadership.

How did it feel to work on a project led by one of your teammates?

Mei: I really enjoyed being led by a peer. It was different because not only did Lily guide  and help us, we all helped each other. At Roc Paint we already help each other out a lot and give each other tips, but doing that on a mural led by our peer was interesting in a good way. I also really thought it was cool that no supervisors really overlooked the mural; it was all Lily. I like this because often adults will underestimate younger people. Lily showed that we as young people can take initiative well and lead an entire project from start to finish.


Fran: I have art class with Lily and I have seen how she works, so I was confident that she would lead Mei and I in the right direction. She was very patient when I asked questions and kept us on track when we were giggling too much. I felt a little pressured because we were in a small isolated group where we had to do everything, but that pressure made me work harder. I am proud of us for bringing the sketch to life.


What do you think the story in the mural tells?

Fran: A small child and their animal friend go to a special pond that shows them their future selves. I didn’t read too much into the story behind the mural, I took the idea at face value. I like to think that these two characters have been traveling to find this pond to discover their destiny. I hope that their reflections in the pond gave then the answers they were searching for.


Mei:  I really love Lily’s style. The color scheme that Lily chose was very calming. I remember her talking about how the mural is in summertime. There are fireflies and the sun is setting. I hope that the kids at the R Center can go to this mural to be calmed. There are many beautiful parts that make it up.


What did you like about working on this mural? What was challenging about it?

Mei: My main roles in this mural involved the sky, the trees, and the stones. It’s funny because I usually dislike painting background landscape type pieces. I prefer portraits as do many roc painters. But it was nice to have my focus be on something that’s more towards the background. I think that the parts I worked on turned out fairly nice. From this, I definitely want to start focusing more on backgrounds and landscapes in my pieces. As the landscape was challenging, I also enjoyed it. It pushed me to try something new that I now can see myself doing a lot more. Another challenging part was working on the ladder. I was always on the latter because everything I painted was up at the top. Moving it around in such a small space was difficult, but the result was worth it.


Fran: I liked the overall sketch of the mural. My favorite part I worked on was the water in the pond, and the streaked coming out of the stone figure’s head and the details on the Lily Pads. The most challenging part for me, was putting in the shadows on the water. It was difficult trying to dilute the shadow color. I used water to make the shadows faint, but then the dark blue-water mix kept dripping every time I applied it.


Do you have a favorite memory of working at Adams?

Mei:A favorite memory of mine working at Adams was the second day of painting. Me, Fran, and Lily laughed so much that day. It was great because I hadn’t talked with either of them too much throughout the program. But getting to work with them closely for three days was so fun. I got to know them. We have a lot in common.


Fran: I liked big windows in the room where we were painting the murals. I liked laughing at one joke for 4 hours with Lily and Mei. I liked when we ate pizza and had cookies. The atmosphere at Adams was really energetic and fun. It instantly put me in a good mood when I walked in. I also liked listening to the Lifeguard lessons, because they were interesting and the teacher told a lot of stories.



How would you feel about leading/directing a mural yourself?

Mei: I would enjoy leading / directing a mural. I already have done / am doing a couple of them. It’s much harder work than it seems, but the finished product makes it worth it. Probably the hardest part is that I dont know everything about painting yet, and people will ask me questions that I sometimes cant answer or have to think hard about. But learning and growing as we paint is part of the process.

Fran: I would feel even more scared and pressured, but I think it would be really fun. My finished pieces often differ from my sketches. I can be a bit spontaneous when it comes to actually creating art so, I think it would be interesting to see how the final product would turn out, if I were to direct other people to replicate that.



And, lead artist Lily shares her story of leading her very first mural. 

How did it feel to have your sketch chosen to be featured on the wall at a Center?

I felt genuinely surprised and honored to have my sketch chosen to be featured on the wall.

What does the story in the mural tell?

After discussing with Brittany and Justin about combining the two sketches, it gave the mural a new “magical” vibe or an aesthetic that may appeal to the kids in the R-Center. It also correlates to our theme this year of representation. I hope that the kids can look at the mural and find something they like or point out something that they can relate to, or be inspired by the mural and create their own stories from their own interpretations of the mural.
Here is a short story for this mural:
A young boy who found an injured tiger cub and takes care of it. Once the tiger cub was able to recover where it was able to walk on its own, they head to a sacred pond where the young boy’s family has kept for generations. The pond has magic abilities to show anything that was from the past or future. Although only those who share the same bloodline with the young boy’s family could possess such powers. Both the young boy and the cub approaches the pond and out of curiosity, the young boy shows the cub how they will look like in 10 years. The young boy performs a ritual that caused the pond to respond by lighting up lightly in a pastel yellow. After the glow settles down, the young boy and the cub can see their older self from their reflection in the pond.


How was it different to actually lead a team than to paint as part of a crew?  What did you like about it? What was challenging?

I definitely felt that I had more control because that’s how directing anything goes, but I became more cautious and aware when painting. Such as when Mei or Fran was painting, I would check and watch them when they were painting and make sure things were going smoothly. When there was an obstacle or something they weren’t sure of, they would ask me and we would figure things out together. Usually they would check with me, asking if it looks okay.
What I like the most about directing the mural was to the experience itself and that I was able to get closer with my coworkers who I don’t know much about. A challenge when working on this mural was the texture of the wall, which made it difficult to paint on. There were usually small spots that were missed when painting, where we had to put in more effort to cover the wall.


How does the final result compare with how this concept-or these two concepts-  started off in your sketchbook?

The final result looks almost but better from the sketch I made. The concept of combining the two sketches wasn’t originally my idea but it was Brittany and Justin’s idea to combine my sketches together. The sketches were ideas for the concept of reflection. The sketches weren’t something I wanted to use intentionally in the beginning but after combining the sketches with Brittany and Justin, it made me motivated to create this mural.
Do you have a favorite memory of working at Adams?
The second day of working at Adams because there were a lot of laughing involved. The last day working at Adams was my favorite memory too because we were able to finish all of our murals as a team. Being able to sign and spray paint the Roc Paint logo on my first official mural was the best and most satisfying feeling in the program so far. 🙂



Painting at Adams St, Part 1

A few weeks back we had the pleasure of spending a week painting at the Adams Street R-Center under the leadership of guest artist Aubrey Roemer. Originally from Rochester, Aubrey now hails from New York City- making her our second guest artist in a row to make the trek to the frozen upstate to work with our group of young artists. Aubrey’s work as an artist and educator is far-reaching; she has led meaningful community-based art projects all over the world. We met Aubrey during Wall\Therapy this past year and were thrilled to have her join us this winter. Her unique layered multi-media approach to mural-making, coupled with her gentle yet keenly tuned-in quality of leadership, gave our group the chance to experiment with an entirely new way of thinking.

While working at Adams Street, several members of our group painted another mural, designed and led by one of our youth artists. Next week we will recap that experience as well!

Read on for our youth artists’ experiences, in their own words.

What did you like about working on the mural at Adams Street?  What was challenging?

Nzinga: I liked painting and pasting leaves onto the walls. In all of my years being in ROC Paint Division, I do not remember ever using the technique of pasting thing onto our murals. It was a unique experience to have. The challenging part about working on this mural was making figures who did not follow traditional skin tones. We painted blue-green, illuminating, posed people. This was unfamiliar to me, which left me uncertain and doubtful.

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No: I like everything about working on this mural because it was interesting and a new style to me.  It was a little challenging for me personally to work on the mural without a photo to look at to paint on the wall.

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McKenzie: This mural was an interesting one for me because for the first two days, all I did was work on the portraits. Doing this was fun, but also challenging as I am still a beginner when it comes to painting faces. I had the most fun working on the first portrait, as I was able to do it in only blue and it was interesting to lay down the shadows and highlights using only one color.

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How did seeing the end result of the murals compare with how it felt on the first day?

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Nzinga: Seeing the end result of the murals, compared to how it felt on the first day, was relieving. The first day was a feeling of uncertainty and even a level of doubt, but once actually seeing how everything came together, it was cool to see.

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McKenzie: The mural as a whole is very different from what I first imagined. The shines around the people and the pasted flowers were not what I imagined, but something that added a really cool effect to the mural.

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Alex: On the 1st day when I saw the murals, it felt strange to think that they were only going to leave the violet portraits without details but as time went by I saw more details in them and I felt pretty good.

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This was our second guest artist to travel all the way from New York City to work with us. How did it feel to work with Aubrey? How did her process and style compare with the way we’ve worked previously? Keeping in mind the beginning part (looking at her work, the Obama portraits, etc), what did you think about this process?

No: It was awesome to work with Aubrey because her style of painting was new to most of us and we learned a lot from working with her. The process of layering paints and leaves are very unique with the style of  mural we were doing and it turn out to be fantastic.

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Alex: Working with Aubrey was a very pleasant experience because it has a very different style from the one I had seen before in other artists, besides, she really is a pretty beautiful woman, so yeah, was really good work with her.

adams -33McKenzie: I really liked working with Aubrey. She was very kind and very good at telling us when we were doing something that she liked or something that wasn’t quite right and then tell us how to fix it. Her process and style was one very different from what we did before, but one that I really enjoyed. It was more a process of push and pull, where someone would paint something and it would be continually layered and painted over until you got a result that you enjoyed. The process was an interesting one to watch, like the ways in which she was able to determine how busy an area should be, what colors would work, or where to paste flowers. It was really fun to watch the mural slowly come together

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Nzinga: Although the mural was a challenge, Aubrey was very sweet and a good teacher. Her patience was admirable and she always gently pushed me to do a little bit better, regardless of my personal feelings about my progress in painting.  

What do you think or hope the kids will feel/ think when they look at these murals?  

Alex: I hope that children seeing these murals can feel closer to a different environment than they are used to being, that they feel more attached to a natural environment.

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McKenzie: I hope they just see something fun that represents people in a different way. The layers and layers that we had to lay on the wall ended up becoming this beautiful mural, and I simply hope that they are able to enjoy all of the work that went into it. Also, that kids will try to recreate the wall with Amari and Nari, cause I think that could look really cool.

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Amari: I want them to look at it and ask questions and wonder “what’s the meaning” and make up their own interpretation.

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Nari:  I hope they will feel happy when they see them or say “wow that’s cool” or I want to be an artist one day.

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How did it feel to have your image be featured in this mural?

Nari: I felt honored because it looked exactly like me, for people to see me in a mural even if they don’t know me. I hope they will think it’s beautiful and think we look excited and happy because that’s what represents me in my artwork.

Amari: Seeing myself on a wall is awesome. I was so excited and I’m a little self conscious, but seeing it made my day.    


….Final photos in a blog post to come soon !

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Meet the artists, part 4: Lily and Nari

In the fourth of our “meet the artists” series, we introduce two more of our team members: Narionna, who goes by Nari, and Lily. Both of these ferociously talented young ladies come to us from SOTA where Lily is a senior and Nari a junior. We first met Nari when she applied last year-  yet unfortunately she fell just short of the age requirement to participate. All of us were happy when she reapplied this year and was able to join us! Each of these ladies brings an amazing wealth of creativity and energy to this program. Seeing some similarities between their styles, we paired them up during our first collaborative assignment- and their resulting sketch was  so impressive that it became the subject of one of the first panel projects made by our crew.  It will be joined by Fran and McKenzie’s collaborative panel for installation at one of the R-Centers once the program ends.




Hi I’m Narionna Nunez, I’m a 16 year old artist born and raised in Rochester, New York. I’m in the 11th grade at School Of The Arts. I’ve been drawing since I was 1 ½, I know that sounds crazy but there’s a story about when my aunt gave me a pen and scrap paper when we were in church and i started drawing imperfect circles. She said I would look at people in the church and draw circles like I was trying to draw heads. In preschool art was my passion and that’s all I wanted to do when I went to school and continued on.  I love doing realism and surrealism, and colored pencil is a huge strength for me but unfortunately painting is a weakness, but thats why I joined Roc Paint Division – so I can get better at painting. My high school art class is very awkward and quiet at school. Outside of the program I dance, write poetry and make music of my own. Also I attend the Boys and Girls Club which is helpful and a huge support.


Me being African-American, Black Lives Matter is very huge and important to me. We still are separated from society, discriminated against and often times stereotyped so I support the BLM movement to raise awareness for us of African descent.   In Roc Paint Division, I hope that we can have a good message that children can understand, nothing too deep, but a good message. And I want kids to understand no matter what race, what color, if you have braces, freckles, a disability, etc. we are all the same and we all should love each other no matter what. Them seeing that can hopefully help them to grow up knowing that, and minimizing [their perceptions of] inequality and separation from what is perceived as “normal”.



My full name is Lily Ni, I go to School of the Arts and I am currently in my senior year of high school as a Visual Arts major. I enjoy playing video games or draw things that I enjoy whenever I am free and have time for myself. I have been interested in art for the majority of my life. I used to love drawing cartoons and still do today. Although, I have been able to learn and adapt to other styles such as realism and incorporating it with my art style as I continued with high school. I enjoyed using both digital and traditional media and learned a lot how both of these medias has improved my art in a short amount of time.

I was introduced to this program during the early year of my senior year of high school, where my art teacher offered to our class that if we are interested to apply to a job where it was focused on painting. The overall mentality when applying for this program was that I wanted to improve my painting skills in a larger scale and getting the opportunity to have my first job relate to something I personally enjoy. So far, about a month or so into the program, it has been an interesting experience. I like the atmosphere of how we gradually became more comfortable with one another and that we are able to help with each other as we get to know more about one another. I have learned that despite that each one of us has a different background, we are able to come into this program with the same reason or share the same interest in arts.


One of my favorite memories being part of the program so far was the surprise birthday celebration on my birthday! It was on a Thursday and I had already received many birthday wishes at school, and I came into work somewhat tired.  I did not expect any surprises or anyone to sing me the birthday song; I guess it’s because I felt as if the day was already over because I focus my day around school. I also received a birthday card drawn by my friend Francheska, with everyone’s signature in it as well. It was really touching and something I didn’t expect at all. Despite only being in the program for about a month, I feel like that I was able to be part of another huge team or family. Also another favorite memory is when Brittany left Disney music playing and we all sang together. We had a blast and I think we were all very tired that day.

Their collaboration


How did you feel when you came in and see that your sketch had been chosen to go on one of our panels?


Lily: I was genuinely surprised and felt very happy at the same time. I didn’t expect that our sketches would be used for the panels because I thought that our collaborative sketch would be a temporary thing.

Nari:  I was excited because I wanted to finish it so badly because it was turning out so well. I didn’t expect it to be, honestly, but to know we are doing this is great and a very good feeling.

How has the process of taking it from the sketch to the panel gone for you so far? What are some of the challenges or learning moments?


Lily: The process wasn’t as difficult because of past experience learning it from school. Being able to transfer the drawing and changing the proportion wasn’t too difficult but trying to look up references that would satisfy how our sketch would look like was slightly difficult. I was able to meet Nari and learn more about her when we did our collaborative sketch.

Nari: It is awesome because it’s a different canvas and something new, and trying things new are always great. There aren’t many challenges except having to do more than one coat of paint and hoping it isn’t dried out which can be a pain.

 How has the creative collaborative process between the two of you gone so far? Has the initial sketch and/or concept evolved as you both have been working on it?


Lily: Well we started as a whole group to choose our theme this year to be “representation” and stemmed from that idea. We mentioned a lot about different types of cultures and we decided that we can combine both of our cultures together into one drawing. Such as drawing national animals or using specific type of colors on clothing, etc. So for our piece, we combined some parts of Asian culture with African culture. I think we are able to do well is because we are able to communicate and ask each other questions if we have a problem or out of curiosity. So far, the collaborative process with Nari has been going a lot smoother than I thought, and was very successful in my opinion. We were able to learn a lot from one another which made the collaborative process more enjoyable. Such as that I was able to learn what art style she had and she was able to take advices from me that allowed her to improve with her art skills. We taught each other about our cultures as well when we wanted our collaborative piece to involve with combining our cultures together. It was slightly awkward in the beginning because we didn’t know each other very well but after some time and having to know one another, the art process came naturally. I think we got to learn more from each other despite how different we are.  We also communicate with each other often, such as asking questions about the piece and making sure if the other person is okay with an idea the other person came up with.


Nari: [Since I have been] working with portraits for a while, it was kind of easy using it for this panel. Working with the elements of knowing proportion was easy for this. Yes the sketch and concept has evolved a bit, mostly in the sketch but we kept our concept the same. It was a total success for me and my partner, we nailed it together. It was great collabing because i’m usually anti-social and learning you can do something so great with someone else who is completely different from you is amazing. I don’t really believe anything was hard because we agreed a lot. Everything seem to come naturally.

What do you imagine or hope that kids will think when they see this piece at the R-Center?


Lily: I hope that the kids will be able to see this piece and get inspired from it to create something of their own. Or be able to recognize something from their cultural background and point out something from the painting and relate to it or just point to something they like to see. Any form of acknowledgment of the painting or artwork, or even ideas is what I find the most satisfying being an artist.

Nari:  I hope they can think of the girl as one of them or “cool” as kids would say.

If you were to give this piece a title, what would it be?


Lily: Hmm…. “Balance”? Just because of the koi fishes in the center of the painting that represents the ying and yang.

Nari:  Cultural diffusion.

And thats a wrap! We still have 4 more artists to introduce, but first, next week: The whole team reflects on their second on-sight mural, at the Adams St R-Center! 


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 3: Fran & McKenzie

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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