Painting at the Flint St R-Center

 

This week our team completed our third and final on-site mural of the year- our mural at the Flint Street R-Center.  This was not only our largest mural in our program’s history, but also the one we’ve completed the quickest….somehow! Our first outdoor mural of the year, we dealt with all the elements: first an almost 90 degree day working in the sun, followed by a day where the temperature didn’t get above 45 degrees and gusts of wind ripped our reference photos from the walls. Those factors, combined with the unusual texture of this wall that made painting more challenging than usual, through several challenges our way, but the team persevered and overall, loved the experience of painting outdoors for a change.

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This beautiful mural was conceptualized and designed by guest lead artist Rachel Farley. Rachel worked with a group of our youth last year painting the electrical box at the Roxie Ann Sinkler R-Center, and we were thrilled to have her back leading the whole team. Her mural this year hits the theme of growth head-on, featuring the life cycle of a bee as well as of the ubiquitous dandelion. Rachel, an avid gardener and lover of all growing things, says that the concept for the mural came to her in a dream. The end result feels indeed like a dream come true, bringing light and hope to the Flint Street R-Center, the kids of School 19 who walk by it multiple times a day, and the neighborhood at large.

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The model for the portrait part of the mural was a little boy named Josiah that we met during our last mural at the Frederick Douglass R-Center, who loved watching our artists at work. Our youth artist Marina took the reference photo for it during our last day painting there, and we hope he is able to come and see how it turned out soon. This is a new tradition of featuring the children we meet while painting was  started in the mural we painted at the Douglass Center- the two little boys featured in the camera lens there were two of the most enthusiastic participants we had met last year while painting at Campbell Street (and they loved taking pictures whenever they got the chance.)

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We also enjoyed the collaborative spirit of this mural- each of our lead artists had a section that they focused on in leading the youth, based on their own style and repertoire.  Rachel led the bees and the honeycomb section, Justin led the flowers, and Brittany led the portrait.

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Read on as youth artist Kaori-Mei Stephens, who as it turns out was a complete natural with a can of spray paint, gives us her take on painting Roc Paint Division’s largest mural in history.

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When I first saw the wall that we’d be painting at Flint, I thought it would definitely take a while to finish. However, it was very beautiful and had different pieces to it which I liked a lot. It was extremely satisfying to finish the largest mural in Roc Paint Division history in basically two days. I absolutely thought it would take longer.

My favorite parts of the mural were the boy blowing the dandelion and the flower’s life cycle. Most of what I worked on required spray paint. I have never really spray painted before, and at first I didn’t like it. But as I began using it more, I realized that spray paint is great for shadows in the leaves and dandelions.

It was challenging working outside. Inside the weather does not affect us, but outside the wind can make it hard to spray paint and the cold can make it difficult to do our best work. Having said that, it was great to have more space, fresh air, and room to back up and view the piece in its entirety.

Overall I enjoyed the process of painting at Flint Street. It was especially collaborative in the sense that three different artists headed the three different pieces of the mural. It was awesome because I got a chance to work on each of the parts. The most challenging part was figuring out how to paint the dandelion to look realistic and ‘fuzzy’ because I didn’t have much guidance on how to go about it.

I hope the children at the center will like to see the life cycle of the flower. (It is quite beautiful!) Also, I hope that the entire community will appreciate that the portrait is of a young African American boy. The media today almost everywhere is very whitewashed, and it’s important for the children to see people who look like them in a positive light.

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We completed the mural so early in the day this Tuesday that we had the chance to do several addition projects!

First, we added some life to the retaining walls across from the mural, which gave our youth artists the chance to continue learning and experimenting with spray paint…..

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We also sent a few of them up to the Gandhi Institute, where our friends at Seedfolk City Farm work (just a minute’s walk from Flint),  to beautify their greenhouse a bit. Fun fact- our youth artist Marina also worked for Seedfolk, and she helped build this greenhouse! She was pretty excited to add some color to it today.

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And we finished the mural that Rachel led at the Sinkler Center last year by finally adding a quote to it.

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Overall its been a great last week already, and we still have one more workday and our closing party left! Check back soon for more on that!

A few more images from Flint:

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the kids of the Frederick Douglass Center

One of the highlights of painting at the Frederick Douglass R-Center was the tangible excitement of its children as they watched their walls come alive. The youth at the R-Centers are in many ways the reason why we do what we do. Seeing the way the little ones looked up to our teenage artists made our hearts melt and was a great reminder of the importance of setting a strong example and modeling this kind of positivity.

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The most frequently asked question by the little ones, everywhere we go… “CAN I PAINT?!” While its not realistic to let our little friends help with the murals on the walls, we like to let them express their creativity and be involved in the process. For the South Ave murals, we gave the kids cut out cameras to correspond with the ones we painted on the walls and asked them to draw or paint something that is important to them in the lens. These now hang alongside our murals in the Rec Center’s halls.

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And occasionally, with some instruction and supervision, our youth coordinator Lisa allowed them to use her camera (very carefully) to document the process from their own perspective.

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We are so happy to be able to leave this mural there as a tool for inspiration and education for children young and old, and were beyond honored to receive this feedback from one of the teachers at School 12, which shares space with the Rec Center: “When I walked my 21 Kinders to PE on Monday, we all (myself included) just gasped. It was such a magical moment to be embraced by such beauty. After PE we spent about 15 minutes (a long time for 5 year olds) looking in awe at the details. Later in the week, when we walked by, someone yelled “Both sides have something to write with!” I predict that every time we walk by they will observe a new detail. I know this was created for the Rec Center, but I feel incredibly fortunate that my students can experience this piece every day. Thank you, so much!”

This perfectly encapsulates why we do what we do! 🙂 We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide them with a source of beauty and look forward to creating many more inspiring scenes for Rochester’s kids over the years.

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