New York Cares Day Murals
for PS75, the “Emily Dickinson School”
New York Cares was founded by a group of friends who wanted to take action against serious social issues that faced NYC in the late 1980s. Finding few options to help, they created their own organization to address the problems from the ground up.
New York Cares is now the city’s largest volunteer organization, running volunteer programs for 1,200 nonprofits, city agencies and public schools. More than 53,000 people volunteer a bit of their time, keeping programs running year-round for more than 400,000 community members. Thanks to a great infrastructure and the generosity of so many people, New York Cares actually makes it easy for busy New Yorkers to do a little something to benefit their community and environment (thereby making it a nicer place for themselves, too) - on their own schedule! Even if it’s only a couple of hours every few months, a volunteer never leaves feeling their time was wasted – and thanks to great leadership, one does not have to be particularly skilled, in most instances, to be extremely useful.
New York Cares Day is their biggest volunteer day (and a critical fundraiser), mobilizing around 7,000 volunteers to help spruce up area schools, giving the students, faculty and staff a place to be proud of, and one that is conducive to learning and skill-building. Along with cleaning and restoration, this year over 111 murals were painted, all in one day, to bring creative inspiration and hope to the schools as well.
I linked up with PS75 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to design murals for their Teacher’s Lounge and Nurse’s Office. The school serves a diverse demographic, providing education to students who live in “door man” buildings, shelters, and everything in-between. Now in their fifth consecutive year of budget cuts (at the cost of ten faculty members, among many other things), I felt PS75 could use a touch of Zepeda magic…
This is a view of the Teacher’s Lounge wall that was allocated for a mural. Don’t let that window fool you – the door leads to a classroom, and the room has no other windows, and no exterior exposure. This is where the faculty and staff eat, and if they had time, would come to momentarily take a step back from the throng of students, parents, and bureaucrats they deal with day in and day out. According to one staff member, this room was once used as an interrogation room in the television series Law & Order, after which not much more than a couple of tables and chairs were installed before it was christened the “Teacher’s Lounge”. (If the room appears at all bright and cheerful, it is most likely due to the camera flash and photo editing software…)
Given that we would only have a little over four hours to actually complete the murals (we needed a timed permit to clean up the school), I came in beforehand and primed the walls and drew rough sketches on them as an outline for the other volunteers.
I split my team into two groups, and whiles others stripped fences and cleaned restrooms, we quickly set to work on our transformations. Delegates from Morgan Stanley and Liberty International Underwriters who claimed to have little artistic experience deftly executed my design, using only left-over Department of Education industrial paint and brushes (a far cry from my luscious oil paints).
It was interesting to see the noticeable imprint of my artistic style on a piece that was completed in large part by other people. Perhaps it’s time for me to bring some assistants into my operation full-time to free me up for other things…
The Nurse’s Office Lobby also has no exterior windows, so I thought I’d bring a little sun in.
A talented young crew from the Rudolf Steiner School threw on some tunes and got right down to it!
A big accomplishment for such a short amount of time.
Over one million dollars worth of service put into NYC area schools in one day. What would our children’s future look like if we did this once a month?
Thanks to Jennifer Zunt, Ryan Nucum, Lauren Rothschild , and all of my volunteer painters for making it possible!
For more mural information, contact the artist.