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New Utrecht students use school walls as their canvas

Guidance counselor Yaron Dotan (left) encouraged and the student artists who created this mural, with an exploration theme. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas

Teens create murals on exploration, culture, transportation, marine life

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Daniela Garcia, member of the Class of 2014, has left a parting gift to the students who will come after her to New Utrecht High School in the years to come.

During her senior year, Daniela was one of several New Utrecht students who took part in a unique art project led by guidance counselor Yaron Dotan. The teens created four murals on walls inside the school building at 1601 80th St. “It was fun. And it was a nice way for me to leave,” Garcia said.

The murals, dedicated to the themes of exploration, Asian culture, transportation and marine life, were unveiled on Friday to an audience that included Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst); Laurie Windsor, president of the Community Education Council of School District 20; Andrew Gounardes, chief counsel to Borough President Eric Adams; and John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn).

The talented students had worked on the murals from September of 2013 until they completed their task in mid-June.

“We wanted to create art that the entire school could enjoy seeing. The murals show that school can be a fun, creative environment,” Dotan told the Brooklyn Eagle. In addition to his work as a school guidance counselor, Dotan is a professional artist.

The four murals were painted on walls, across doorways, even on elevator doors and heating pipes.

On the first floor, a mural dedicated to the theme of exploration, took up an entire wall. As far as Dotan and his students are concerned, exploration includes everything from space rockets and the solar system to the act of learning.

The third floor mural offered up an exquisite view of marine life, both real and imagined. The Beatles Yellow Submarine shared wall space with Poseidon, the God of the Sea, Ariel, the Little Mermaid, an octopus and a fish net that contained a giant haul of every kind of fish imaginable.

Justine Mekonen (left) and Daniela Garcia painted parts of the fishing net.

The third floor also had a mural saluting Asian culture.

Transportation and its effect on the environment was the theme of the fourth floor mural. The wall was covered with subway trains, a jammed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (complete with a sign which read “Leaving New Utrecht: Fuhgeddaboudit”) and airplanes. But there were also other, more ancient forms of transportation, like an elephant.

The artists included Daniela Garcia, Andrew Windsor, Justine Mekonen, Hazem Gaballah, Benedetto Dimaio, Alexis Gonzalez, Geomira Acevedo, Christina Chimento, Qiqi Yu, Isabella Pillcorema, Mose Georges, Andreina Wu Chen, Dziyana Ryzhko, Sarah Lee and Eugene Deev.

The students had all levels of ability. “Some just put the background base in and others painted large portions of the murals,” Dotan said.

This friendly looking bear looks out for students in a first floor passageway.

The kids worked after school and during breaks in the school day. “Some murals were small and only took a week and half and others took two months to complete,” Dotan said.

Dotan said even non-artists were free to offer ideas as the students worked on the project. “A kid who was walking by on the way to class was welcome to make suggestions,” he said. Mekonen said she got a kick out of the reaction of her fellow students as she worked. “A lot of kids would pass by and tell us we were doing a good job!” she told the Eagle.

Windsor, who is a New Utrecht graduate and Andrew Windsor’s mom, said she couldn’t get over the breath of the project. “The murals are so big, but there’s a lot of detail in each one,” she said.

The students made sure to instill a level of detail in every portion of the mural, like this turtle.

Gentile said he was impressed. “This is incredible!” he told Goldfarb.

Gentile loved the Fuhgeddaboudit sign. ”Marty Markowitz should see this,” he said, referring to the former borough president who sought to put that F word on a road sign for drivers to see as they left Brooklyn.

New Utrecht Principal Maureen Goldfarb said the murals reflected the sometimes hidden talents of students, which the school tries hard to draw out. “We have a big arts program. Art is important,” she said.

When Gentile asked Goldfarb what the school intended to do with the murals, the principal replied, “Keep them!”

The students recreated the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, with a twist. Instead of leaving Brooklyn, visitors are admonished for leaving New Utrecht. Fuhgeddaboudit, indeed! 

 

 

June 30, 2014 - 8:30am


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