Elmhurst Literary Mural Project

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At Barco de Papel Cultural Center, art and culture constitute two of the fundamental pillars for the development of our community. For this reason, in the Hispanic Heritage month we launched the project  “Elmhurst Literary Visual Mural”, a mural painted by young visual artists that combined art and literature as a gift to the community. The artwork was situated along Broadway Avenue between Cornish and Whitney Avenue, one block away from the Elmhurst Avenue subway station in Queens, New York.

The  Elmhurst Literary Mural project was presented to the community on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at the Elmhurst Public Library, followed by a play reading in Spanish by Diego Rivelino and Eva Cristina Vásquez, two local authors.

The mural is a symbolic polyptych made up of five panels 3.5 feet high by 7 feet long. The mural aims to highlight five literary pieces written by five local authors who wrote about New York City; the artists in turn, with their contemporaneous view, rendered a visual re-interpreting of these works and the city. The literatary selection wasn’t an easy task, as we are aware that this is only a small representation of the thousands and thousands of literary pages that New York and its five boroughs had inspired.

The authors  J.D. Salinger, Pete Hamill, Jaime Manrique, Sonia Sanchez and Pedro Soto represented in a diverse and convincing way the life of the city, its places and those who inhabited it at different times. Five books selected from their work are representative of News York’s five boroughs –Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island. These books are J. D. Sallinger’s Catcher in the Rye, Pete Hamil’s Invisible City, Pedro Soto’s Spiks, Jaime Manrique’s Latin Moon in Manhattan and Sonia Sanchez’s poem our vision is our voice published in her book Under a Soprano Sky.

Left to right Stephanie Jimenez, Diego Castillo, Anthony Andujar, Andley Tyson, Natasha Ocoro, Fei Yin, Laura Giron, Joyce Sánchez, and Miriam Rodríguez

For Anthony Andújar, Diego Castillo, Laura Girón, Stephanie Jiménez, Santiago Lenis, Natasha Ocoro, Miriam Rodríguez, Dayana Sadova, Andley Tyson and Fei Yin , the young artists who made the mural, the place where their art would be shaped is extremely important; not only because it is a historic location within the Elmhurst neighborhood but also because of its structure and texture.

The selected location was a station of the Port Washington Branch of the Long Island Railroad.  The first depot opened as Newtown around 1855 by the Flushing Railroad, later renamed Elmhurst around June 1897 and razed around 1888. The second depot opened around December 1888 and razed around 1927. The elevated and third depot opened around 1927 and the station and depot was finally closed and razed on January 1, 1985.

Anthony Andújar (Puerto Rico/Dominican Republic) and Stephanie Jiménez (Colombia) with their work inspired by J. D. Salinger’s book Catcher in the Rye.

This project was planned from a perspective of embellishing and appropriating the public space in a dynamic, effective and lively way. The space selected, the walls of the underpass of the LIRR bridge represents from a urban geographical perspective, a heterotopy as Foucault would call it, or a third space, in terms of Soja. That is, those spaces where everything is different and where the collection of elements have little or no connection to each of them. Or where space encompasses more meanings than that one that it is perceived with the naked eye.

Dayana Sadova (Kazakhstan) painted with artist Santiago Lenis (Colombia) a picture based in Pedro Soto’s book ‘Spiks’

The mural as a whole represents also a visual heterotopia not only because of the diversity that is reflected in each panel that conforms it, but because of its interaction with the urban space where it is located. From a geocritical point of view, taking into account the relationship between life and times of the author, the history of the text and the narrative of the five chosen literary pieces for this mural, the mural is an intercultural response to the intertwined diversity between the neighborhood, the authors, the literary pieces and the artists.

Hamil’s Invisible City was the inspiration for Laura Girón (Colombia) and Miriam Rodríguez (Puerto Rico).

This proposal sought to make use of the urban space of the city through art, taking part of the rhythm of life of its inhabitants, and for the delight for thousands of eyes. An artistic gallery by the sidewalk with its own identity and the intention to revive the area where it is located. The murals hanged until the Spring of 2018.

The inspiration for Diego Castillo, Left (Dominican Republic) and Andley Tyson (Jamaica) came from the poem Our Vision is Our Voice by Sonia Sanchez

The project Elmhurst Literary Mural was possible thanks to the generous support of a Citizens Committee for New York City grant, and the help of Long Island Railroad, La Guardia Community College and Community Board 39.   It was organized by the Visual Arts Program of the Barco de Papel Cultural Center, in coordination with the Art Department of La Guardia Community College.

Fei Yin (China) and Natasha Ocoro (Colombia) pose with their work inspired in Jaime Manrique’s book Latin Moon Over Manhattan

Artists from La Guardia Community College:
Anthony Andújar (Dominican Republic)
Diego Castillo (Dominican Republic)
Laura Girón (Colombia)
Stephanie Jiménez (Colombia)
Santiago Lenis (Colombia)
Natasha Ocoro (Colombia)
Miriam Rodríguez (Puerto Rico)
Dayana Sadova (Kazakhstan)
Andley Tyson (Jamaica)
Fei Yin (China)

Director Visual Arts Program: Joyce Sanchez
Coordinators Art Department of La Guardia Community College: Arianne Fernandez, Judy Richardson
Curators: Arianne Fernandez and Joyce Sanchez
Muralist: Judy Richardson
Graphic design: Joyce Sanchez
Assistant: Joe Leon and Fei Xie
Video: Numa Roades.
Photography: Fei Xie and Alex Cuauro

Executive Director: Paula Ortiz
Production: Ramon Caraballo
Webmaster: Carlos Bedoya

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