With their newly completed 908 square foot “Arverne Adventure” mural, the students of M.S. 42 Q Robert Vernam are demonstrating that dreaming big pays off! Created under the artistic direction of Kadeem Phillip and project management of Lourdes Rojo, students collaboratively envisioned their dream neighborhood. They then made their visions manifest through the vibrant, fun, and joyful new artwork.
Sponsored in part by the city-wide Art as a Catalyst for Change program and its Anti-Gun Violence initiative, the collective vision includes both existing elements that students appreciate in their community and aspirations for what they hope to see.
In the mural proposal, Thrive teaching artists explained, “We were presented with abstract elements such as recognizing resilience in family units, aspiring and caring for one another, and offering lessons to carry into adulthood.”
A Welcoming Project
In addition to these abstract elements, students offered concrete community features such as an arcade and a water park. Attuned to the students’ creative input Kadeem added, “We put in the pigeons at the last minute because the students said it wouldn’t feel like New York without them.”
Living out the “bright and lively community” that the mural design embodies, the painting process called in students, teachers, staff members, and volunteers alike to join in the fun. Fourteen students worked with Kadeem and Lourdes to paint the mural through the New York Edge after school arts program.
Victoria, a New York Edge partner, regularly volunteered with the project and is even featured in the completed design. “My favorite thing was working with Lourdes and Kadeem and Kris. They were extremely friendly and always laughed at my jokes,” she said.
Kris Harris, a substitute teacher at M.S. 42 Q, also regularly spent afternoons painting the mural. “I would stop as I walked by and wonder what was going on. From there, Kadeem was really nice and invited me to help. I volunteered whenever I could. Before the wall was just white, now we have a whole mural. It’s crazy.”
The mural flanks one side of the school entrance, while another Thrive mural from 2021 flanks the other. Ms. Finn, the school principal, embraced her students’ chance to contribute to the public art project and commended Thrive artist’s ability to “give children an opportunity to discover talents they didn’t even know they had.”
Reflecting on the completed work, Kadeem said, “The mural was about bringing the student’s creations to life—what community means to them, what happiness is—and nurturing that because these kids will one day make an impact on the future.”