Extreme Mural Makeover at P.S.9

Graffiti legends honor the Bronx in three story makeover

Legendary Graffiti Artists Transform P.S. 9 with Mural Makeover

  • 0

Living, Breathing Artists from the Bronx 

Tats Cru’s work around the school entrance.

It’s a rare school that features murals by some of the greatest street artists in the world, but P.S. 9, Ryer Avenue Elementary School does! A massive mural makeover transformed three floors of this Bronx-based elementary school over the past two weekends. Created in collaboration with eight outstanding graffiti artists, Tats Cru (Bio, Nicer, BG183), Marthalicia, Daze, Andre Trenier, Gia, and Crash. the project is part of Principal Kinsley Jabouin’s (Principal J) vision to makeover his school.

The world-renowned artists Thrive recruited for this special project represent three generations of street art in New York City. Additionally, each artist has a personal connection to the Bronx. Their work at P.S. 9 exemplifies Bronx excellence and celebrates Bronx-born heroes, highlighting both the cultural landscapes of the Bronx community and P.S. 9’s core values of global citizenship and leadership. 

Project Manager Ayana explained the importance of featuring work by local artists. These are all street artists … so that’s a source of pride.” She continued, “It will be super meaningful, especially once the students see the work and once they see that it’s by living breathing artists from the Bronx.”

Principal J reached out to Thrive because he wanted to create a welcoming environment for students where they felt inspired and excited to learn. “Your teachers are a teacher, but your school environment is a teacher, too. That’s the invisible teacher that can’t speak.

A Way to Connect 

In speaking about their personal connection to the project, many of the artists reflected on their own experiences as young people growing up in schools like the Ryer Avenue Elementary School.

Marthalicia’s portrait of Bronx-born Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Marthalicia explained, “When I was a little kid, how I was introduced to art, it was not necessarily via murals in schools, but it was mostly graffiti in the streets. The reason why I’m thrilled about this particular project is it’s kind of close to home. I used to live in Harlem. Now I live in the Bronx and having the opportunity to share my work more directly to the young minds, it gave me a thrill.”

Nicer, who met fellow Tats Cru members Bio and BG183 in a high school art class said, “If I would’ve had people like me going to my school—add color and do something that’s meaningful—you know, I would look at the school system a lot different back then.”

BG183 also spoke to the importance of adding color and life to the school environment. “Whatever they see outside now they get a chance to see it indoors, so it’s like bringing the culture in here. So it makes kids go, oh wow this school looks different. You know, maybe now it becomes part of their life…it becomes a way to connect.”

Local Legends and Everyday Heroes

On the second-floor mural, André Trenier created a memorial portrait of the school librarian Ms. Lucy, who passed away earlier this year. “Anytime that I’m doing a memorial piece, I try to approach it as if they were one of my loved ones,” said André. “I realize how much it brings to people that have lost [someone] and I don’t take that lightly.  I take it as seriously as I can and try to put as much of that person’s spirit or my spirit into that piece.”


Artist André Trenier and Principal J by the memorial of Ms. Lucy.

The beloved librarian is placed across from a portrait of Stan Lee, who went to high school in the Bronx.

“He’s using their portraits together to sort of highlight the everyday hero, and so I think that’s a very fitting portrait,” Ayana said. “The students know her, they’re still grieving her, but also to realize the impact she had, that you don’t have to be someone like Stan Lee. You can be someone like her to have and make an impact.”

“I want to see the children’s faces when they see her. I want to see how they will react,” said Natalie, a social worker who also spends time beautifying P.S. 9 with colorful hallway displays and decorations.

Transforming with Thrive

I’ve worked with Thrive Collective several times before with students in a school capacity, and it’s always been one of the best experiences that I’ve had as an artist in collaboration with other people,” said Daze, , who worked on a portion of the third floor mural that features Neil deGrasse Tyson against a galaxy backdrop.

Daze at work.         photo:@hey-uhey8

Though most Thrive murals take a few weeks to complete, the spray paint medium allowed for this project’s completion in just two weekends. Principal J and school social worker, Natalie, explained they wanted the murals to be kept a surprise for their staff and students. “They thought we were painting the hallways just plain white,” said Natalie.

Thrive artists Fermin and Lauren addressed the project’s personal impact. “I think it’s really important to invest in the people that live here that maybe don’t have as many opportunities as the people coming in, and I love what Thrive does with that,” said Lauren.

“There’s a legacy that needs to be shown to the young folks in this school and so that’s a good thing… and you need people in the community, so that young folks can aspire to that. It doesn’t have to be J-Lo, you know, but it can be a local street artist. I feel very strongly about that. And I’m honored to be helping, ” Fermin added.


1 comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.