The brush strokes of Noelani Tomicick seemed to splash across the park fence, yet at the same time there was intricate detail to each stroke as she painted seahorses and octopus.
The 13-year-old was one of many other Long Beach elementary and middle school students who, while on vacation for the summer, lend a hand to paint a mural at Georgia Avenue Playground in the West End. Noelani volunteered her time out of her love of art and the need to fulfill community service hours for Long Beach Middle School, where she will be an 8th-grade student this fall.
Noelani thinks that she likes to draw and paint animals so much because she regularly watches Animal Plant Channel. She is excited that her art will be on display in the playground.
“When there is beautiful art everywhere in public places, it gives it a kind of a glow,” Noelani said.
The art project at the refurbished playground got started when members of the West End Neighbors Civic Association approached Denise Collins, an art teacher at West School and Lindell School, to lead the students in painting a mural. The civic association paid for the paint and supplies the students needed for the project that is part of other beautification efforts that involve the West End Beautification Committee. (Both organizations did not return several phone calls to comment on this article.)
Another venture on the horizon includes creating temporary installments made of recyclables products and bright colors, meant to enhance empty storefronts, with the hope that the artwork will attract businesses to West Beech Street. Earlier in the summer, members of the civic association restorned the planters along Oceanview.
Collins enlisted friend and local professional artist Ron Rundo to create the idea for the mural. Rundo sculpts wall relief murals, artwork which is raised above the background, and also specializes in photorealism, in which he paints larger-than-life portraits.
“I pulled out an old painting that I did as a mural,” Rundo said. “Mine had sharks, but we changed the sharks to dolphins to make it a little more community friendly.”
Although a Long Beach resident, Rundo has a studio in Greenpoint. He has a daughter who attends West School and was more than happy to assist in the project. Rundo sketched the outline of the mural on the wall and the children painted the mural under his and Collins’ direction.
“Most murals are done by older students, but this is being done by elementary and middle school students which is phenomenal,” Collins said. “It gives them a project to do, they are really learning camaraderie, teamwork, patience, and are doing a great job.”
Collins talked about how the West End beautification projects demonstrate the closeness of their neighborhood and parental involvement with their children.
“It shows how dedicated and devoted the community is to beautifying it for themselves, their children, and for the future of Long Beach,” she said.
Michelle Kelly, a resident and local business owner, as well as a high school art teacher in Baldwin, talked about the impact of the mural. “It brings awareness to the importance of art in the community,” Kelly said. “If we lose the arts, I feel like we lose ourselves.”
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Other students that participated in the painting explained what the arts and the mural mean to them.
“Art is my favorite subject and I look forward to it every day, especially painting,” said Jordan Duffy, a ten-year-old who next month will attend 6th grade at LBMS.
Said nine-year-old Lucia Tomicick: “This is important to the West End because it makes it beautiful.”