By Bill Parry
A major work of public art will be unveiled Aug. 12 at Long Island City’s Thomson Avenue Bridge, between Skillman Avenue and 44th Drive, near LaGuardia Community College. Internationally acclaimed artist Mark Salinas, an 18-year resident of Sunnyside, spent the last year planning the execution of a 6,000-square-foot mural, the largest community-made mural in Queens.
“We had more than 150 volunteers take part from LaGuardia, International High School — even Citi Bank,” Salinas said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for the people in Long Island City to take part in the beautification of their own neighborhood.”
Salinas created 7Train Murals in 2013, a group dedicated to beautifying vacant and vandalized public spaces in neighborhoods along the No. 7 subway line, from Long Island City to Flushing. The murals are professionally made, site-specific designs, enlisting those who live and work in the mural’s vicinity to sponsor and participate in a neighborhood networking clean-up event.
Salinas formed the group after the success of his Rise-n-Shine mural at 42nd Street and 48th Avenue in Sunnyside. He came up with the idea after volunteering for graffiti removal at a wall near his Arrows Up Studio on 40th Street.
Each time Salinas and fellow volunteers remediated graffiti it would be back just days later so he enlisted members of the Sunnyside/Woodside Boys & Girls Club to help out.
“My thought was if kids are involved in the creative process, their friends may stay away from tagging it,” Salinas said then. It is still free of graffiti more than two years later.
This current project, which wrapped up last Saturday, was done in conjunction with the LIC Partnership and the Department of Transportation’s Art Program.
“The mural’s design is inspired by the soles of sneakers worn by commuting pedestrians that speak to all the foot traffic that uses the bridge to get to LaGuardia Community College and the Falchi Building,” Salinas said. “The image begins bold and colorful at the east end representing the commute at the start of the day and it transitions with the rise and descent of the bridge’s architecture, into a quiet and camouflaged design representing the end of the day.”
Janovic Paint and Decorating Centers provided 50 gallons of paint that were needed to finish the project, one that shouldn’t be confused with graffiti. “This is bucket and paint, it doesn’t harm the environment with aerosol gas,” Salinas said.
“A surprising number of people volunteered their time to complete the 750-foot-long mural. We had an open call for volunteers, but there were so many passers-by who enquired about the work and just came back to help the next day,” Salinas said. “One man said he helped build the bridge in 1993. He wanted to stay and help but he had a previous appointment.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr