BY DEAN MOSES
A commemoration was held to celebrate the completion of a gigantic mural depicting humanity’s influence on climate change along the exterior of Hunters Point Community Middle School in Long Island City on Oct. 21.
To honor the artwork’s official completion, students from the campus, elected officials and the artist himself held a ceremony christening the piece overlooking the East River and the United Nations headquarters.
After Federico Massa (also known as Iena Cruz) was awarded first place in a street art competition held by GreenPoint EARTH 2020: Screens2Streets, he was commissioned to create a painting that would represent the community of Newtown Creek while also drawing attention to the changing environment.
Over the course of 10 days, Massa was elevated using an aerial work platform to the vivid work of art to life so thousands of residents and passersby can enjoy its beauty for years to come, making it a multi-generational experience.
It is with this sentiment that the celebration kicked off, with two young students from Hunters Point Middle School, who took to the podium to express their admiration for the eye-catching display.
Due to the current pandemic eighth-grader Briana Naranjo attends remote lessons, so it was exciting for her to see the finished product in person.
“It is inspiring because it showed me that expression can happen on a much larger scale. It shows art happens in many different ways, shapes and sizes,” Naranjo said.
On the other hand, Heronima Valledor, another eighth-grader from Hunter’s Point Middle School, is participating in blended learning, so she had the privilege of watching the creation process unfold over the two-week period.
“I have been lucky to view the process of the mural. Some of the things that I think are intriguing about this piece, artistically, is the contrast of colors between the bright blue and vibrant orange. However, the orange elements blend seamlessly with the existing features of our building,” said Valledor.
The painting portrays Newtown Creek with its native bird, a giant heron backlit by an engulfing auburn sunset. The mural also blends a pluming chimneystack, symbolizing the struggle of nature alongside the pollution of human industry.
Additionally, the materials used to craft this project were repurposed and recycled, and the paint itself absorbs carbon emissions, really driving home the call for action to be taken against climate change.
Councilman Donovan Richards echoed this feeling by gesturing to the mural and stating, “To the climate [change] deniers, this is our message to you.” Before continuing, the Queens borough president frontrunner made another gesture, this time toward the middle-school students watching the proceedings from Hunter’s Point South Park.
“We need to move to a 100 percent renewable energy; we can only do that with you. My generation messed up,” Richards said.
Representatives such as Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney were also in attendance, as well as the Principal of Hunters Point Community Middle School Sarah Goodman and Lisa Bloodgood, director of advocacy and education for the Newtown Creek Alliance.
The mural’s creator, Federico Massa, radiated with pride as he addressed the group of students and dignitaries dressed in a paint-splattered jacket and jeans with every dried speck a testament to the work he had put in to the previous 10 days. It is this commitment to his art and passion for environmental conservation Massa sought to share with onlookers that afternoon.
“I feel so proud to be a part of this project and to be the artist selected to use my voice to highlight issues in our society. We want to show that we can do better, and we must do better to protect our environment. We can do it,” Massa said.