Rockaway residents and community organizations joined artist Julia Chiang on July 21 to paint a mural on the facade of the Rockaway Seagirt Residence, a senior home at 34-11 Beach Channel Dr. in the shadows of the A train, just south of Bayswater Park.
The intergenerational workshop event was a partnership between the Rockaway Hotel + Spa and The Arker Companies which manages the senior facility and in collaboration with Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, a public-private partnership dedicated to improving the 10,000 acres of public parkland throughout Jamaica Bay and the Rockaway Peninsula.
The public art installment was the second project by Chiang so far this summer having done one at the Rockaway Hotel + Spa at 108-10 Rockaway Beach Dr. along the aquatic-inspired mural by artist Ivan Forde. The multigenerational community engagement initiative, known as “Make Your Mark,” is one of many initiatives within the hotel’s art and culture programming that leverages the power of art as a tool for social change.
“Make Your Mark was born out of the need to raise awareness and connect the diverse communities along the 10-mile stretch of Rockaways peninsula to ensure they have the same access to resources beyond the boardwalk and transportation circuit,” said curator Michi Jigarjian, chief social impact officer at the 7G Group. “Through the hotel’s collaboration with Julia Chiang, Jamaica Bay Rockaway Parks Conservancy and the 7G Foundation, we can create thoughtful and nuanced initiatives employing public art as a throughline and connective tissue to engage and affirm all community members.”
Jigarjian’s launch of The Rockaway Hotel in 2020 has been widely recognized and celebrated for its art and culture focus and revitalizing presence in the community. Chiang is a Brooklyn-based artist known for her detailed paintings, an intricate web of shapes and forms, flowing in converging directions and carefully constructed through layers of paint. She has exhibited in Paris, Tokyo and Glashow.
“It is always inspiring to meet people in their own community and to see how they want to do things,” Chiang said. “Making art with kids and their families in Rockaway was what we all needed after a couple of years of living shut off from ways to come together. Collaborating with the hotel, working with Michi and cultural organizations like Jamaica Bay already doing the hard work on the ground makes everything feel more hopeful. Change is happening and art gets to play a part in connecting us all. I look forward to making the community’s public spaces a reflection of their own creativity.”
The team behind the project also distributed art supply kits to six local schools that took part in the “Make Your Mark” initiative. Participating schools include Goldie Maple Academy, P.S. 105, Knowledge and Power Preparatory Academy VI, Challenge Preparatory Charter School, Wave Preparatory Elementary School, P.S./M.S. 43Q The School by the Sea and the St. John’s School for Boys.
“The Arker Companies family is excited and grateful to be a part of this incredible display of imagination and creativity celebrating the Rockaway community,” said Alex Arker, principal of The Arker Companies. “Public art is a meaningful way for the young people, families and seniors who make up these neighborhoods to connect and tell their own stories, and these murals will share their experiences and creativity with their fellow New Yorkers. We thank the students, residents and artists who remind us how powerful art can be.”