Jersey City youth express their creativity with spray paint, create murals in Greenville

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Approximately 50 Jersey City youth have been displaying their creativity in Greenville by painting murals of historical figures and today they were putting on their finishing touches of their work.

They gathered and were busy painting at One Ocean Drive, near the border of Bayonne, as passerby and as vehicle passengers took photos with their phones tributes to Nelson Mandela, Malcom X and Muhammad Ali, among other world icons, were being completed.

Duda Penteado, the creative director of the Jersey City Mural Arts Program (JCMAP), told us how the young artists receive the opportunity to participate.

“They get hired to do this throughout the summer, and we [conduct] interviews and select kind of the best students around the city, who come from different schools, but they all have some artistic background,” said Penteado.

He also took pride that the program is probably the only one of its type in Hudson County.

“This is a very unique program. I dare to say it’s probably the only public youth art program in the entire county. I have worked with other programs, but they’re non-profit oriented, but this program is a [product] of the city of Jersey City and it’s under the program of the mural program. So, it’s a very strong, and well-designed program.”

“The young artists get an opportunity to build their portfolio, and provide a full-cycle understanding of what it means to be an artist and to be part of society,” Penteado stated.

Penteado also noted that the JCMAP’s existence is made possible by help from the private sector such as the Silverman Group, Provident Legacy Real Estate Services in Bayonne and the Jersey City Theatre Center.

We climbed aboard a scissor lift to speak to the artists whose clothes were just as colorful from spray painting as the murals on the wall.

William Kunga was spray painting Nelson Mandela’s eyes when he told us what it’s like to spray paint freely on a wall and its impact on the Greenville community.

“This is going to stay here a long time, and millions of people are going to see it as they pass by. I’d rather have a wall full of heroes rather than a blank wall when I’m walking to school every day, and I think that’s perfect for the neighborhood [because] it adds life and character. I think just all art in general helps to bring the community together, even if you don’t know it consciously,” said Kunga.

Meanwhile, Shrushti Chava was painting an Indian war hero from the 1600s who challenged British colonial rule.

“He was one of the greatest kings that India had. It’s really cultural because of what he’s wearing, and then he’s on a horse which kind of symbolizes him as a warrior in general. He really symbolizes India, that’s why I chose him,” said Shrushti.

Additionally, Yaz Gaskins always relished one of Muhammad Ali’s famous quotes, “Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” After she saw an HBO documentary about him earlier this summer, she was inspired to paint his likeness in Greenville.

“I love people who are able to speak about themselves with integrity. And Ali was so confident in his skills to the point that he wanted to do music with Same Cooke, create songs about empowering the youth. He really was just all about helping people anyway he could: he was more than just a boxer, he was really a prolific person who wanted to help out,” said Gaskins.