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Drivers passing through Whitestone are used to looking at one-family homes, small businesses and views of the East River.
Now they also have a chance to check out a giant toucan.
The students at PS 193, the Alfred J. Kennedy School at 152-20 11th Ave., have completed their giant mural outside their school's auditorium.
The mural, which commemorates the founding of the school 50 years ago, sports depictions of a snail shell, a dinosaur, a prism and a toucan, among other animals and objects.
The painting is 28 feet tall and 56 feet wide.
"Because it's our 50th anniversary, we thought it would be great to have a mural celebrate that," said Joyce Bush, principal of PS 193.
The school contacted CityArts, a non-profit organization that funds public arts projects. CityArts proposed several artists for the project, and the administration of PS 193 selected Karen Fitzgerald, a Woodside artist, to design the mural.
Bush and Fitzgerald discussed ideas for the project, which is funded primarily by CityArts.
"The school is known for its heritage," Bush said. "It's always been sort of a family type of community."
Fitzgerald sought to understand that heritage by talking with the students themselves.
"Most of the content was actually set by the kids," Fitzgerald said. "I visited every single classroom in the school because I wanted to figure out what they were thinking about."
Fitzgerald had the students draw what they think the mural should look like. She found many of the pictures contained images of nature, including one "beautiful drawing of a turtle."
She sat down with the drawings and produced a small oil painting as a design for the wall.
Fitzgerald said it was important that Whitestone residents came up with ideas for the mural.
"I really want the community to be happy with the image because they are living with it," she said.
The participation of the students, however, did not end with the design of the mural. Faced with 1,568 square feet to paint, Fitzgerald enlisted the children to help.
Fitzgerald divided the mural into small sections with charcoal, telling the students where to paint each color.
"It's a lot of work," Fitzgerald said. "It's a lot of painting. The kids have been fabulous. They work very hard. They are real excited about it."
In order to reach the top of the mural, Fitzgerald erected three levels of scaffolding. The students were not allowed to stand on the top level.
"The kids, of course, all want to go to the top level," Fitzgerald said. "It's a very different feeling when you are up there."
Despite bad weather, Fitzgerald and the students were able to complete the project in about two weeks. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is slated for June 24.
Both the students and the parents have gotten a kick out of the project.
"I am pleased especially because they have the children involved," said Donna Shapiro, whose children, Spencer, 10, and Arianne, 5, helped out with the project. "They can have a sense of pride for years to come."
Shapiro said her children grew excited as work on the mural progressed.
"They saw it come to life," she said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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