Trailers become art at Richmond Hill HS

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The auxiliary trailers outside Richmond Hill High School are a physical reminder of overcrowding in the district, but students in an after-school program claimed them as their own last Thursday with a large-scale art project.

“The trailers are the first thing you see,” said Irina Weiss, the art instructor for the program. “We decided we needed to make them a better place.”

The students in the South Asian Youth Action after-school program unveiled a series of five murals that will permanently hang on the side of one of the trailers and will be visible from 114th Street.

Each mural represents a different aspect of growing up in Queens. The themes of the five posters are friendship, diversity, struggle, peace and unity.

“This is a guy who has been through a lot,” said 11th-grader Carlos Ortiz, referring to the struggle mural, which depicts a young man trudging up a mountain dragging a weight, a symbol of teen hardship.

And those hardships can be many, according to Weiss.

“It’s a tough city,” Weiss said. “They are struggling with college, friends and finding work.”

One of the murals depicts a classroom full of students of different ethnicities, which represents the diversity of Richmond Hill.

Another shows a group of young men walking with a dove superimposed into the background.

And the group did not take any artistic license. The murals were created from photographs. That also meant the kids did not have to be portrait artists to participate.

“A lot of people didn’t have the same level of skills,” Weiss said.

To level the playing field, the students traced the photographs of themselves onto the murals using a projector.

Roselyn Nunez, a 10th-grader at the school, appears in one of the murals she helped create with her classmates.

“We became a family,” she said. “We are all different in our own ways, but this brought us together.”

But Nunez gained more than a few new chums.

After she took photos of her friends and the school, she was one of a few students who got to learn Photoshop and touch up the pictures.

“It was a good experience to learn how to use it,” Nunez said.

Weiss and the after-school program applied for a grant to get supplies for the murals from the Citizens Committee´╗┐ for New York City, a nonprofit that gives out funds for small community projects around the city.

She hopes that the students will get to put up more murals on other trailers.

The unveiling was just one part of an after-school celebration of the end of the year. Some students operated a pop-up temporary tattoo parlor or cooked food. Others donned traditional dress and performed South Asian dances. Other performed break dancing.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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