The project is run through Groundswell, a non-profit that creates murals in and with underrepresented communities.
Their Summer Leadership Institute has hired upwards of 140 disadvantaged youth ages 14 to 24 as paid artist apprentices, who will create eight public art installations throughout the City this summer.
The mural in Jackson Heights is being done in partnership with the Department of Transportation, and the theme is the prevention of driving while intoxicated (DWI).
“We want to raise awareness of the effects of drinking and driving, and hopefully we can get people to realize that when you drink and drive, you’re not only putting your life in harm’s way, but also innocent lives,” Nicholas Luna, a 20-year-old apprentice, said.
The mural is sketched on the wall of the supermarket, and painters are now working every day to get the project completed by Aug. 15.
Luna said his experience with Groundswell has been formative, causing him and his fellow artists to think about the future and giving them something productive to do with their summers.
“I think what they’re trying to do is get youth to do something valuable with their time instead of going out on the streets and causing trouble and give them an idea of how to work,” Luna said. “Also it gets them to care about their community and get involved more.”
Last Thursday, Groundswell hosted a community painting event, inviting all passersby to join the artists for as long as they wished in painting the mural.
Iman Zulfiqar, a 13-year-old Jackson Heights resident, said she lives down the street, saw the painters and decided to join.
“I really enjoy painting and I live over there, so I saw them painting so I wanted to volunteer,” Zulfiqar said. “I just want to help the community and be a good citizen.”
She said she believed the Jackson Heights community would appreciate the mural.
“Over here people are very cultural and they like colors. They’ll like it,” she said.