Archive: HCX | Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project at P.S. 189, The Bilingual Center

Ti Atis te fè gwo bagay (Little Artists did big things)
by Kassandra Khalil

During this spring’s 2-pronged session of Ti Atis Afterschool Workshops at P.S.189, The Bilingual Center, Haiti Cultural Exchange and a team of eager (and patient) volunteers gave their time and energy to the completion of the Ti Atis Room Renovation in February and the Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project in June.

To say the Ti Atis Collaborative Mural Project was a team effort is a massive understatement. The session of afterschool art classes began with a group of students dedicated to learning together and supporting each other creatively. Through a series of exercises, the students learned not only to appreciate the individual merit of their own works but of their fellow students’ work as well.

(click photos to enlarge)

Meanwhile, in the school yard a team of volunteers and artist Jean Patrick Icart-Pierre began formatting the mural. Our first Saturday workday was priming day. We transformed a rather garish dusty brown wall into a lovely peach canvas.  The second step was building a massive grid on the 40′ by 14′ wall. No easy task for a small team with a bit of chalk line and no basketball players. Nonetheless, we managed.

The plan for the mural integrated elements of Haitian culture as well as the theme of the mural that the students created. This theme, “Love is not just a word but a way of life” was the students’ way of expressing their feelings of love and respect for their fellow students, community members, and heritage. With this in mind, a plan was drawn that would incorporate both the students’ motto theme and their artwork as well as themes of Haitian art.

Our second workday overlapped with P.S.189’s School Fair Day. Under a sweltering sun, a team of approximately 25 volunteers traced, brushed and sponged out the major content for the mural. Broken up into cathedral-style windows, the mural allowed for us to incorporate more of the students creative elements and what visual symbols they associated with the theme of the mural.


The mural incorporated the silhouette of the students holding hands, hearts, a palm tree, drawings from the students’ work and the P.S.189 sun insignia. The students felt all of these elements were important ways to visually represent their community and school. We began filling in these essential elements on the third Saturday workday. Students filled the background of their silhouettes with hand and heart cut outs while adult volunteers painted in the large birds and figures in the middle of the mural. There was also some light touching up to do that our muralist Patrick just wouldn’t let go!






By the end of the third workday, we were all feeling pretty good about ourselves. The kids were distracting themselves from the finer details by escaping to the nearby jungle gym before taking off for the day. When the adult volunteers  finally finished, signed and stood back from the mural,a long series of satisfied sighing and chest bumping directed towards the wall kept us hanging around the school yard until custodial staff shooed us out the gate.


The mural unveiling took place on Friday, June 22nd, 2012. Smack in the middle of an intense heat wave that had been rolling through the North East, it might not have been the hottest day I have ever encountered in New York, but it was safe to say it was pretty close. As about 10 classroom’s worth of P.S.189 students filed out of the school into the yard, I found myself praising their patience and support of their fellow students under such steamy conditions. Students who participated in the session of Ti Atis Afterschool Workshops were invited to come forward and talk about what they learned while working on the mural. Many of the children were really proud of how they were able to work together and that their ideas were used in the mural. Following the students’ impressions, Principal Berthe Faustin celebrated the work of the kids and thanked the volunteers for brightening up the schoolyard at P.S.189. The P.S.189 Haitian Dance Troupe then gave a short but powerful performance for the audience. After a rousing applause from the children, the classes broke for the ice cream social and volunteers said their final good byes to a group of kids that had touched us not only with their creative spirits but with the openness, kindness, and community that makes the students of P.S.189 so special.

Special thanks again to our volunteer coordinator Jeanne Heiftz, muralist Jean-Patrick Icart-Pierre,  and Mr. Almonord of P.S.189  for making this project such a wonderful success!
This project was made possible in part by Citizens Committee for New York City and Brooklyn Community Foundation.

This entry was posted on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 at 8:56 am and is filed under Archive, Arts, Crafts, HCX Programs, Ti Atis, Uncategorized, Visual Art, Youth Programs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.