2008-07-04 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Are You Aware…?
Commentary by Susan Hartenstein

Rockaway Artists Alliance Rockaway Artists Alliance Are you aware that the extraordinary wave shelter murals along our Shore Front Parkway are yearly being ruined by vandalism and erosion? Requiring annual upkeep, the four important works of public art by Esther Grillo, which present the finest images of our community, could soon fall back into being the eyesores and embarrassments that the neglected original structures once were. Without community support, this is the last year Grillo will be able to undertake the daunting and expensive task of restoration. Fortunately, there are steps we in Rockaway can take to preserve our treasures, which have appeared on film and been written about in three major New York City newspapers and a book.

"Surf's Up" on Beach 107 Street is an homage to the surfers of Rockaway. "The Deep" on Beach 102 Street immerses the viewer in the images of deep-sea fish in their shimmering blue environment. "Mythical Cavern" on Beach 84 Street is covered with merpeople about which ancient mariners fantasized.

Created by Grillo as a haven from 9/11, "Monarch Landscape" on Beach 76 Street is a magnificent field of giant sunflowers, wildflowers and butterflies in an uplifting fantasy world for all ages.

Picture: "Monarch Landscape" mural by Esther Grill, Shore Front Parkway and Beach 76 Street Wave Shelter. Photograph taken after completion in 2003. Presently under restoration by artist and assistant, Christina Coradin. Picture: "Monarch Landscape" mural by Esther Grill, Shore Front Parkway and Beach 76 Street Wave Shelter. Photograph taken after completion in 2003. Presently under restoration by artist and assistant, Christina Coradin. Why should you care about these murals?

To prospective investors and buyers of all the new properties in Rockaway, they are a visible face of our peninsula. Do you want these visitors to see cement and metal structures that are falling apart, fulfilling the image of dilapidation that many people outside our community have of Rockaway? Or do you want them to see stimulating artwork that exemplifies aesthetic sophistication, the beauty of their new neighborhood and the pride of its residents?

What does it say about a community that would allow such deterioration to take place?

How demoralizing for today's residents to see this decline.

In addition to their present cultural and economic impact, 'the waves' provide daily protection from the summer heat and lightning storms to countless beach-goers.

Jill Weber of the Department of Parks and Recreation recalls her first impression of the murals. "I was taken by how beautiful they were…I was not aware [there was] such progressive art in the Rockaway community…It lifts my spirits when I see them."

Do you remember what the waves looked like before Grillo's dedication to her community transformed them into assets?

Built by the city in the thirties, over the years these former bus shelters fell into unlit disrepair and became rusted, crumbling hulks that were eventually painted black.

From 1996 through 2003 Grillo, known for the public art she has created in various venues, undertook to resurrect these blights.

The six-year project involved hundreds of participants, often working in the worst weather conditions, and an equal number of hours, to accomplish. Grillo designed the murals, pursued the public and private funding, supervised the assistants and collaborated with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation on every aspect of the physical preparation and restoration work on the shelters' structures. When no one else was there to help, Grillo did the sometimes backbreaking work herself.

The transformation was nothing short of miraculous.

Under a grant from the Rockaway Artists Alliance, the most consistent supporter of the project, Grillo developed an apprenticeship program through which local adults and young people were trained and mentored to help create these public artworks. Under her caring and professional tutelage, young people learned life skills.

Adults and children gained a newfound pride in themselves and their neighborhoods.

Adopt the murals!

Community pride and action created the murals. Community pride and action can preserve them. Here are suggestions for how each of us can add our support:

Members and non-members of civic associations and community associations should encourage board members to earmark annual funding.

Contact local government officials asking them to allocate annual funding.

Donations from individuals are welcomed.

Remind children that these works are ART; they should be treated with the respect they are due.

Call 311 to report vandalism in progress.

If you are a mason, electrician, welder, roofer or artist contact RAA's office to volunteer your skills.

Contact the Department of Parks and Recreation at 718-318-4000 requesting funding be granted for future restorations.

For contributions please make checks out to the Rockaway Artists Alliance specifying 'For Mural Restoration Project.' Mail to RAA, 260 Beach 116 Street, Rockaway Park,

New York, 11694.

RAA Contact Info:

Phone: 718-474-0861; fax: 718-474- 4737; email: rockart116@aol.com; website: mail: 260 Beach 116 Street, Rockaway Park, NY 11694.

Fort Tilden Highlights

FREE: SUMMER MOONS: Scheduled bands every Thursday in the summer. Start time: 8 p.m. On the Moonstage between sTudio 6 and sTudio 7, RoCA, Fort Tilden. LIFE DRAWING CLASS with live model. Every Thursday, 8-10 p.m. in sTudio 6 Gallery, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. Fee: $20 per class. No pre-registration necessary. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. PAINTING CLASSES FOR ADULTS: Tuesday nights, 7-9 p.m.; Thursday mornings, 10 a.m. - 12 noon. sTudio 7, RoCA @ Fort Tilden. $15 per class, supplies included. Instructor: Geoff Rawling. FRIDAY NIGHT IMPROV: "No Shame Theater" performs theater games, improvised scenes based on written works; all are invited to join in. THE MUSIC MAN: Rockaway Theatre Company. Post Theater July 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 18, 19 @ 8 p.m. July 6, 13, 20 @ 2 p.m.

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