Feature stories

The great walls of NYC

Murals that adorn public schools tell stories, beautify buildings

The PS 119 outdoor murals put a happy face on the 110-year-old Brooklyn school. Miller Photography

The PS 119 outdoor murals put a happy face on the 110-year-old Brooklyn school. Chapter Leader Gail Gill said, “The murals create a sense of ownership and creativity for our children.” See more photos in The great walls of NYC gallery.

Students submitted ideas, a Brooklyn community artist put their ideas together i Miller Photography

Students submitted ideas, a Brooklyn community artist put their ideas together in a nine-panel story and 400 volunteers — students, parents, teachers and community folks — helped paint the narrative mural that incorporates “welcome” in 43 languages at PS 102 in Brooklyn.

Detail of mural at PS 119 in Brooklyn. Miller Photography

Detail of mural at PS 119 in Brooklyn.

Murals, in all their variety, decorate outside walls, hallways, auditoriums and even stairwells in schools throughout the city. They celebrate diversity, capture characters in favorite stories, reflect the communities where students live and the subjects they are studying, and illustrate important events and even important ideas.

That’s why murals have been described as “living walls” or “talking walls.”

In schools like IS 52 in Manhattan, murals are everywhere. One floor reflects a colorful cross-curricula approach to units of study, according to Art Coordinator Natasha Bracey, and another captures the vibrancy of the school’s annual block party and street fair.

Outside murals — like the door at PS 7 in the Bronx or the extensive mural at PS 102 in Brooklyn that includes “welcome” in 43 languages — often involve a whole community of volunteers working from student’s ideas or designs.

Mary Dillon, an art teacher and the chapter leader at PS 340 in the Bronx, said, “After watching the One Hen mural come to life, every child at PS 340 wanted to paint a mural.”

Here are just a few of the thousands of student- and teacher-created murals in New York City public schools that welcome visitors and enliven the school day.

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