New Landmark Mural
by Carmen Herrera
East Side Drive
November 5, 2020
Publicolor Board Member
A new mural, gifted to the city of New York by prominent Cuban-
American artist Carmen Herrera, was unveiled on November 5. Guests gathered at the work’s site, JHS 99 (a school in East Harlem), to witness the launch of this new
Manhattan landmark visible from the nearby FDR Drive. “Here we are at this amazing piece of art done by students and designed by a woman who is internationally loved and understands the importance of art education. This is art where it should be.” said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, who’s long been a supporter of Publicolor.
The socially distanced ceremony began with a warm welcome from Publicolor Founder and President Ruth Lande Shuman, delivering heartwarming background on the project:
“We had a total of 10 students working on this. The mural is divided into 96 different panels and our students gridded and measured the whole thing. One of our students told us his math grade went up by twenty-six points since starting this project. If nothing else, that says a lot about project based learning.” Following, JHS Principal Luis Genao appreciatively thanked the organization, “We’ve been here for twenty-five years and with the support of Publicolor we’ve been able to keep the arts alive in this building”.
Publicolor is a long-term youth development program that uses project-based learning models to engage disaffected students in their education, one of which is painting artwork like this one as part of our Publicolor community museum. We use color and design to transform struggling schools and nearby community facilities- over 500 to date.
Students reacted warmly to the opportunity of working with a female artist who is Cuban, as so many of them are also native Spanish speakers. During the event, guests had the pleasure of hearing directly from the students turned painters; “This mural showed me hard work pays off, I feel honored to be 14 and able to paint work from someone as honorable as Carmen Herrera. When I look at the mural I feel empowerment, especially empowerment for women.” said JHS freshman Kahlauney Beret.
Tony Bechara, longtime friend of Ms. Herrera, fellow artist, and Chairman Emeritus of El Museo del Barrio, spoke on behalf of Carmen and delivered warm regards, “She has a great passion for arts education and feels they are underestimated in our schools. She’s always said that the arts sparks the imagination and activates something that can be used in any profession.”
The project was generously underwritten by Beth Rudin deWoody and her brother,
William C. Rudin, who couldn’t attend but sent fond regards: “My brother and I
are delighted that Carmen Herrera and local students have collaborated to create a new landmark for the residents of East Harlem. We are proud to support public art and this mural during one of the most challenging times New Yorkers have faced.”
Guests included Pilar Viladas, Michelle Oka Doner, Anthony Barzilay Freund, Publicolor Board Member Michael Shuman, JHS teacher Melissa Cancel, and members from the nearby community.
Originally planned for last spring, COVID-19 delayed the work’s completion, but
finished in time for Carmen’s 105th birthday and was installed on October 29. Titled Uno Dos Tres, the mural features a dramatic black and white design that stands 54 feet wide, 17 feet high on a wall outside JHS.
Parallel to the mural’s design, Carmen is known for her mastery of crisp lines that create symmetry, rhythm, and spatial tension across the canvas with the most unobtrusive application of paint. Her work is in numerous public and private collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate Collection, the Hirshhorn Museum, The Smithsonian American Art Museum, among many others.
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