The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson



Community Mural Created by JFK Students on Display

City Without Walls helps mobility-impaired children express themselves through art
It's not every day that John F. Kennedy students get to see their artwork on public display in Newark's North Ward.
That rare opportunity came to 11 students Friday during a dedication ceremony honoring the City Without Walls mural they helped create this summer. Entitled "Still I Rise," the artwork is located at 79 Broadway and depicts Newark as an extension of its people, a concept the students helped to design.
The students, eight of which are mobility-impaired, were selected this summer to create the artwork using paint brushes, rollers, sponges, toy cars and their hands. Students that were unable to use their hands used a specially rigged bicycle helmet with a paintbrush attached.
"[The mural] is the most rewarding thing that I've ever done," said James Wilson, who painted the mural with artist Joel Bergner.
Wilson explained that the background colors of the mural were painted on a parachute cloth by the students and then pressed onto the building by workers. To give the project the proper flow, children were given certain colors to use each day for each section of the mural.
The adults involved in the project said the project's impact on the children is immeasurable.
"Sometimes with early exposure to opportunities like this, people discover that they have artistic talents that they would like to pursue in their career and employment," said Julia Stoumbos, the grants manager at the Kessler Foundation, the nonprofit organization that funded the mural project.
Carol Ann Murphy, communications officer at the Kessler Foundation, explained that their organization's mission is to improve the lives of people with disabilities – especially when it pertains to the arts.
"Our bigger picture in our grants programs is employment for people with disabilities, but we do feel that the arts are a pathway to employment also and a skill, an aptitude, that needs to be encouraged," Murphy said.
After viewing the mural, the ceremony was moved into the lobby of La Casa de Don Pedro, a community outreach center. Several individuals, including Stoumbos and Rodney Gilbert, head of CWOW, congratulated the children on their remarkable work. Newark's Deputy Mayor of Economic and Housing Development Adam Zipkin was so moved by the artistry on display that he read the poem "A Psalm of Life" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Sharif Bell, one of the young artists, said the experience was "great."
"It's good to let kids with disabilities work on something like this," Bell said.
Gwendolyn Maddox said the project has spurred a new hobby for her son Heru Asar Amen-Ra Maddox Conover.
"He enjoys art so much that now I have to buy some art supplies so that he can start using them," she said. "I think he learned appreciation for beauty from it."
Related Topics: Art, CWOW, Children, City Without Walls, Kessler Foundation, Kids, La Casa de Don Pedro, Still I Rise, Volunteer, and mobility impaired

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