ART AS A WEAPON
June is Gun Violence Awareness Month and a brand-new art installation is sending a message – loud and clear – that business owners, students and elected officials want to see an end to the gun violence which plagues East Flatbush and Flatlands. “I was delighted when Councilman Jumaane Williams asked me to participate in the unveiling of the murals. They demonstrate the good in this neighborhood,” Connie Cincotta, President of Glenwood Mason Supply Co. Inc., told the Canarsie Courier.
“Violence Destroys The Light Of Today” features eight 4’ x 8’ paintings depicting various illustrations of gun violence. The artwork, which was painted by students from P.S. 109, located at 1001 East 45th Street, was unveiled last Saturday in a special ceremony. The murals are displayed in an unusual location - on a wall underneath the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) underpass on Glenwood Road and East 45th Street.
In a continuing effort to stop gun violence in the neighborhood, Councilman Jumaane Williams contacted Groundswell, a not-for-profit mural project organization. Lead artist for the project, Christopher Cardinale, described the process.
“Groundswell contacted me and asked if I could work on the theme of anti-violence in East Flatbush with P.S. 109,” stated Cardinale. “I’ve been leading mural projects since 2001 and working for the reduction in violence is important to me so I accepted. We researched the topic for two months. The students did art exercises and then we executed the designs together. Once the designs were done, the students painted eight boards twice a week after school.” Cardinale was joined by Assistant Artist Adon Palermo and as many as 18 student artists of P.S. 109 to bring the project to fruition.
“Good organizing starts with love and we believe art making is an act of love,” stated Groundswell Mural Project Executive Director Amy Sananman. “The people who came to the project came with that love. It was inspirational to see students, community leaders, politicians, and business leaders come together to speak against violence and to promote peace.”
“It will be helpful for people and schools to learn how to stop violence,” stated Avianna Pilgrim, one of the student artists on hand for the unveiling. Pilgrim joined the project with a passion for art and wound up working on all of the panels. She joined three of her fellow artists to unveil the installation and to be honored by Williams and Groundswell for their hard work.
“Anti-violence should be a given,” stated Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano. “People need to be reminded to stop and think.”
Neighborhood businesses like Glenwood Mason Supply Co. Inc., located just a few blocks away at 4100 Glenwood Road, want to see the elimination of guns in the area too. Female entrepreneur and business owner Connie Cincotta established the business, which offers brick, block, sand, cement and all related masonry items, in the early 1990s with a handful of employees. Under her leadership, the business grew to 20 employees and the company now boasts 12 acres, including their offices and stockyards.
Cincotta, who was one of the hosts and supplied the refreshments for the event, grew up in the area and was thrilled to see the new art gallery.
“I was born here, raised here, went to church and worked here,” stated Cincotta. “As much as I am a part of this neighborhood, this neighborhood is very much a part of me, so it’s important to me to see these positive developments. The significance of this art gallery to me is that it demonstrates the commitment of the community, particularly Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who safeguards our neighbors and instills positive values. I am proud and happy to be part of this and I know that under the stewardship of Jumaane Williams, the best is yet to come.”
In addition to the unveiling of their work, the student artists were able to meet Gama Droiville, who was struck by stray bullets as he walked on Flatbush Avenue and Beverly Road in April. The bullets struck him in his head, causing him to lose sight in his right eye. Since the incident, Droiville graduated from I.S. 285 and accepted entrance to Nazareth Regional High School with a full scholarship.
Originally planned as a full-scale mural to cover the wall, the LIRR deemed the structure too old to have such an art display but were willing to have the panels placed onto it. New drainage holes were drilled into the wall and various areas were patched to attempt to limit damage to the panels from pipes and weather.
“The paint is high quality and the boards are very sturdy,” stated Cardinale. “We’re sure the panels will get dirty but they can be cleaned with soap and water. Groundswell has done similar installations and they lasted a very long time. But, if needed, they can always be touched up.”
In addition to Councilman Williams and the Groundswell Mural Project, the gallery received assistance and support from Community Boards 17 and 18, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, the 63rd and 67th Precincts and the Flatbush Flatlands Civic Group.
Student artists, who were unable to attend the unveiling, included Wilson Carderias, Renaldine Compere, Fitzpatrick Compail, Ernesto Gonzales, Steben Houenou, Keeyanah Posy, Gaethan Sidney and Shania Walters.