March 26, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A group of students from Jackson Heights and Flushing have added new life to a fence in Flushing with colorful illustrations depicting a message of hope after a trying year.
Students from P.S. 69 in Jackson Heights and P.S. 22 in Flushing submitted artwork to the “Call and Response: Grief, Resiliency and Hope” exhibition through a partnership with Flushing Town Hall, a non-profit cultural institution.
Flushing Town Hall — thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation — distributed 500 art kits to the two schools as well as La Jornada, a local food pantry.
The exhibit asked students and community members to submit illustrations expressing their feelings about this moment in the country’s history as well as their hopes for the Lunar New Year.
The illustrations were then hung on the fence outside Flushing Town Hall, along Northern Boulevard.
The town hall opened a call for submissions for the exhibit on Feb. 1 in time for Lunar New Year and the Year of the Ox, which represents diligence, strength and determination.
Amateur and professional artists were invited to submit work on these themes as well as those of hope and diversity. Artwork of all mediums, from all ages and abilities were welcomed.
About 30 students from grades two to five at P.S. 69 submitted their artwork to be part of the exhibit, according to Deborah Strack Cregan, the arts liaison at P.S. 69.
“It’s really important that we acknowledge the social and emotional impact of COVID on students,” Strack Cregan said. “I thought this would be an opportunity for students to express themselves through art.”
She added that she wanted students to have fun making the artwork and look toward a brighter future.
“We wanted them to gain strength, not dwell on the negative,” Strack Cregan said. “Even in hard times, we come away with positive things and hope for the future — what does that look like for you?” she asked students.
For 7-year-old Tristan Lee, a second-grader at P.S. 69, that looks like “family, love, hope and diversity in the community,” he said.
Lee drew a picture of a rainbow above the word hope and two people with arms raised.
“I’m proud of myself,” Lee said of his artwork. “I’m proud to be a part of the community.”
Another participant from P.S. 69, fourth-grader Yagmur Sakar, celebrated the diversity of Jackson Heights in her illustration.
The nine-year-old said she was inspired by the physical buildings in the community as well as residents who are from many different backgrounds and ethnicities.
“I got inspired by the buildings here and all the kids around here,” Sakar said. “I drew a lot of people from different cultures and different places and the buildings representing the buildings that we have in Jackson Heights.”
She said she wanted to show that people are unique and it doesn’t matter their background when it comes to building a community.
Flushing Town Hall Director of Education and Public Programs Gabrielle Hamilton said she has been overwhelmed by the response to the request for artwork.
“We have been incredibly moved by the outpouring of artwork from students and the community, artwork that displays hope and promise as we begin to envision an end to the pandemic,” Hamilton said. “This season, we invited participants to look to a more hopeful future; even as we still grieve for those we lost.”
The current artwork on display is the second round of the town hall exhibit.
Flushing Town Hall first launched Call and Response: Grief, Resiliency and Hope” last summer and received more than 60 pieces — from amateur and professional artists both local and far — which were hung on the same fence.
The current exhibition will remain up through April 2.
Flushing Town Hall will continue to showcase individual pieces of the artwork on its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms, and on Flushing Town Hall’s Cultural Crossroads blog.