Sinatra Paints Kaufman Studios

FSSA Art Students at work on the Kaufman mural.

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts’ (FSSA) art majors recently went across the street to Astoria’s Kaufman Studios to create a mural with graffiti artist Lady Pink.

Lady Pink is a well-known Ecuadorian female graffiti artist, and is known to compete with her male counterparts in the graffiti subculture. As a leader in the rise of graffiti-based art, Lady Pink’s canvases have been established in exhibitions such as MOMA (PS1) and has her work in the Tate Modern, London,  as well as being featured at Basel in a group show curated by Jeffrey Deitch. Twenty years after gaining sense as a graffiti, artist, she has now entered into the fine art world.

The process of making Kaufman’s mural began in the beginning of the school year when FSSA students had their first meet and greet with Lady Pink. Lady Pink let the young artists create their own designs. With the help of the senior art teacher Dr. Kahn, decisions on designs were either pre-made in response to a recent art assignment or conceived specifically for the mural. Some ideas were political, but they all had a specific meaning.

Lady Pink then unified the individual designs together to create a full flowing mural. Three different FSSA grades were given the opportunity to be involved in the final product. Sophomores, juniors and seniors all interacting with one another, throughout the process of creating the mural.

The actual painting happened in April, during FSSA’s Spring recess. Students spent their spring break painting for eight hours straight under some difficult weather conditions.

“I’ve never painted on such a large surface before so when I saw the opportunity to do a mural I took the chance. This experience helped me with my sense of scale, and this certainly was a large piece, it made me more comfortable to create larger in the future,” said Amaya Summerville, Fine Arts senior at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.

This experience was enlightening for many students.

“I decided to be involved in the mural because I personally love street art and I wanted to see my drawing on a large scale. This is definitely something I would do again because I think there should be more street art and it was overall a fun experience to paint something so big,” stated FSSA senior artist Zellinete Estrada.

Students at FSSA have the freedom to use their own imagination consistently, but the one thing they are limited with is scale. Yes, the building has art studios, but there is not much room to create giant works like this mural.

This mural was put together in a matter of four days. This was the challenge for most people, but everyone was successful.

“Honestly, the hardest obstacle was using the scaffold. Even though I don’t have a phobia of heights, I was so scared of falling and when the time came to use the scaffold, it was very hard for me, but eventually I got used to it. Painting eventually got easy for me as I started to stray away from my reference paper,” exclaims Amaya Summerville.

This project was all about adjustment and becoming comfortable with what you are given. With the weather changes students were shown what real graffiti/mural artist go through daily. This highlights the students’ commitment to their art form and to this project. 

Lady Pink decided to work with kids at FSSA because she likes to nurture young talent.

“When I was about 16 to 17 years old I had the opportunity to exhibit my work in galleries and I wanted to give those opportunities to teenagers. I’m just trying to hand back my skill to young artists,” she said.

Pink has inspired FSSA’s students and opened their eyes to possibilities in the future.

“This experience made me realize that making art and putting it up publicly allows me to express myself, and show others how I create my art. I learned to have confidence in your own art and cooperate with those who share the talent even if we all are different and unique,” describes Harley Vasquez.

The mural was completed in four days.

Unique is the right word for all art students. Over a period of time, especially during high school, one learns how different people truly are and how much it reflects in their work. The more “unique” you are the greater your imagination is.

“ I want people to know the span of what we did in four days, and understand how committed young people can be to their art form. If young people are given more opportunities like this imagine how much amazing work could be produced, and with the amount of youth around the world that’s very encouraging,” explains Maxine Lillian Ibanez, a senior art major.

“I think the mural should be getting more recognition and the location of it does make it harder for people to come across it. However that does not diminish the fact that the mural is amazing,” says Zellinette.

– by Ally Montana ’19