Mural Takes Shape at Downtown Brooklyn Jail

Photo by Mary Frost

Depicts the Power Of ‘Restorative Justice’

By Mary Frost

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — A team of young artists — including some who themselves have spent some time in jail — are transforming the blank State Street wall of the Brooklyn Detention Complex with a 90-foot mural depicting “restorative justice” and personal transformation.

The mural — to be called “Justice Mandala” —is a project of Groundswell’s Summer Leadership Institute. “We bring artists and young people together with the community,” said Sharon Poli, director of development and communications at Groundswell. She said that there are six teams at work creating murals this summer, including a team creating a mural at Rikers Island.

The students here are working under lead artist Chris Soria and assistant artist Misha Tyutyunik. “We come up with a design with the kids and bring together a cohesive project,” Tyutyunik told the Brooklyn Eagle. “This project is a great opportunity and a platform to tell the masses about restorative justice and living. Viewers will ask questions, and it’s a great way to beautify a bleak building.”

“Restorative justice is a new idea,” said Mei Kazama, a student artist who attends LaGuardia High School. “People are not sent to jail. They’re actually put into programs where they can discuss things with their victims. It’s not practiced in the United States.”

While restorative justice encourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions, “restorative living means you are aware of your peers, respectful, and listen to others. It helps bring people together,” she said.

“The Department of Correction welcomes this mural project at the Brooklyn Detention Center because it gives young men and women, including formerly incarcerated youth, an opportunity to perform a civic duty and a chance to be agents of social change, ” said Sharman Stein, deputy commissioner for Public Information for the NYC Department of Correction.

A Modern Mandala

The mural will consist of three segments with 10 keys around the periphery, said Raymond Reyes, who attends Sunset Park High School. “The keys incorporate the idea of opportunities to open a new life, so people can see that things will get better.”

Reyes said that the central segment would be a montage of faces, the Brooklyn Bridge, water towers and trains. The segment on the right will depict a large flower symbolizing growth and transformation. The segment on the left will include “making one face out of two, with different ethnicities all coming together. It’s a modern mandala, a circle,” he said. “The whole project is based on circles.”

“After we sketched the design on a page, we gridded it out,” said Elijah Rodriguez, who will be attending New York Harbor School in September.

He compared working on the mural to life at sea: “One day you might prime a wall, the next day you might detail a face. It’s like being on a ship — there are a lot of different things to do. You get art experience, you have to present to funders. It gives you confidence to speak up loud and express what you are doing.”

Groundswell’s Poli said that 15 young people were working on the Downtown Brooklyn mural, and the entire project will take seven weeks to complete, “from research to design and fabrication.” Community partners include New York City Department of Correction, Court-Livingston-Schermerhorn BID and Nu Hotel Brooklyn.

The dedication and unveiling will take place on Aug. 31.

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Filed under Arts, Community News, Downtown Brooklyn, Kids & Education

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