It has been 22 years since muralists and friends Alex Cook and Pasqualina Azzarello collaborated on a piece, and now with the help of Jackson Heights resident Sunny Hossain, they are adding color to Long Island City.
The artists have come together to replace a fading mural located on a former meatpacking plant located at 46-01 Fifth St. The building is now home to Rockaway Brewing Company, the LIC Community Boathouse and the nonprofit Recycle-A-Bicycle, which provides environmental education and job training through youth education programs.
The group not only revamped the mural on 46th Avenue but also stretched it around the corner of the building so that it can been seen down on Fifth Street.
The original mural was completed in 2006 by Azzarello while she worked with summer youth employment participants as a freelance teaching artist for Recycle-A-Bicycle. However, she always felt the mural needed more.
The Brooklyn resident then went on to become executive director for the nonprofit in 2009 and after leaving in early 2013, she kept the mural on her to-do list as she continues to be involved with Recycle-A-Bicycle.
“For the last number of years, while that mural had become a mini-landmark in the neighborhood, we always had the feeling that it wasn’t as complete as it could be,” said Azzarello. “We wanted to create a new mural that more accurately reflected the new sense of vibrancy in that part of town.”
About two months ago, Cook, who lives in Boston, Mass., reached out to her with interest to work on a collaborative mural in New York and Azzarello contacted Karen Overton, founder of Recycle-A-Bicycle and current executive director, with the idea of revamping the mural.
To Azzarello’s surprise, Overton was also looking to revitalize the mural after being contacted by Edward Fernbach, a teacher at P.S. 993, a District 75 school located within the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria. Fernbach wanted to know if his student Sunny Hossain could help to fix the peeling mural,to receive school credit as part of an internship program. District 75 schools are designed to teach and support students with various learning challenges.
“Sunny happens to be a phenomenal artist and I wanted to emphasize his strength rather than the place he has challenges,” Fernbach said. “He is going to be in the art world, no question about it. He has his foot in the door and he isn’t going to let it close behind him and he is going to keep on going forward.”
This mural project is the first for the 16-year-old, who is a student at P.S. 993. Hossain said he loves to be creative, and working with Azzarello and Cook has helped him develop his artistic skill. He said he felt very proud after seeing the piece come together.
“We had a lot of fun. I never had an experience like that,” said Hossain, who will next work on a mural at the Broadway branch of the Queens Library in Long Island City. “I never knew I could do so many things with art. It gives me inspiration to continue my art.”
The theme of the colorful and celebratory mural, which took about 10 days spanned over a few weeks to complete, surrounds the “joy of riding a bicycle,” according to Azzarello.
“It has meant so much to Alex and me to support Sunny in this way,” Azzarello said. “We are reminded of how many people supported us as young artists. The fact that we are now in a position in our lives to work together and help support a young artist with incredible talent and vision is very meaningful.”
The brand-new mural will be unveiled at 46-01 Fifth St. on Friday, June 13 at 4 p.m. and light refreshments will be served.