Over a hundred 5Pointz artists volunteered their time this weekend to make the hallways of a high school in Jamaica shine once again.
August Martin High School was filled with laughter and music on Saturday as 5Pointz curators Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen and Marie Cecile Flageul invited aerosol artists from near and far to cover the interior of the school in one-of-a-kind artwork.
The 5Pointz crew worked together with a team of students of the nonprofit The Future Project Dream Team at the school, who came up with the idea for the project called “Operation Skittles.”
The project — in which artists paint the school’s hallways, staircases and elevator doors — came after the team surveyed 500 students and found out that their fellow classmates unanimously felt the white walls of the school needed to be changed to enhance the atmosphere.
“I still believe that the classrooms should be kind of free of art so you can focus but why not have the hallways awesome. Why not have a school that you can brag about?” Cohen said. “Its cool because [5Pointz is] kind of inside out, it’s almost inverted. The students have a little treasure that not everyone will have.”
On both Saturday and Sunday, over 100 artists are volunteering their time and paint to transform the school, located at 156-01 Baisley Blvd. They have been given the freedom to choose the art that will go on the walls, and each will have an inspirational word.
“Being able to use the power of art to inspire the youth is amazing and I know these kids that go here are looked at as disappointment because of their graduation rate but as time changes so does our methods of getting these kids into school,” Cohen said. “You just have to give them a little bit of inspiration.”
Along with being seen as the “rebirth” of 5Pointz, which saw its Long Island City home be whitewashed in 2013, organizers and school staff also hope this project will give the school which some call “the worst in New York City” a second chance.
“This alone might get [students] to school and create a sense of pride for their school that a lot of them didn’t have before,” said Syreeta Gates, The Future Project Dream Director at August Martin.
According to the school’s principal, Gillian Smith, August Martin is still considered an “out of time school” meaning it hasn’t made any academic progress in recent years and has a 39 percent graduation rate.
However, Smith, who welcomed the idea of the project with open arms, hopes a project such as coming together with 5Pointz artists will help build a sense of pride and push students to do better.
Some artists have offered to participate in future workshops for the students, and the 5Pointz curators also hope to continue being a “part of the family” with the school.
“We want students to be so inspired that they want to stay in school because now they can see that dreams can happen and dreams can come true,” Smith said. “It’s a difficult journey; it’s a lot of work. But I think all of these little steps matter. To see this happen in a weekend all of a sudden makes you feel like, ‘I got it, the world is mine. I can do this.’”
Students involved in the project said they are excited to see their classmates’ reactions on Monday when seeing the hallways.
They also added that they think this project will help change the way people view the high school.
“It’s a sense of hope and pride because people talk so much crap about August Martin, it’s going to change how they look at the school, and students here are going to have so much pride coming here and saying ‘5Pointz did my school.’ Who else can say that?,” said 11th-grader Trivella Osborne.
When asked what they would say to the artists volunteering their time to transform their school the students on the Dream Team burst out in thank yous and cheers.
“They’re making history right now,” said ninth-grader Latoya Mann. “It’s a resurrection of August Martin and 5Pointz.”
The completed project will be revealed to the public on June 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. during an art show at the school. Some artists will also be selling their work on canvas in order to raise money for the high school.