PARK SLOPE, Brooklyn (WABC) -- One year ago, a mural that depicted hope and community celebrating Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ movement was destroyed almost as soon as it went up at a Brooklyn school.
Now, after a year of grassroots community efforts, public advocacy, and coalition building, the mural at PS 295 in Park Slope is back -- and bigger than ever thanks to the dedication and hard work of students.
The Mural Justice Project (MJP) on Wednesday completed the restoration, which comes after the original mural was removed by school principals almost immediately after it was installed by the community organization Groundswell.
"There is no more crucial element in public education than empowering our students to be independent creative thinkers," MJP Executive Director Elton Dodson said. "The restoration of this beautiful student artwork, larger and more visible than ever, proves the power of community organizing around inspired student expression."
The original mural was the result of a 14-week artist residency with six PS 295 fifth graders and teaching artist Lexy Ho Tai during the height of COVID isolation, serving as a representation of the hopes and aspirations of the student artists in a time of fear and turmoil amid the pandemic and after the death of George Floyd.
Unfortunately, the artists were never able to see the completed final mural.
The school shares a cafeteria with the New Voices School of Academic and Creative Arts, and officials removed the mural due to complaints of discrimination, sparking a year-long fight.
While the original mural was designed to fit over a doorway in the cafeteria of the school, the nearly-complete restoration is almost 60-feet across and high on an exterior school wall.
A Department of Education investigation found the schools didn't follow the procedures for filing internal complaints on discrimination and helped fund the mural's recreation.
The restoration is the result of a yearlong effort by the MJP, which has fostered close working relationships with allied community organizations, parents, teachers, students, and DOE leadership.
"We want our students to know, if your voices are shamed or oppressed, your community will be there to amplify you a hundred-fold," Dodson said. "If your message is defaced, it will be restored larger and louder than ever before."
MJP is working towards creating a new paradigm in classroom instruction that regards arts and creative expression as part and parcel to core classroom instruction.
The non-profit hosts an annual street celebration for student creative expression called Freedom to Dream Day, which will be held next on October 1 adjacent to PS 295.
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