Latest mural part of project to engage youth
A bridge in Edmonston was once a target for graffiti, but a new mural celebrating the area's rich diversity has done more than just beautify the bridge and the area near it.
Decatur Street's bridge near the intersection of Taylor Road features the "Diversity without Division" mural, the latest of 12 murals planned in the Youth Mural Project in the four Port Towns Bladensburg, Colmar Manor, Cottage City and Edmonston.
The mural, which was dedicated Saturday, depicts the various countries of origin, such as Jamaica and Mexico, of some Edmonston residents.
The Port Towns Community Development Corp., which is a nonprofit that supports economic development in the Port Towns, began the program in 2006 to document the area's history, beautify the community and increase the community involvement of Port Towns youth in grades sixth through 11, said the organization's executive director, Sadara Barrow.
The other two complete murals, which depict the area's history and landscape, are in Colmar Manor and Bladensburg. Each mural can take six to eight months to complete and cost between $22,000 and $25,000, Barrow said.
About half of the money comes from the Maryland Heritage Authority, while the rest comes from Port Towns CDC's fundraising and general funds, Barrow said. The CDC picked the mural's theme.
"It's basically recognizing the diversity of the community and how we live together," Barrow said.
Edmonston is nearly a third white, a third black and a third Latino, Mayor Adam Ortiz has said.
Nearly 50 youth were involved in some aspect of the project, which began last November with research. The painting was completed in the summer. The Port Towns CDC conducted outreach in area schools to find participants.
Brentwood resident Melissa Glasser Bruzera and Bladensburg High School teacher Idalia Paz were the lead artists on the project. Together with the youth, they the youth researched the area and picked the bridge because it is heavily traveled and was a target for tagging and graffiti that the town repeatedly had to cover. Whitewashing the bridge "made it look rundown," Glasser Bruzera said.
Murals generally deter graffiti, which the other two Port Towns murals have done, she added.
"The taggers, they want their own wall. They're not interested in covering up something you've done, they're interested in creating their own statement," Glasser Bruzera said.
She added that the teens also learned skills such as working in a team and planning a complicated project. Some joined to fulfill community service hours required by schools but stayed on "because it was a fun place to be," she said.
Bladensburg resident Hilary Bright, 15, agreed. She joined the project over the summer as a way to get community service hours, but stayed on well after she fulfilled her requirement.
Hilary said she likes art and that working alongside a professional artist on the mural improved her painting technique. She plans to help with the fourth mural in Bladensburg, which will be complete this winter and is dubbed "the freedom mural."
Carlos Salamanca, 16, of Landover Hills said he joined the project because he enjoys art. He helped sketch some of the designs on the mural.
"I feel like it's something good," he said of the mural's theme.
The teens said they believe they've made a mark on the community.
"I feel very proud because I helped to paint it, and it looks really good," Hilary said.
E-mail Elahe Izadi at email@example.com.