Niagara Gazette

January 26, 2014

School students painting mural to give Hydraulic Park a lift

by Mia Summerson
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When students that participate in NCCC’s Liberty Partnership Program were asked to come up with a fun way to do some community service, they had a hard time deciding on a project. They all agreed on one thing, however, that the City of Niagara Falls could benefit from having more to look at.

That’s when Liberty teamed up with Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo, Tom Lowe, director of ReNU Niagara, and artist Alec Maslowski. Together they came up with an idea to paint a mural to display in Hydraulic Park at Third and Niagara streets downtown.

“We want to make kids agents of change,” said Liberty Director Monica Ridgeway. “You have very little influence on what they do, but you can influence how they interact with the community.”

The Liberty Partnership program operates in several schools throughout Niagara County and is aimed and helping “at-risk” students improve academically. Ridgeway says that she has seen the grades of several kids she’s worked with go up and even said it may have even resulted in less suspensions in the Niagara Falls School District.

Maslowski, the artist, says that the project is called “Liberty Silhouettes,” and will feature the profiles of different students within the Liberty Program. In his vision, Maslowski sees this as just the beginning of a series of projects featuring silhouettes.

“There is a lot of blight in Niagara Falls,” he said as he painted the boards that would become the mural. In an effort to beautify the city, Maslowski says he is going for something similar to the “Herd About Buffalo” project which included 150 life-sized bison statues, each designed differently and scattered across Buffalo.

Lowe said that while brainstorming, the children indicated that when they thought of things you might see in Niagara Falls, garbage, gangs and guns were among them.

“If they’re doing positive things for the community we might be able to flip things around,” he said.

As for the kids, they’re just happy that they can do something that is good for the community yet still more exciting than picking up trash. Keilana Agee and Mathius Oliver, both seventh-graders at Gaskill, say they are excited to help.

“Niagara Falls can get boring to look at,” Keilana said. “There’s nothing to make it pop.”

Both say they’d like to continue to help clean up the city. Mathius says he would like to see less factories and manufacturing plants. One of them took over his favorite baseball diamond.

The kids along with Liberty members, Piccirillo, Lowe, Maslowski and others met at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center on Saturday afternoon to begin painting and tracing silhouettes. They still have some work to do, but the mural is expected to be ready and on display in early February.