Riley Avenue Elementary School fourth-grader Jon Vasquez said he liked watching the character mural go from “nothing to something.” His classmate Lily Kaelin said anyone who lays eyes on the colorful painting is “reminded to be kind.” Art teacher Melissa Haupt called it “inspiring.”
The mural is an anti-bullying painting that around 300 second, third and fourth-grade students at the Calverton school recently completed under the supervision of East Hampton artist Joyce Raimondo. Filling a large curved wall in the school’s newly renovated cafeteria, the mural was officially unveiled in a Thursday morning ceremony.
Funded by the Parents’ Association of Riley Avenue, the mural features character education themes like “Unity,” “Tolerance” and “Respect.” It also depicts students engaging in a variety of positive behaviors, like cheerleading, playing soccer and watering sunflowers.
“What’s most important to me about this mural is the message that’s on it,” said Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney, who attended the ceremony. “The students really took to heart the meaning of it, which is all about kindness and love and respect.”
Ms. Raimondo, the school’s artist-in-residence and founder of Amagansett children’s art company Imagine That!, said the fourth-graders came up with the concepts displayed in the painting last year.
“It was 100 percent collaborative and I call it ‘art by kids for kids,’ ” she said. “The children are very capable of painting it under our direction.”
Ms. Raimondo said the mural is designed to inspire “not just the children but also the teachers.”
We all need a reminder daily of the goals and the qualities that we aspire to, such as respect, unity and tolerance. Everybody falls short of these ideals and no one’s perfect, and that’s why I believe we need constant reminders to reinforce those positive qualities.”
This isn’t the first time Ms. Raimondo, who is also a children’s author, has collaborated with Riley Avenue faculty and students. She has previously worked with Ms. Haupt and her students on the Pollock Drip Paint Project and has supervised the creation of murals at Aquebogue Elementary School and Riverhead High School. She plans to work on a mural at Roanoke Elementary School next.
“My aim is really to get these murals into all the schools so it can be a unified project for Riverhead,” Ms. Raimondo said.
Ms. Haupt, who led Thursday’s ceremony, said her students did “an excellent job” working on the mural.
“I think the fact that they still come in here and talk about it and look at it and want to live by the words up there, I think that’s inspiring,” she said.
“You can’t not love it.”