Paint the Boards Project Livens Up Vacant Buildings in the Hillside North Neighborhood

Nearing the last day of school, the entire sixth grade class of Troy Public School 2 walked the streets of the surrounding neighborhood with community leaders and elected officials. Trailed by local news cameras, the students pointed with pride to their artwork which is now vibrantly displayed on five vacant buildings. The paintings, which resulted from a school/ Arts Center/ community partnership, highlight courage, pride, and the importance of freedom. Not only do they brighten the neighborhood, they put civic pride and artistry in the place of abandonment and blight. While these buildings wait to be put back into productive use, they are able to be artistic landmarks and points of pride and interest in the community.

Artist Marcus Kwame Anderson stands with
School 2 6th Graders as they present their paintings

Two of the painted boards currently installed on 348 9th St.
Before this exciting unveiling could take place School 2 faculty, in conjunction with TRIP and the Hillside North Neighborhood Association, sat down to plan a cross-curricular project for sixth grade students based on Troy’s role in the Underground Railroad. Planning began in the fall of 2011, and the project was first introduced to the students during their Black History Month celebration in February 2012. Students simultaneously learned an in-depth history of the Underground Railroad, researched its local history, and began sketching ideas with the help of local artist Marcus Kwame Anderson.  From Mr. Anderson, the students learned about powerful symbols integral to the Underground Railroad: lanterns, stars, quilt patterns, etc. Working in groups of three or four, the sixth graders also learned to collaborate and compromise on a long-term project. Throughout all this art education, their teachers continued guiding the students through the history being illustrated.

Students and guests appreciate the beautiful paintings
As it is with many city neighborhoods, the community around School 2 is peppered with vacant buildings. Last year, the Hillside North Neighborhood Association formed a cohesive, long-term plan to tackle this issue and simultaneously beautify their streets. The neighborhood group holds that education about recycling, beautification, and civic responsibility and pride will be most effective when begun in childhood. Here, the idea of collaborating with School 2 and the beginnings of the Paint the Boards project began.
Thank you to all who played a role in this project: Marcus Anderson, School 2 faculty and staff, especially Principal Martin, the 6th Grade teachers: Janet Morandi and Joanne Valenti, and School 2 art teacher, Rebecca Lyons, TRIP staff, the Hillside North Neighborhood Association, the Rensselaer Society of Engineers Fraternity, and of course a huge THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS to the School 2 6th Grade students!
The boards are currently installed on five buildings: 348 9th St, 331 10th St, 341 10th, 427 10th, and 443 10th.

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This project was made possible in part through an Artists in Schools Grant, a program funded by The Arts Center of the Capital Region through the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.