Families visiting the Sol Bloom Playground on the Upper West Side this summer have a new view, the vibrant, primary-colored murals created by the students of PS84, The Lillian Weber School of The Arts, and internationally renowned artist and author Herve Tullét.
While the murals seemed to have popped up overnight at the end of April 2018, they had their origins following the 2016 presidential election. Almost immediately, students began expressing concern about the safety of their classmates at the culturally diverse school. Parent volunteer Virgil de Voldère said, “The kids would ask, 'will my friend be deported to Mexico?'"
De Voldère and his fellow members of the school’s Cultural Arts Committee enlisted the help of his friend and fellow French immigrant, Herve Tullét, to lead a year-long series of art-based workshops to encourage the entire student body to share and learn about all of the diverse cultures and backgrounds represented at their school.
Called “Blooms of Multiculturalism,” the initiative started in Fall 2017 with professional development for the school’s staff. In March 2018, students in grades 1-5 worked with Tullét in multi-sensory workshops that included music, painting, and the creation of murals that are now featured within the halls of the school. Students were given a paint color according to their classroom and instructed to stand next to a student with a different color. Tullét then asked the students to “Paint a circle,” “Make a swirl!” and “Now take two steps to the right!,” while inspiring music played. The result is a vibrant, collaborative mural.
In April 2018, more than 30 parent volunteers were able to secure permits for an outdoor, permanent mural within a week. They worked tirelessly, and quickly, to create a blank canvas of white paint for Tullét and the students on the outside of the school building. As soon as the white base coat was dry, Herve Tullét worked from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning to complete two 45-foot murals on either side of the building. On Monday, April 30, the fifth grade students were told to wear “the worst clothes they had” to finish the student portion of the mural between Tullét's work.
"We are all about creating connections among students in a school that is extremely diverse," said the school's principal, Evelyn Lolis. "The wall is a symbol of how beautiful diversity is, and how collaboratively we can create beauty."
The vision is for Tullét and the student’s collaborative work to become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood, and to create an additional mural on 92nd street during the 2018-2019 school year.
"It's a wonderful collective work," said Tullét, "And at the end we've created something that will remain forever!”
About Herve Tullét
Hervé Tullet is known for his prodigious versatility, from directing ad campaigns to designing fabric for Hermès. But his real love is working with children, for whom he has published dozens of books, including the New York Times bestsellers Press Here, Mix It Up!, and Let's Play! He lives in New York City.