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  • Words by Kristy Calabro, Photos by Kristy Calabro

A Garden Mural Grows in Brooklyn

A very special garden mural dedication happened recently at PS 9, a public elementary school in Prospect Heights. The project is for 6-year-old Clara Ely, a young, beautiful soul, who was taken from us too soon from brain cancer. Clara loved art and the Underhill Walls, so there's no better person to take on this initiative than the curator of the above-mentioned walls, Jeff Beler. Clara’s family and PS 9’s Principal Sandra D’Avilar, contacted Jeff last Fall. That's when he first proposed the idea for this tribute that is bringing together this beautiful community. PS9 was so important to Clara and having this mural in her honor is very special to her family. It features some of Clara's favorite things like flowers, rainbows, and butterflies. Below the mural there will be a small garden of native and healing plants near the St. Mark's entrance.

Located within walking distance of institutions such as, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (where Jeff is curator of The Chili Pepper Festival happening this year on September 29th), PS 9 is in one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods. Active engagement is important to PS 9 and the education of their students. This "ever-involved" school community nurtures their children and celebrates its unique diversities with many contributions coming from local musicians, artists, and other professionals who teach and inspire the next generation. Some PS 9 students currently have their art exhibited as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s “A Year With Children 2018” annual presentation now until June 13.

(from L to R: Peter McMath, Justin Winslow, and Curator Jeff Beler)

Jeff brought together a special group of artist friends who donated their time, some he has worked with before and others working with for the first time. The paint was supplied by PS 9 and by The Alpha Workshops, a school where Jeff teaches.

The first piece of the mural completed was a giraffe which has a definite signature style painted by Charrow @charrowface. It shows its long neck reaching up into the sky. It symbolizes striving to achieve your goals no matter how unattainable they may seem. It's communicating to the children to keep going and to try their very best. The giraffe's name is Lou for Jeff’s Mom, Louise who passed this January, which was a nice way to honor her memory. She loved these gentle, majestic creatures.

Lou the giraffe by Charrow


Adding to the tribute are Hektad spreading his positive message of, “ I Choose LOVE”, Turtlecaps with his legendary turtle character and parrots, Sean Slaney with his cheerful, hand drawn stencils, Nile Onyx's (@nileonyx) - (@call her al) & (@dubious_contessa), cheetah in an exotic garden scene, and a delicate hummingbird by OG Millie. Towards the other side near the corner of Underhill Ave. and St. Mark's Ave., there's Justin Winslow’s (winslowworld), rendering of real-life cat, Gus walking over a rainbow, and other cute animals, with botanical art by Peter McMath (@ptermcmathnyc). AnnaDrawsEveryday added an illustration of a young boy peeking around the corner and Marivel Mejia (@marivel333) painted a magical girl swinging on a cherry blossom tree. There’s also Hiraku’s creepy cute monster reaching out for an extended daisy from an adorable little friend wearing a shirt that says, “Be Happy.”

Hiraku's cute monster and friend with a message of "Be Happy"

Back near Lou, the giraffe, there’s a beautiful pairing of a butterfly by Reanna Godfrey (@reanna_mua) and inspirational words by My Life in Yellow – “Freedom is found in blue skies.” Many cultures associate butterflies with our souls and they represent rebirth, change, hope, and the journey of life. Some believe they are winged spiritual messengers that are used by angels to communicate with loved ones on earth.

Butterfly by Reanna Godfrey with My Life in Yellow, "Freedom is found in blue skies."

Tribute murals are about remembrance and celebrating a person's life. This one at PS 9 is no different. Every time we pass this school or see pictures of it, we will say her name and continue to remember Clara. Through her love of art and through this garden mural, she lives on.


The tribute mural continues to grow as the community board has agreed to expand the project to other parts including the playground and will be involving the students of PS 9. If you would like to visit, it's located at 80 Underhill Ave. Nileonyx, Justin Winslow, and Peter McMath are putting the finishing touches on their parts and in a few weeks, there will be an official dedication for Clara with family, friends, and assemblyman, Walter Mosley on hand.

Follow Jeff Beler for the latest information. Underhill Walls, will be having a block party on Saturday, May 19th. Underhill Ave. and St. John's Pl. Stop by and celebrate with this very special community!

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