Students Collaborate with Artist Lee Quiñones

Have you seen the new Brooklyn-themed outdoor mural on the walkway to the Richard Perry Theatre?

For several weeks in the arts hallway, students in Dan Herwitt’s Advanced Portfolio class sketched and then painted on eight mural panels, each more than six feet tall, that would create an interlocking story once displayed. They worked under the guidance of renowned street and graffiti artist Lee Quiñones P’27, who answered questions, suggested brushes to use, outlined images such as clouds, and finally added a distinctive Poly Prep.

In January, Quiñones had come to their class and described his own career as an artist, which segued from graffiti art on trains to painting on canvas. While Quiñones generously gave his time in May and June to collaborate on the mural with the students, he was also preparing a show of his own work planned for Portugal.

In mid-June, after the mural panels were hung on a wooden framework near the theatre, Chair of Visual Arts Laura Coppola ’95, P’29, P’35 said, “In paint and spray paint, the work is an offering of what Brooklyn is, with imagery of Coney Island’s Cyclone, Marino Ices, the coming together of natural oases and urban space, and strange beings navigating the surreal.”

What was it like for the students to collaborate on the artwork in the tight space of a hallway?

“I think working on the mural under the guidance of Mr. Herwitt and Lee Quiñones really taught me the importance of collaboration and cohesion,” responded Jordan Millar ’24, “especially when working on such a large scale project. There were so many of us in the class involved with creating the mural, and we each created an individual panel. Therefore, Lee and Mr. Herwitt taught us the importance of balancing our own diverse artistic styles while also making the mural unified and balanced in terms of color scheme and imagery. It was really incredible watching the mural come together!”

“I hope that the theme of Brooklyn really comes across to viewers once the mural is displayed,” Millar added. “We incorporated a lot of symbols and imagery that we felt represented Brooklyn, so I hope that some of those will resonate with the audience. I also hope they are able to appreciate the details within each of the panels!”

“As the mural progressed, so did their imaginations and self agency.”

Afterward Quiñones said of the collaboration, “When teaching, be open to learning, as I always say. It was nothing short of amazing to watch the students exchange ideas and comically stake their space and their pride within the mural. Through the time constraints, they quickly learned about time management and improvising in place of their high expectations. As the mural progressed, so did their imaginations and self agency. It was wonderful to witness those who were engaged, inspired, and invested.  It was as if the mural was communicating a hidden message with them in return, that, be it either a main cast or supporting cast, it’s all a team effort from the beginning to the end.”

Next time you are on the Dyker Heights campus, stop by to enjoy this joyful expression of Brooklyn and celebration of Poly as part of its ecosystem.