Montauk Eighth Graders Bring Sunshine To Recycling Center Through Art

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Murals illustrating Montauk seascapes and the brilliance of the sunset now playfully greet East Hampton residents at the Montauk Recycling Center as they sort through their glass, cardboard and paper—thanks to nine Montauk School students.

An effort of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, the murals were painted over a period of months in an effort to spruce up the otherwise utilitarian facility and reinforce how important Montauk’s environment really is. The eighth grade students hung up their murals last Tuesday morning.

Roger Cronley, a facility operator at the recycling center, said he was duly impressed by their work.

“The first one is called ‘The Andrea Gail,’ the boat from the Perfect Storm—it almost looks like a Picasso,” he said. “It’s a phenomenal painting. People are flabbergasted.”

Last spring, CCOM’s chairman of the board, Dr. Robert Stern, approached the Montauk School with an idea that his wife, Daphne, who is an artist, had come up with.

“She always looks at broad expanses of nothing and likes to put something beautiful there,” he said of his wife this week. “We’re partial to kids’ talents. Adults can take care of themselves and we don’t see enough of the kids’ stuff. We had a feeling they would be talented, but we had no idea they’d be this talented.”

Working with Montauk School art teacher Paul Salzman, the entire seventh grade was asked to create color pencil drawings of seascapes in a sort of contest to select nine murals that would be hung indefinitely at the recycling center.

The winners—Gianna Gregorio, Camila Mattiauda, James Kim, Myra Arshad, Teddy Esposito, Yannah Jones, Hannah Mirando, Alicia Benis and Wendy Arias—were selected and worked on their masterpieces every day before and after school, from April to June, and finished up in September.

Twelve-year-old Gianna, whose painting is of a woman in a bikini sitting next to a man sunbathing, said she often came in from 7 to 8 a.m. and stayed after school until 4 or 5 p.m. to work on her mural.

Gianna’s classmate Teddy Esposito, 13, said this was his first time creating a big mural—a sunset scene with beach grass and a seagull.

“I am pretty proud of it, if I do say so myself,” he said. “I was thinking of the beach next to the IGA on the dunes.”

The murals were painted with acrylic paint on plywood donated by Riverhead Building Supply and sealed with polyurethane so they will last for a while, according to Mr. Salzman. They were hung by wire around fence posts at the recycling center. Mr. Salzman said if they need to be touched up now and again he will do so.

“I felt it was great to connect the community to the school through art,” he said.

Dr. Stern said not only did the students fill a blank space with art, but they exhibited a deep knowledge of the place where they live.

“Advocating for the protection of the environment has to do with education and awareness,” he said. “It was great to see how aware the kids are and what they think about Montauk. I think the work speaks for itself.”

Gianna, who said seeing the work completed and put on exhibition was amazing, also said that the murals improve the environment at the recycling center, too.

“The murals definitely change the whole look of the recycling center,” she said. “Before, all the smells and the sounds and crunches and clangs of the garbage being disposed of wasn’t so pretty. The recycling center feels so far from town—it doesn’t feel like part of Montauk, but now with the murals, the two come together.”

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