By Jessica Easthope
It’s only the first full week of school, but for Harley Leo, walking into this building every day is not getting old.
Leo and her third grade classmates are marveling at a new mural in the front entrance of St. Mel’s Catholic Academy in Flushing.
“I was really shocked at how beautiful it was,” Leo said. “It’s so beautiful it almost made me cry.”
“I was shocked,” Isabella Aslani, a third grader at St. Mel’s Catholic Academy, said. “It was just so insane.”
“It’s a new year, so we gotta get new stuff,” Jacob Morgan, a third grader at St. Mel’s Catholic Academy, said.
In one corner, students look up at an outer-space scene, on another wall, a message of motivation, and on a third a backpack pops out of an adjacent door. On yet another wall there is a celestial creation that’s grounded in Catholic faith.
The artist is Efren Andaluz. This mural is the product of three and a half weeks of work and 100 cans of spray paint.
Millions have seen other examples of his work all over New York City, but the students at St. Mel’s get to say this mural is all their own.
“When you think about God you think about a grand Creator,” Andaluz said. “I’m just a reflection of Christ, so I’m thinking about Genesis 1, the creation of the universe so we have the stars, the planets, the moon.”
“It reminds me of coloring and all the projects I used to make and what I make now,” Morgan said.
“When I look at the science stuff it looks so creative that I think I might as well decide to be an artist too,” Leo said.
Principal Amy Barron said the mural represents what St. Mel’s is all about.
A few years ago the school was set to close. In an effort to save it, St. Mel’s became an early childhood center, but against all odds the school is now back up to sixth grade and still growing.
“It’s a source of inspiration for them when they enter the building,” Barron said. “We want this to be an exciting place for them to learn and look forward to coming every day.”
Andaluz said incorporating faith into this mural was easy, because it’s something he does in all of them.
“When you think about STEM and now STEAM people think it’s either science or God, but God created science and everything in a mathematically balanced way.”
The goal was to get kids excited about coming to school.
“We’re in the middle of a regrowth process so we’re always revisioning and looking ahead toward the future while still maintaining our roots and where we come from,” Barron said.
You can get more back-to-school content in this week’s issue of The Tablet.
Ring in the new school year with the Diocese of Brooklyn students, like the kids from St. Michael’s who rang an old bell that has become a fixture at the school.
You can also see a breakdown of how Catholic schools are beating out public schools in student numbers.
Plus, get to know the 13 new principals in the Diocese of Brooklyn.