Canvas complete: Artist wraps months-long mural project at P’Heights school

Left an impressionist: Artist Jeff Henriquez painted a mural of Pablo Picasso’s studio on the handball court at Prospect Heights’s PS 9 as part of the project to decorate the learning house’s exterior with artworks.
Photo by Jason Speakman

Talk about an art school!

A local street artist turned the exterior walls of a Prospect Heights elementary school into his latest canvas, recruiting students and fellow creators to paint dozens of murals on the learning house that he said improve the minds of its pupils as much as anything they might learn inside.

“There’s something very educational about a lot of them, they have positive messages like love yourself,” said Jeff Beler. “Parents will have a cup of coffee while looking at them. I get thank yous on a daily basis.”

Beler set his sights on the Underhill Avenue school last year after a neighbor saw him working on another project in the area, and told him about the tragic death of a former student, Clara Ely, who died from brain cancer at 6-years-old in October, he said.

The artist then spoke to Ely’s father and PS 9’s principal about painting a mural on a wall near the school’s outdoor garden to honor the girl, and with their blessing got to work collecting donated supplies to create the tribute with the help of other muralists and some pupils, which they completed in May.

The finished piece, “Clara’s Garden,” impressed school leaders so much that they approached Beler about decorating the school in even more murals — an offer the 25-year street artist pounced on, recruiting other talented hands to help in the effort, many of whom offered their time after seeing him document the project on social media, he said.

“Everyone was chomping at the bit,” Beler said.

The months-long endeavor resulted in some 73 artworks of all sizes, including painted depictions of science guy Bill Nye, Pablo Picasso’s studio, Lego figurines, and taxi cabs, the last of which artists are putting the finishing touches on this week, according to Beler.

And PS 9 is likely not the last Brooklyn school to get the technicolor treatment from the artist, who said he’s been approached by heads of other learning houses about similar projects at their buildings.

Nerd alert: A likeness of scientist Bill Nye is one of the many murals that artists and students painted on the building.
Photo by Jason Speakman

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