West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
Volume 77, Number 17 | Sept. 26 - Oct. 2, 2007

'Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Students held up their certificates of participation in a graffiti mural project at the Manhattan School for Career Development on Sept. 19. Front row center, parent coordinator Maria Ayala; to the left of her, holding honorary plaques, graphic artist Martin Medina (in cap) and renowned East Village graffiti muralist Antonio “Chico” Garcia. Third from right, Principal Tobias Weissman and, far right, Assistant Principal Joe Jiacalone.

Chico and the man lend a hand to beautify school

By Jefferson Siegel

A school building on E. Fourth St. near First Ave. had a typical, nondescript facade until recently, when graffiti muralist Antonio “Chico” Garcia spent a Saturday on a ladder over the front door. When he was done, the school’s name, Manhattan School for Career Development, was creatively and colorfully displayed for all who passed.

But this neighborhood beautification project didn’t stop at the door. Chico and graphic artist Martin Medina spent eight Saturdays, joined by students at the East Village school, creating murals that would make Michelangelo envious.

A party was held last Wednesday in the school’s now-colorful lobby to celebrate the completion of the mural project. Principal Tobias Weissman faced a crowd of students and parents to ask, “You know the expression, ‘There’s a woman behind the scenes?’ Who do you think was responsible for getting the murals in the lobby?”

The crowd cheered in unison, “Maria Ayala!”

Ayala, the school’s parent coordinator, worked with the school to improve the quality of education and the students’ surroundings. She brought Chico to the attention of school authorities and the rest is art history.

The school is in District 75, the citywide special education district for students with learning difficulties and emotional issues. Chico is an alumnus, having spent a year there in his youth during which Ayala said, “he learned how to read.”

The lobby murals depict colorful Manhattan street signs and notable landmarks. Ayala recalled that when Chico suggested painting the Brooklyn Bridge next to a street sign reading “125th Street,” the students chided him for moving the bridge so far uptown.

The party was held to honor Chico, Medina and the students who worked for eight Saturdays to create the interior murals. Students received framed certificates of participation. Chico and Medina were honored with plaques. And the neighborhood has a school to be proud of.

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