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New mural adds new faces to diverse Sunset Park block

Fresh artwork atop of a wall belonging to nonprofit Turning Point Education Center inspires residents to look ahead
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    Local Brooklyn artist Vaimoana "Moana" Niumeitolu was given a grant by the Asian Wome|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

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    UPROSE, a multiethnic community group UPROSE that partners with Turning Point Brookly|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

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    "I was excited it came out great and it looks beautiful," said Danielle Ruiz, whose f|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

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    Staff, volunteers, and those helped by Turning Point gathered on Aug. 29 with salsa m|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

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    Photo of the facade which took two weeks to paint and one week to be installed atop o|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

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    Mural artist Niumeitolu speaks to the Sunset Park community about the connections she|Tracy Lofgren Lee/Metro

A once-blank façade of thenonprofit Turning Point Brooklyn is now a vibrant, living canvas in Sunset Park.

As its colors stand out among the brick and concrete row of three- to four-story buildings on Fourth Avenue, the mural — titled "We Come from the Future" — blends a sense of hope and possibility for 24-year-old Danielle Ruiz.

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"It brings something out and for people to stop and to look at," Ruiz said at itsunveiling on Aug. 29.

The parachute cloth mural features Ruiz's face in the red, orange and yellow hues, along with profiles of her mother and 3-year-old daughter. "It's beautiful to see three of our faces on the wall. I’m pretty excited to just walk by sometime and see it," says Ruiz.

Other faces on mural include a portrait of a 12-year-old Muslim girl asking for justice while wearing her head scarf.

Selected by Turning Point, as well as local partners including multiethnic community group UPROSE, the mural showcases faces representing people from different parts of the world: from China to Jamaica and Palestine to Puerto Rico.

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The mural symbolizes not only the nature of Sunset Park’s melting pot, but also serves as a powerful message for New Yorkers passing through Turning Point, said its Executive Director Tata Traore-Rogers.

Many of those visitors are homeless and stop in for a quick shower through Turning Point's aptly named "Shower Project," while others seek longer-term treatment for substance abuse problems. A few come by for HIV/AIDS testing, and a number visit for counseling with a range of health and mental health issues.

But all of them could use a helping hand, including William Cotto.

"I needed a GED," Cotto, 34, said at the mural's unveiling. "I'm a single father and have custody of my son, and I wanted to go to school … I just wanted to be an inspiration to him.

Cotto visited the Turning Point offices at 39th Street near Fourth Avenue almost two years ago, where he began to visit its education center and attend adult classes.

Cottosoon passed the GED test, he said, forever changing the course of his life. Cotto now spends his days as a peer educator for the same group that helped him.

The mural Cotto stood in front of was two and a half years in the making for local artist Vaimoana “Moana” Niumeitolu, whose previous artistic expressions have been witnessed as far away as Capetown, South Africa to as nearby as the Bronx.

"She wanted a wall," Traore-Rogers said, "and she came to us."

Niumeitolu told Metro each face in the mural carries the inter-generational theme that pinpoints the family bond found in Sunset Park.

"Each story has a special meaning for me," Niumeitolu said.

 

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