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Queens Chronicle

Rego Park in the form of a mural

An activist and artist team up to beautify the 63rd Drive underpass

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Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:16 am, Thu Jul 24, 2014.

Rego Park Green Alliance Executive Director Yvonne Shortt believes that beautiful things can happen when a community works together to accomplish a goal.

After a month of scraping, priming and painting, dozens of volunteers have transformed the dimly lit 63rd Drive underpass below the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Rego Park into a work of art.

On Friday, the Rego Park Green Alliance officially unveiled its new mural on the east wall of the underpass to the approximately 30 people who worked on the project.

The artwork features five large-scale, vintage-looking photographs of everyday life in the neighborhood attached to the concrete, in addition to vibrant trees, foliage and vegetation of various colors painted against a white background.

Designed by Kew Gardens artist Mayuko Fujino, a Tokyo native, the mural replaces the former significantly faded red and orange wall painting that read “REal GOod.”

Standing alongside the newly painted mural on Monday, Shortt expressed her gratitude to the dozens of volunteer artists, whose ages spanned from eight to Shortt’s 84-year-old mother-in-law who flew in from Seattle to specifically work on the project.

“It’s the people’s work. We had an idea for it but we worked with the people in the community to put it up,” Shortt said. “So it’s something they’ve done. I feel really excited to see it finished.”

As a resident walked past the mural and commented on its beauty, Fujino said she is thrilled to see the design originally came up with in April come to life on a large scale just a few months later.

“I had this in my brain in a tiny picture,” Fujino said. “Now, to see it this huge in real life, it is like a dream.”

The project’s budget was originally slated for $10,000, funded mostly through donations from area businesses and Shortt herself, who gave $2,000 of her own money.

However, the Rego Park resident said they went nearly $2,000 over budget due to unforeseen issues with scraping off the old mural that required the hiring of professionals to power wash the wall.

It took around 30 people eight full days over the course of four weeks in late May and June to scrape away the old mural, stencil Fujino’s design onto the wall and paint it.

The photo boards were installed by the LIRR, and they contain images, taken by residents, of a school bus, a grocery store, an apartment building and a schoolgirl superimposed over a picture of a sidewalk.

Over 300 photographs were submitted over the course of the spring, and Shortt said she expects the pictures on the wall to be switched out in the near future.

“It’s going to be a changing exhibition,” she said. “Ideally, in six to eight months, we’ll change it out with a new artwork exhibition. The idea is to find another community, find another wall there and have the artwork going around Queens.”

Shortt said she specifically would like to see murals, hopefully designed by Fujino, her “partner in crime,” painted in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst within the next year.

In regards to the western wall of the underpass, Shortt has issued a challenge to anyone who wishes to paint their own design.

She said she’ll even pay for the paint.

Welcome to the discussion.