Just a few miles west of Kew Gardens sit countless skyscrapers and icons of American engineering.
A few miles east, the scenic beaches of Long Island welcome tourists and city residents alike on scorching summer weekends.
Three Kew Gardens residents hope to use art to marry the two vastly different landscapes together over the next few weeks, and cover up some unsightly graffiti along the way.
After walking over the spray paint-covered 82nd Avenue bridge over the Long Island Rail Road tracks last year, community activists Rosemary Sherman and Carol Lacks have devised a plan to paint murals along each concrete wall on the bridge.
The murals, designed by Kew Gardens artist John Chadwell, will depict two vastly different scenes.
On the western wall of the bridge, which is owned by the Department of Transportation, a 96-foot long, four-foot tall mural of the Manhattan skyline, featuring iconic structures like the Empire State Building, will be painted by a small group of volunteer artists.
On the eastern concrete wall, a beach-scape of an identical size, featuring the famous Montauk Point Lighthouse, will remind passersby of what sits just a few short hours away.
Chadwell says the design was quite easy to come up with.
“The motivation behind the imagery is the LIRR, which is the connector between Manhattan and Montauk,” Chadwell said. “I thought of the contrast between the two ends — serenity on one end and the hustle and bustle on the other — and I wanted to marry the two together.”
Sherman is hoping the murals will help excite area residents and pay tribute to Kew Gardens’ geographical standing, sitting in between the two differing landscapes.
“Kew Gardens is like a stop along the way,” Sherman said. “We’re really excited about it. We think art can inspire the community.”
The painting will take place over the weekends of May 31 and June 7.
The bridge is DOT-owned, and Sherman was approved for a $5,000 grant by the agency’s art department under its Community Commissions program, aimed at helping community-based organizations develop site-specific art.
In accordance with the rules of the program, the murals will be on display for one year.
In addition to the dozen or so volunteers with artistic backgrounds whom Sherman and Lacks expect to help paint, DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera says agency staff will also pitch in.
“DOT Art staff works closely with the project team from design to implementation,” Mosquera said, “and assists the artists with priming and painting the barrier site.”
Mosquera added that the grant money allocated for the project will go toward purchasing materials required to paint the murals.
Sherman, like Chadwell, is champing at the bit to get started at the end of the month.
“It’s lovely and it’s very exciting,” she said. “Any kind of community art inspires the neighborhood and gives you a lift.”