For nearly 10 years, “In Search Of Harmony Bay,” a 34-foot-long wall sculpture, greeted A Train commuters and airport travelers who passed through the Howard Beach station at Coleman Square.
It was taken down in August as renovation and reconstruction progressed on the station, readying it for the new AirTrain service.
The artist, Esther Grillo, who has a studio near the square, said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will not be putting it back up. She is looking for a new home for the mythical water creatures that she designed especially for Howard Beach.
Although she moved to Rockaway about 7 years ago, Grillo was living in Howard Beach in 1986 when the notorious incident that resulted in the death of a young black man took place. The whole community was pegged as racist.
“I got the inspiration for the sculpture because I wanted to let people know that most of us are not racist,” she said. “I created mythical creatures, all the same peaceful color, looking for harmony together.”
Rendered on wood and concrete, “In Search Of Harmony Bay” is colored the calm, cool hues of water. It blends blues, purples and greens as Grillo’s dolphin-like creations seemingly swim from one end of the 34-foot panel to the other.
Grillo said that when construction of the new Coleman Square station is complete, the MTA will place advertisements where her sculpture once hung.
Sandra Bloodworth, of the MTA, said that art work will be installed in the Howard Beach train station platform when reconstruction work is completed. One percent of the budget for each station’s rehabilitation is allocated for art.
“Creative Stations was a program to place temorary art in MTA stations that had not undergone capital programs,” Bloodworth said. “An art selection panel, with community input, will choose permanent art for the Howard Beach station.”
Details for the decoration of the station platform have not yet been determined.
“I’ve heard from people that they miss it,” she said. “It was really only supposed to be in the station for two years, but it was so popular that the MTA decided to keep it there until they had to take it down for construction.”
Funded by a $5,000 MTA Creative Stations Grant and $4,500 in contributions from neighborhood businesses and community members, “In Search Of Harmony Bay” was painted in 1992 with the help of several students from John Adams High School in Ozone Park.
Grillo has been a teacher of math, algebra and keyboarding at the school for 20 years. She enlisted the help of special ed students, some of whom were graffiti vandals, when painting her wall sculpture.
They were paid for their time with grant money, some of which was provided by the United Federation of Teachers.
Although Grillo maintained her sculpture by touching it up about once a year, there has been minimal damage done to the large three-dimensional wall hanging.
She hopes that some organization will find her mythical water creatures a new home. They are presently being stored in her Rockaway studio.
“I was hoping that ‘In Search Of Harmony Bay’ might be put in the train station at Beach 116th Street in Rockaway,” Grillo said, “but the MTA won’t allow reinstallation of art work that has been previously used.”
Worth $10,000 to $15,000, according to Grillo, she will pass on her wall sculpture to a new owner for just $500, the cost of getting it ready for new installation.
“It needs to be covered by a roof,” she said, “and whoever takes it must provide the truck and arrange for their own installation.”
The wall sculpture is in 5 50-pound sections of about 4 by 8 feet each.
Other water-themed murals by Esther Grillo may be seen on the wave-shaped concrete shelters along Shore Front Parkway and the boardwalk in Rockaway.
Her whimsical water-themed artwork can be seen at Beach 84th, Beach 102nd and Beach 107th Streets. This summer, she and her young helpers will paint the storm shelter at Beach 74th Street.
Grillo is a member of the Rockaway Artists Alliance and two of her free-standing sculptures can be viewed at the group’s Fort Tilden studio in the Gateway National Recreation Area.
The RAA sTudio 6 Gallery will be open on Saturday and Sunday afternoons from December 15th through January 13th for its holiday “Winter Light” exhibition.
Any agency or organization interested in acquiring “In Search Of Harmony Bay” may call Grillo at 945-3131.