EAST HARLEM, Manhattan- “All these bright colors make me feel like I’m falling in a cloud,” Kimberly Gil smiled. The paint is an escape for Kimberly Gil. “When we first opened the cans and when we first started to stir the paint, I was fascinated by the colors,” she remembered. She’s a 6th grader at PS 206 in East Harlem learning how to pour, cut and roll. Her school’s walls were turned into a canvas by the nonprofit Publicolor.
“When we go into do presentations, we ask the kids how they feel about the colors in the schools and a lot of them say it’s depressing, it’s dark and it’s just not a happy place to be in,” Kayla Porter, teaching artist and former student, explained. It’s been the same story for decades prompting Ruth Lande Shuman to act. "Back in the late 80s and early 90s there were a lot of articles about the rising dropout rate and so I was always thinking how could I use what I’m learning to help engage students in their education so they’re not dropping out," she said.
She’s captivated by color and believes when you open the can, you open the mind. “[Color] has the power to affect our moods, our attitudes and our behavior," she explained. So, she created this free multi-level program for high risk, low-income students giving them a chance to express themselves and gain translatable skills. “I mainly learned timing, how to keep myself on pace and how to keep myself focused," Deliyon, a longtime participant, described. “Organization when they’re doing the workstation, responsibility to start a project and complete it and just teamwork, collaboration, community,” Porter added.
The organization visits at least three different schools each semester, brushing the public spaces with a little brightness. “And the best part, they let us pick the colors," Gil exclaimed. And for kids like Kimberly, they’re also painting a new perspective and purpose. “When I come into school, I see all these bright colors, and [now] I’m happy to come to school,” she smiled.
Produced by: Kim Pestalozzi