Artistic expression came alive in the halls of a New York high school this month with the help of the legendary 5Pointz artists and Syreeta Gates, who headed a colorful beautification project dubbed “Operation Skittles.”
Led by Gates and the graffiti team, in less than 48 hours the beige walls of August Martin High School in the Jamaica section of Queens, New York were flipped into murals of women of color, intricate complex characters, and other subjects. Gates also developed a “dreamers” hallway with Harlem-based artist Ronald Draper. The project paid homage to activists like Phillip Agnew of The Dream Defenders and others who have spoken out regarding officially-sanctioned racism against people of color.
Take a look at some of the images from “Operation Skittles” here. (The candy brand Skittles is not a sponsor or funder of the project, Gates told us.)
Phetus 88. Source: Alex Colby
Led by Gates, the “dream director” of The Future Project came together with Jonathan “Meres One” Cohen and Marie Cecile Flageul to bring together graffiti artists from all over the world to enlighten high school students about the extraordinary art form.
Russell Simmons. Source: Slaven Vlasic / Getty
The high school, which focuses on aviation, has a huge African-American population and also has notable alumni, such as Russell Simmons (shown), Kelly Price, and Lloyd Banks.
Topaz. Source: Alex Colby
Recently, August Martin High School has faced a drastically low graduation rate of 39 percent and was even dubbed the “worst school” in New York City. Operation Skittles is working hard to change up the energy and environment of the school.
Operation Skittles at work. Source: Alex Colby
“We want to make it a place where students want to be, want to learn again – that’s the inspiration that we’re hoping to provide with this project,” FivePointz’s Marie Cecile Flageul said.
MeresOne (Curator of 5 Pointz). Source: Alex Colby
In addition to inspiring the students, this is the first project the legendary 5Pointz group has conquered since the demolishment of their home on Jackson Ave. The mecca was taken down and replaced with two high-rise buildings in January 2014. NewsOne covered the preservation fight in 2013.
Piece by MeresOne. Source: Alex Colby
The project was special to the artists since they viewed “Operation Skittles” as a way to boost students’ morale.
ZaOne. Source: Alex Colby
“This is not about going to a school and painting for a weekend,” Cecile Flageul said. “This is the beginning of a long relationship with the school and its students. We’re hoping the inspiration will help get the graduation rate to 60 percent and, of course, we are thrilled to be back in Queens.”
Shown from left: Rebekah Kennedy, Erica Ford, Meres One (5 PointZ Curator), Marie Flageul (5 PointZ Curator), Syreeta Gates (Dream Director), Twin, Andrew Gutterson, Sarah Kang, AU, Trivella Osbourn (Dream Team Member)
Source: Alex Colby / Alex Colby
The murals will be open to the public on June 11 from 4-8 p.m. at 156-10 Baisley Boulevard in Queens. Learn more about Gates and The Future Project here.