What began with a single mural by Brooklyn artist Jeff Beler has transformed an entire school.

A memorial mural created under the direction of artist Jeff Beler has transformed Prospect Heights’s P.S. 9 Teunis G. Bergen School into a giant piece of art.

In May, Beler, who also curates Underhill Walls in Prospect Heights, began working on a memorial mural for the 6-year-old Clara, a P.S.9 student who died from brain cancer. The mural was so well received by the school and the local community board, that he was given permission to paint the entire school. Since then, Beler has been at the school every day to organize and direct the project, which now includes more than 60 talented street artists.

“We’ve got some unknown local artists, friends that I’ve worked with before, artists that have reached out to me on Instagram and artists that I’m a fan of that I’ve reached out to,” says Beler. “There’s a real mix of everybody. We’ve even got some of the fifth graders involved in the murals.”

The project with its theme STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) has attracted and inspired artists from across the globe. The community board has funded the paint for the project, but the artists have done the work for free —  and have been very excited and happy to do so, Beler says.

Jeff Beler, second from right, is the curator of the STEAM mural project at P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights. Photo credit: Anna Bradley-Smith for BK Reader.

“They’ve been fantastic,” he says. “I’ve worked with professionals and there’s been no attitude, they’re very humble. It’s been a very happy school project.”

Beler, who received an email from Clara’s father telling him he loved what had grown out of her mural, adds that the response from the community has been a daily positive reminder of how art can uplift and inspire.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of August. On Saturday, September 22, the mural will be officially unveiled with a carnival-themed celebration on the school’s playground, and a meet and greet with all the artists.

Since Beler started his work in May, more Brooklyn schools have raised interested in similar projects. In October, he will begin a new project for P.S. 316  Charles O. Dewey School in Sunset Park.

More about the P.S. 9 project and Beler’s art can be found on Instagram by searching #steammuralproject or @jeffbeler.


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Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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