old lyme

PARJE Unveils Second Completed Mural in Old Lyme

Public Art for Racial Justice Education is a group of volunteers from southeastern Connecticut that uses artwork to address issues of racial justice.

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Public Art for Racial Justice Education, or PARJE, started in December 2020, six months after George Floyd was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

In Connecticut, the tragedy united people from Norwich, Old Saybrook, New London, Old Lyme and neighboring towns and started a movement that uses artwork to talk about race.

"Kind of bridging the gap between past historical things that have happened in our country and finding a positive outlet today and in the future to bring people together," said BIPOC artist Jasmine Oyola-Blumenthal.

The first mural is located in Norwich and depicts a timeline of civil rights movements and activists from the area.

PARJE hired Oyola-Blumenthal to create their second work of art at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School, and it's one that acquired the help of more than 60 students.

"It represents teamwork and friendship. It has a bunch of different ethnicities and represents everyone as a whole," said seventh grader Addison Ardnt.

In March, students were asked what "welcoming" means to them. With the artist, they came up with the design displayed on the wall today: people of all backgrounds working together to cross a river.

"A lot of students talked about race, embracing their differences," said Oyola-Blumenthal.

But the mural not only works to represent the school. The colorful and thought-provoking piece shows wetlands to represent the Old Lyme Sound as well as 14 stacked stoned to symbolize the fourteen enslaved people who have been identified in Old Lyme.

Oyola-Blumenthal also painted the Amistad, an illegal slave ship that docked in New London. A small pile of stacked books represents Black abolitionist David Ruggles who taught slaves how to read and write.

Art teacher Thelma Halloran said the mural also highlights Old Lyme's positive characteristics.

"They've had a number of refugees who have come to town who have found a home, a large number of military families who have found home and kindness and support here," Halloran said.

The school and greater community celebrated the project's completion Wednesday, where parents and members of the public were invited to view the mural. PARJE's third mural is set to be revealed in May in New London.

The message of welcoming will be brought to other towns. The school told NBC Connecticut that the mural will be photographed and printed onto a canvass so it can be installed in schools in Old Lyme and throughout the state.

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