This summer, a playground at P.S./M.S. 108 in East Harlem boasts a new 300-foot mural—thanks to a collaboration between FIT alumni and faculty—and two generous sponsors.
Amanda Munz, Fashion Merchandising Management ’12, supports New York City public schools through her nonprofit, The Fashion Foundation. She collects samples that fashion companies would otherwise throw away or burn and sells them in her Long Island showroom. With the proceeds, she gifts 14 underfunded public schools with art supplies, books, and toys.
Munz heard that P.S./M.S. 108 opened a new playground for a new class of pre-K children, but there was nothing to play with. “It was very depressing,” she said. “Just black concrete, brick walls, and windows with bars on them.”
Purchasing playground equipment would cost upwards of $100,000—far exceeding The Fashion Foundation’s resources—but Munz bought them toys and equipment, giving the children something to play with. Then she reached out to FIT for help in painting a mural.
Her request found its way to Dan Shefelman, associate professor of Illustration, who is also creative director of The Animation Project (TAP).
“The principal asked us to bring in the culture and history of East Harlem,” Shefelman says. “My response was one better: Start with the creation of the Earth.” The mural begins with hot lava and dinosaurs, and depicts the Lenape tribe, Dutch settlers, and five Puerto Rican leaders who lived near the school.
Shefelman brought on an all-FIT team to execute his vision and paid them using funds from TAP, which is supported by the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Most were recent Illustration grads for whom this was their first professional assignment. Sammi Chan ’18 and Kayla Reilly ’19 were the designers and project managers. Emma Debobes ’19, Joshua Filemon ’19, Stephanie Giovinco ’19, Zander Krakowiak ’18, and Tiffany Tang ’19 also helped paint. Angel Garcia ’13 and Victor Saint-Hilaire ’13, professional muralists with the nonprofit Groundswell, were brought on as consultants. And Computer Animation and Interactive Media ’18 alumni Nailah Duliepre and Amy Zhao, staff members at TAP, are creating an augmented-reality experience that will teach students at the school more about each event depicted in the mural.
The Fashion Foundation paid more than $4,000 for supplies. Munz is immensely proud of this investment into beautifying the school. “It’s an everlasting project,” she says. “It’ll be there for decades to come.”