Saturday, June 6, 2020

D&R Greenway Announces First Strokes on Public Art Mural Celebrating Diverse Communities Honoring the Delaware River

D&R Greenway Land Trust announces that first brush strokes of paint are being applied to its Public Art Mural celebrating their upcoming Kayak Education Program on the banks of the Delaware River at Bordentown Beach. This program is designed to increase water access and awareness of watershed protection for all people who live along the Delaware, recently named River of the Year 2020 by American Rivers. The mural is to be completed by July 4. Meanwhile, the public is welcome to enjoy watching its progress at Bordentown Beach, maintaining social distance.

This announcement comes in June, celebrated as American Rivers Month across the country. More than 15 million people get their drinking water from the Delaware River watershed. To create a public statement about the importance of water and the river, and the diverse communities that benefit from it, D&R Greenway partnered with the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s youth program, FUTURO, and with the City of Bordentown.

D&R Greenway thanks Bordentown City's Mayor Jim Lynch, local resident and Environmental Commission member Joel Dowshen, and Bob Erikson, Director of Public Works for their warm welcome and support. Mayor Lynch reflects on the importance of the Delaware in his community and in his personal life: “I literally grew up on the Delaware River. Whether it was fishing on Yapewi Aquatic Boat Club’s Docks at 3:00 a.m. with my Uncle Babe or docking my first boat at Bordentown Yacht Club in 1971 under the tutelage of Past Commodore Bill Feaster, the River has had a huge impact on my life. After class let out at Bordentown Military Institute, it was down to the River for a water skiing adventure until dark. I became the youngest Commodore in Bordentown Yacht Club's history at 21 years old. Losing my father at age 12 was not easy for me. The Delaware River became my outlet, with great family support. What was once a river with many challenges of neglect and pollution has blossomed into this gem.  It’s through D&R Greenway’s efforts and many others that this award is well deserved and long overdue.”

The mural-in-progress is under the artistic leadership of Princeton resident Marlon Davila (right).  Like many of the students he worked with on this project, he is first generation, his parents having immigrated to the US from Guatemala.

To design the mural, Davila and Nadeem Demian of D&R Greenway, also first generation with parents from Egypt, worked with high school youth from Trenton and Princeton. The students were provided presentations about the important historic and natural resources of the Delaware River, and invited to create art to express their cultural and individual views of environmental impacts on the Delaware. This spring, in two virtual workshops led by Tulia Jimenez-Vergara and Ana Obika of FUTURO, students presented their artwork for review by the mural artist and visiting artist Ryan Lilienthal of Princeton.

Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway, explains how these virtual sessions inspired the mural, “It was enlightening, during these often challenging times, to see these young artists share their feelings about going outdoors and observing the trees, plants and water.  Creative drawings interpreted river tides, the importance of clean drinking water and the impacts we as humans have on our environment.” Mead continued, “These colorful and unique drawings inspired the artist to incorporate the images into his overall mural design.”

The art will decorate the 40-foot shipping container in which will be stored the watercraft and equipment for D&R Greenway’s upcoming kayak program, based at Bordentown Beach, that will be offered as a scheduled educational outing for interested groups as soon as it is safe to do so.

Joel Dowshen of Bordentown talks about how the values of his community are aligned with the project, “We in Bordentown City are absolutely thrilled to be part of this exciting and important endeavor. It reflects many of the goals we in Bordentown have set for ourselves; those regarding the proud diversity of our community, the close working relationship between our citizens, our businesses, and our government, and the commitment of all those constituencies to maintaining and enhancing spectacular natural resources surrounding us.”

Renowned in the Princeton area for his John Street mural celebrating monarch butterflies, artist Davila declares, "I feel honored to be a part of this program that is going to create environmental awareness, inspire creativity and encourage peace and harmony. It is special to me because I am able to create a mural that amplifies the voices of the students in the LALDEF FUTURO program. I love that several communities have come together and have been willing to help out with what they can."

Strategic Community Conservation Fellow Nadeem Demian managed this unique project. As part of his one-year Princeton University Fellowship with D&R Greenway, Nadeem oversaw the grant-supported activities.

Nadeem Demian conveys his experience of the unique waterfront project: “The kayak program and coinciding art mural is a prime example of community conservation. A major part of our purpose in connecting people newly to the Delaware River is to strengthen their ties to it, and demonstrate best ways to protect it. Collaborating with these energetic partners has been so rewarding -- especially with artist Marlon Davila and the Latin American Defense and Education Fund students. I am experiencing D&R Greenway as creating tight, long-lasting bonds with these members of the Latino community, effectively broadening the scope of D&R Greenway’s preservation mission. While the COVID-19 crisis has been a significant roadblock, together, we were able to overcome adversity. We are now beginning this mural as a symbol of perseverance, dedication, and love.”

"My favorite view is the sun setting over the Delaware River," says Linda Mead, President and CEO of D&R Greenway Land Trust, who resides in the Delaware River watershed.  "More than 25 years ago, I was honored to co-found the Delaware River Sojourn, a multi-day annual kayaking trip on the Delaware.  I am excited to launch this new opportunity, in a community built on the water.  It is by experiencing the river, and learning to love it that future leaders will take action to protect it."

Tulia Jimenez-Vergara looks forward to having the students and their families visit Bordentown to see their images depicted in the public art mural.  She sums up their experience perfectly, “Our FUTURO students are happy to be involved in a forever project.”

D&R Greenway is committed to providing the benefits of a clean and healthy environment to all people who live in the region. Funding is provided by the William Penn Foundation and the Alliance for Watershed Education (AWE) for the Delaware River.