Painting walls, erasing borders

ChinÚn Maria and a colleague at work on “One World, Our Children” in Albany Plaza. Photo: Scott Townell†

ChinÚn Maria’s “One World, Our Children” will soon be downtown’s largest mural


Late last month, ChinÚn Maria, a street artist from Vermont, laid down tarp, rollers and 10 gallons of white primer along a nondescript wall on the World Trade Center campus. Before long, she and a few colleagues had readied the 12-foot-high partition behind Site 5 in Albany Plaza for a more creative endeavor: a colorful panoply that, when finished, will be the largest mural in Lower Manhattan.

In Maria’s signature style — bold strokes and a vivacious color palette, with no two adjacent panels precisely the same tone — the 200-foot-long project-in-progress depicts refugee girls of diverse races and ethnicities, all of them united by a ribbon running across the length of piece.

The ribbon includes the words of children invited by the artist to describe an ideal future and symbolizing, the artist said, “the fabric that holds us together as global citizens.”

“I was raised in a vibrant household and I want my work to reflect my roots and heritage that I am deeply connected to,” said Maria, who is of Colombian heritage.

“One World, Our Children” was commissioned by the Downtown Alliance after the organization’s president, Jessica Lappin, saw the artist’s work on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center.

“The project began with an idea that it would be very powerful to create a mural that includes the words of children globally, and bring about a positive change to the dialogue surrounding the refugee crisis,” said Maria, an ambassador to the United Nations High Commission of Refugees.

The project echoes the Alliance’s 2007 initiative, “Re:Construction,” which repurposed construction sites in Lower Manhattan as temporary canvases for public art. That initiative brought nearly 30 installations to unexpected locations, including scaffolding, subway entrances and Jersey barriers to enliven outsized construction projects. They also encouraged the public to interact with the pieces.

In a similar vein, the current installation, also temporary, is accessorized with park furniture, pingpong tables and a selfie kiosk to facilitate portraits with One World Trade Center as a backdrop. “All of our efforts have been to make Albany Plaza more welcoming to people who live and work in the area as well as for those who are passing through while they visit the neighborhood from afar,” Elizabeth Lutz, a spokesperson for Downtown Alliance, said.

“One World, Our Children” is open as a work-in progress for the public to view from 1-6p.m., Monday through Saturday, for the next two weeks.

Maria, 32, has long advocated on behalf of social causes globally, particularly art education for children, history and immigration rights.

“This is the best experience I have ever experienced while painting!,” said Maria, a former professional alpine skier whose artwork has been exhibited in galleries and on walls across North America and Europe. “I hope this piece will make the viewer reflect on the world and how we need to unite together.”