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Oysterponds Elementary School students help LI artist illustrate mural

Treat others how you want to be treated.

The phrase often associated with empathy and respect will be permanently embedded into the Oysterponds Elementary School building after all 101 elementary school students completed a wall mural with the slogan last Friday. 

“It’s timeless, it’s universal, and it’s especially important today, in our community, in our country, and in our world,” East Hampton author-illustrator Joyce Raimondo said. 

The 4-by-8 foot “unity” mural, designed by Ms. Raimondo, depicts a diverse group of students playing and sharing together. The project is part of an anti-bullying education campaign within Ms. Raimondo’s art education program, Imagine That! The anti-bullying movement is intended to teach students about positive character.

“It’s to teach them to get along with each other, to be inclusive, and really how to celebrate diversity,” she said.

Oysterponds Elementary School teacher Susan Poveromo, who helped organize the project, said the placement of the mural will motivate students and faculty to engage more positively with one another. 

“It’s going to be placed in the lobby, so when someone enters, they’re not going to see a sign that just says ‘no bullying,’ they’re going to know how to address that.”

The Southold Police Department and senior citizens also got involved in the project, painting with students last Friday, Ms. Poveromo said.  

“It’s really been a whole community project,” she said.

Imagine That! has pursued school projects across Long Island, Ms. Raimondo said. 

All the students at Oysterponds Elementary School helped with the mural. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

“We’ve worked with schools from East Hampton to Nassau County, and we’ve literally worked with thousands of children,” she said. “We’re trying to get this into every school on Long Island.”

Ms. Raimondo said she initiated the Imagine That! program after she visited elementary schools as an author and noticed a lack of illustrations to go with character posters. 

“There were many signs posted around schools that said ‘empathy’ or ‘compassion,’ but weren’t any illustrations to go with these words,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have the children work together, not only to illustrate a theme of unity and diversity, but to actually experience what it means to be unified?’ ” 

After Oysterponds art teacher Laurie Sanders found work that Ms. Raimondo had completed online, she said she pushed to bring in the Imagine That! team for the mural. 

“We like pulling in outside artists,” she said. “Children are so focused with a different person. I take art classes and learn from different artists, then I make it my own. I want them to have that experience.”

The project is part of the “Reach for the Stars” enrichment program, one of several planned for the year within the district, designed to offer supplemental learning to all students, Ms. Poveromo said. In November, students will work with songwriter Brian Chevalier to create a song that matches the slogan on the mural. The program plans to have students record and sing their song at an assembly with Mr. Chevalier.

Ms. Raimondo said she believes the Oysterpond district is exemplary of the mural’s slogan.

“The sense of community, the children’s behavior, the art teacher jumping in to help, the local police stopping in to paint, older volunteers coming in,” she said. “It all really shows the character present in this district.”

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Photo caption: (From right to left): Artist Joyce Raimondo and teachers Susan Poveromo and Laurie Sanders stand with a few of the student artists. (Kate Nalepinski photo)