Trumbull Rotary backs teen mural project

The Trumbull Rotary Club joined numerous community organizations for a public unveiling of teen murals in Bridgeport’s Wheeler Park. The event was intended to give local students a chance to express their views about gun violence in their communities and to express their hopes for a safer world.

“Each mural represents the concerns and realities of the everyday people who live in Bridgeport,” said painter Jahmane West. “The overall concept of each mural is uplifting and directly addresses the challenge of bringing awareness to gun violence.”

The murals are collectively known as Aim Higher Together United Against Gun Violence. Organizers said the artwork “engages Bridgeport youth in creating art that visually addresses the impact of guns in their lives and empowers them to join other powerful youth activists in calling for change.”

Amy Carol Dominguez, a member of the Trumbull Rotary, was one of the project’s organizers. She said the combination of creativity and advocacy struck a chord in the students who were involved in the project.

“They found it empowering, to say the least,” she said. “The way it went from a national intiative to a local artistic creation was really inspiring. The young people in the community wanted to make sure they are heard.”

Bridgeport youth artists from two local community programs, Neighborhood Studios and C.H.A.M.P., worked over the summer to create the murals that will remain in Wheeler Park adjacent to City Hall in Bridgeport for a few weeks. These murals will be exhibited around the state with the next appearance scheduled at UConn Stamford.

At the unveiling, teens also spoke about their work and their personal experiences, and there was a live demonstration by Swords into Plowshares (a non-profit that turns guns into garden tools) of guns being melted using a portable forge.

“Our number one goal is to empower these teens by giving them the structured time to discover their voices around the issue of gun violence, and to have a creative platform to express those voices. The feeling of agency in one’s own community can change everything for a young person,” said painter Darcy Hicks, who helped guide the muralists.

Mary Himes, co-founder and executive director of the Unload Foundation and the wife of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, encouraged young people to get involved in advocating for policy change.

“In this time when young people are leading efforts to demand policy changes regarding climate change and gun violence - I’m thinking of Greta Thunberg, David Hogg and March for Our Lives - we want to lift up and celebrate the youth right here in Bridgeport who also want to speak up,” Himes said.