How to Turn Anything into Something Else

About The Project


The Miss Rockaway Armada (Members: Aly, Anna, Brian, Ellery, Greg, Ian, Jill, John, Nick, Noah, Robyn, Siena, Tracy)

Completion Date

1 October 2011


207 N. Broad Street

The mural project paired 13 artists from nationally recognized art collective Miss Rockaway Armada [] with roughly 31 Mural Arts art education students ages 10 to 15 over the summer to develop the concept, artistic flow, and imagery for the mural. This team of artists taught the students creative exercises to help them access their vast imaginations. 

“Each student took a piece of paper and drew the head of an animal at the top,” said Aly Perry, one of the artists on the project. “When the head was finished, they folded the paper down until only the neck of their drawing was visible. Then the paper was then passed to the next student to draw a torso and the folding and passing was repeated until an entire invented creature was drawn on the paper.”

This exercise was meant to show students that not everything has to end the way it began. “Through the workshops, the artists wanted to teach students to view obstacle as opportunity,” Perry said. “The hundreds of images created by students over the summer were directly incorporated into the mural.”

Through drawing games, collage, and impromptu theater exercises, the kids created new and fantastic worlds out of the ordinary.  What resulted was a dazzling assortment of colorful
characters, fabulous creatures, and fantastical settings.

The artists describe their intentions:

"At the onset we wanted to establish with the students that their imagination are real and possible...To create a world you wish to live in, first you must envision it. The process of making this mural was
one of emergence and collaboration. There were few set rules, many open-ended possibilities, and a willingness on everyone's part to respond to others' contributions. Together we made a world that is at
once a version of the one we inhabit, the one of which we are afraid, and the one for which we hope.

Though the images in the mural appear strange and whimsical, they hold a mirror to the world the kids inhabit in real life -  there are systems of travel, places of danger and places of rest, spaces of
darkness and of light.  There are factories that pollute the water, and there are portals that hold new possibilities. A dragon's back turns into tracks and supports a freight train, a lemon transforms
into a bird taking flight, a boat becomes a whale, and scissors' arms break apart to sprout separate individuals.  This was aptly summarized by 10-year-old Marquis Fabii, (ultimately becoming the title of the mural), How to Turn Anything Into Something Else.

Towering over everything in the top-right corner is the many-muscled Kira, a direct representation of a drawing by Big Picture student Shakira Lowery.  Kira is the strongest woman in the world, has
flashlight eyes and sees through darkness. She casts a guiding light on this new, uncanny place. We decided to use Shakira's image as a welcoming beacon for folks on the sidewalk and as a
tribute to the strength and creativity that is demanded of us all as we set out into an ever-changing world."

During the dedication, the students expressed pride in their creation and there was a wonderful collaborative energy that radiated off of the wall.

Photo Gallery credit (Images of completed mural): Steve Weinik