Not just another brick in the wall


Artist James De La Vega — second row center, wearing sunglasses — and students from East Side Community High School on E. 12th St. between First Ave. and Avenue A painted a half-block-long mural on the school’s wall earlier this month. De La Vega volunteered his time and the school supplied the paint and student man- and womanpower. The mural came about after Philip McAdoo, an actor who is an understudy on Broadway in “Rent” who teaches theater and does mentoring at the school, struck up a friendship with De La Vega when he visited his St. Mark’s Pl. store two months ago. The mural includes a self-portrait of De La Vega, as well as portraits of some of the students, and some of De La Vega’s inspirational and thought-provoking sayings, such as, “Become Your Dream,” “Be Mindful Even if Your Mind Is Full” and “This Moment Is More Precious Than You Think.” McAdoo said the event was very “empowering.” De La Vega — who has had his store on St. Mark’s for more than a year now — said the mural is part of his new public campaign doing murals with schools. He said he decided to take this approach after being repeatedly hassled by police and threatened with arrest for writing his graffiti messages on the sidewalk. “Working with the schools is a more institutional way to get my message out,” he said. “This is the first mural I’ve done down here. I’m trying to connect with the kids cutting through these streets.” De La Vega said he’ll gladly do a mural with any local school that’s interested and that he can be found at his store at 102 St. Mark’s Pl.