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Photos: ‘Kids want to help’ – a few small hands bring a mural to life in New Haven

Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
A group of children work with artist Kwadwo Adae on the last part of a mural he’s been painting on a family shelter in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven.

When New Haven artist Kwadwo Adae proposed painting a three-story mural of orchids on the side of a family shelter in New Haven, he wanted his art to be a part of the community that surrounded it.

During the final stages of painting, he measured out where he could reach and then left everything under that area blank.

Last Friday, kids staying at the shelter helped him finish the mural.

“Our society doesn’t allow kids to do a lot of things … kids want to help,” Adae said. “They want to have control over their environments. They want to be able to change their communities just as much as we do.”

Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Sox-year-old Logan Parker (center) concentrates on his contribution to the mural. His aunt, Lyvelis Jusino, took him to paint with his cousins because for her, “painting is therapy,” she says.
Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Aasiah Jusino-Baez, 4, got covered in paint while working on filling in a lavender background surrounding the orchids that Adae painted. Adae said he wrote the grant for the mural under the premise that “everyone deserves to go home to flowers.”

“The fact that sometimes you’re in a shelter even though you don’t plan on it – that turns your life upside down,” Adae said as he looked up at the mural. “Even though your life is upside down, those flowers are for you.”
Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Adae and 7-year-old Josiah Baez compare their paint-covered hands. Adae said he wanted to work with kids from the neighborhood and the shelter to share ownership of the art and the creation process. “It’s not just my artwork. It’s our artwork,” he said. “We’re the community and we did this together … the collaborative aspect of it is a really beautiful way to speak visually.”
Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Jaylin Greene, 6, wipes his eye after putting in some time painting the wall of the shelter, located in New Haven’s Hill neighborhood. It’s one of several murals Adae has created around the city. He said he’s focused his efforts to create public art in Black and brown communities that have been impacted by redlining. “Those are places that have been starved of resources, underdeveloped economically – places where things like this can brighten people’s dispositions, brighten their day,” Adae said.
Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Adae has been working on the mural during the summer’s heat wave – and he said people in the neighborhood have been watching out for him and leaving bottles of water and ginger ale. Passersby will frequently compliment his work, and he’s gotten to know many of the kids who live in the area.

“What happens is whenever you’re in a new place you’re not sure of – people are like, ‘Oh, you’re going there? Oh, be careful … you might get mugged.’ All these rumors and hearsay happen, and it’s just always the opposite,” Adae said. “It’s always just lovely, wonderful people who are living their lives and happy you’re there consistently to create something for them.”
Kwadwo Adae Mural
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
Adae and filmmaker Travis Carbonella, who’s documenting the project, admire the nearly completed mural. Adae said he worked with a local nonprofit that provides free trees to have two trees planted near the mural. “So after this mural fades,” he said, “there still is an element of beauty here.”

Ryan Caron King joined Connecticut Public in 2015 as a reporter and video journalist. He was one of eight dedicated reporters on the New England News Collaborative’s launch team, covering regional issues such as immigration, the environment, transportation, and the opioid epidemic. His work has been published nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now, and on NPR’s digital platforms. From 2017 to 2018, Ryan was on a team covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for “Excellence in Video.” Since 2019, he has been a full-time visuals journalist.