Dec. 12, 2017 By Tara Law
A colorful mural celebrating Queens’ ethnic diversity has gone up under the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Elmhurst.
The “Flower Tree” mural was unveiled Sunday at the intersection of Whitney Avenue and Broadway. The painting was created on wood with acrylic paint and mounted onto the wall beneath the train tracks.
The mural features flowers from around the world sprouting from the tree. Each bloom represents the different regions or countries where Queens residents hail from over the borough’s history.
The mural was painted by two local artists, Polina Porras of Astoria and Tomoko Rogaski of Forest Hills. The artists collaborate under the name of Studio Blue Bird.
“We wanted something bold and beautiful,” said Porras. “Beauty goes a long way and it’s always in fashion…people recognize and like flowers.”
Each of the flowers represents Elmhurst’s multicultural heritage.
The artists painted anemone, the national flower of Israel, and the lily, the flower of Italy, in recognition of the period when most Elmhurst residents were Jewish or Italian.
These flowers grow beside blossoms from Asia and Latin America, such as the dahlia, the national flower of Mexico; and the hibiscus, the national flower of Malaysia, Haiti and South Korea.
Funding for the mural was provided by the Queens Council on the Arts’ Queens Arts Fund.
Both artists feel a personal connection to the multiculturalism of Queens. Porras is of Mexican-Russian origin, and Rogaski was born in Japan.
Rogaski has painted more than a dozen murals in Japan, but the mural is the first she has created in the U.S. She said that she likes the art form because it is open for all to see.
“We came up with the idea of a mural because a mural is for everyone,” said Rogaski.
Rogaski, a former Elmhurst resident, had noticed the area was in need of art. Rogaski and Porras chose this particular location, in part, because it is highly trafficked.
She said that although many residents are not native English speakers, several have communicated how much they appreciate the painting.
“Everyone knows how to say, ‘beautiful’ and ‘thank you,’” said Rogaski.