Just east of Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, NY, is P.S. 19 Marino P. Jeantet School. Located in the Corona neighborhood, the elementary school recently underwent an extensive expansion to accommodate the overcrowding of students, which it has experienced for many years. As part of the renovation, the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA) hosted a local design competition to construct a tile mural in the new lobby.

After much consideration, the NYCSCA awarded the winning design to collage artist, Cheryl Molnar, a Long Island native who is currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Molnar’s paintings are representations of fantastical, natural spaces in relationship to urban architectural forms. “The NYCSCA liked her composition, which included many elements from the 1964 New York World's Fair, which was held in Flushing Meadows Park,” said Andru Eron, owner of N.Y. Tilemakers in Brooklyn, NY. “Cheryl is a painter, so she hired N.Y. Tilemakers to create a mosaic mural and translate her imagery and painterly style into ceramic tiles. We also installed the mural.”

Eron and his team fabricated around 2,600 ceramic tiles for the 440-square-foot mural, which incorporates 60 different glazes. “We use moist clay; low-fire white earthenware,” Eron explained. “Each one of these tiles is fired twice — a bisque firing and then a second firing after each tile is glazed. The sky elements of the mural are Italian glass mosaics [made in Italy], in four different blends to create a gradient effect, with a different and lighter grout color.”

The fabrication process began on January 1, 2018, which lasted about seven months. Eron said a team of six helpers were involved to help bring the design to fruition. In August 2018, just prior to the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Eron and a team of three helpers completed the weeklong installation.

“Although the NYCSCA provides for adequate time for fabricating, they typically limit you to five or six days of onsite installing,” said Eron. “Everything that happens in the workspace is engineered in a way that makes the installing possible in such a limited time. A numbering and grid system had to be created to install the mural in ‘modules.’ Large sections of the mural were dry-fitted, horizontally, then a face-mounted mosaic film was applied to all. These were cut into 24- x 24-inch sections and then boxed up for transport to the site.”

The mural was installed using various mortars, adhesives, grouts and caulks from Custom Building Products, including ProLite® premium large-format tile mortar and AcrylPro® professional tile adhesive. “We requested that the NYCSCA provide Hardibacker as a substrate,” added Eron.

Since the mural’s completion, the reaction from school officials and visitors alike has been “very satisfying,” according to Eron. “Other tile artisans have called this project ‘amazing,’ ‘astonishing’ and even ‘gorgeous,’” he said. “The artist is thrilled with our interpretation/crafting of her imagery, colors and aesthetics. We have been commissioned to make two more NYCSCA murals — a 2019 and a 2020 project. Those artists think these results are extremely promising for what they envision.”

P.S. 19 Marino P. Jeantet School mural

Queens, New York

Designer: Cheryl Molnar Projects, Brooklyn, NY
Tile Manufacturer/Installer: N.Y. Tilemakers, Brooklyn, NY
Installation Products: Custom Building Products, Huntington Beach, CA (AcrylPro, ProLite in “White,” nonsanded grout in “Platinum,” sanded grout in “Pewter,” sanded caulk in “Pewter” and “Platinum”); James Hardie Building Products, Inc., Chicago, IL (HardieBacker)