Car Free NYC & Earth Day: Butterflies & Bottleflowers

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Saturday April 22nd, Broadway between 39 St. & 40 St. New York, NY.

Our butterflies were flying around Times Square where the “Butterfly Project” continued it’s expansion around New York City! By coloring, cutting, and painting we brought back to life hundreds of butterflies and #bottleflowers. We recycled, talked about migration, and made hundreds of butterflies.

The favorite COLOR of the season, according to most of the kids who participated: “Rainbow”. It seems that many of them agreed, it’s the new favorite “color” of the people.

More than 50 kids and their families were engaged by this special activity sponsored by DOT NYC and we couldn’t be more HAPPY about this!

Thank you to all the participants and the staff who made it possible.

All the photos were taken with the consent of the participants, please let us know if you have any questions.

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Mariposas a volar!





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We are Ele Eme Project

Beautifying and transforming public spaces throughout the Americas.

We are Makers, we love Art and Design in every form and so we have dedicated our lives to Create new things, generating a positive impact within different Communities. We interact and exchange experiences to learn from the others.

We paint murals and create art installations inspired on music and cultures from around the world, providing programming for youth and young adults by teaching design techniques, art, and recycling. We have been reimagining spaces and developing a sense of belonging within the communities engaging them through the art work process.

Innovating with designs and materials to express and celebrate diversity, our Community Based Projects demonstrate how Art is a powerful agent of personal, institutional and community change.


The Ele Eme Project (@LMProject) was created by Colombian born, Staten Island based artist Lina Montoya AKA Ele Eme.

How can we use art to contribute to the community?

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Professor Sarah Scott collaborated with a local artist to create a vibrant mural in Port Richmond.


Working with local artist Lina Montoya, art history professor Sarah Scott is helping to make art, history, geography, and community come to life for her Wagner students and for elementary school students in Port Richmond. 

Q Tell us about your pathway to community engagement at Wagner.

My interest in working with the community has come from sharing my love of art with many people. I feel that art is a great medium for communicating with others.

About six years ago, the students in my First-Year Learning Community worked with second and third graders, teaching them about art and taking them to the Brooklyn Museum. While we were working on that project, the Port Richmond Partnership came into fruition. It brought my attention not only to what we can do with the children in Port Richmond, but also how we could use this love of art, and art as a communicative tool, to contribute to the physical community. For me, making art more visible in the community has become a priority.

Q Can you tell us a bit about the Mariposas Amarillas (Yellow Butterflies) project?

The Mariposas mural project came from the creative mind of artist Lina Montoya. Thanks to a grant from the Department of Transportation’s pARTners program, she transformed a chain link fence into a piece of art, entitled Mariposas Amarillas (Yellow Butterflies). Montoya created an image of the New York City skyline on a 1,400-square-foot section of this fence along one of the main roads of Port Richmond. About 18,000 bright yellow plastic cut-outs in the shape of butterflies and 10,000 blue plastic cups went into the project. Dozens of volunteers helped install these pieces, including two Wagner students, Alison Caraballo and Daniela Gutierrez de la Garza, who were interns working with me and with El Centro del Inmigrante last summer.

Not only does Mariposas’ bright color transform that drab stretch of roadway, but its imagery also reflects on the Port Richmond and greater New York City community. This community in which we live is made up of many different people from different cultures and different places. Not only are these people from different global origins, but they also are constantly moving — just like the butterfly.


Q What was your role with Mariposas Amarillas?

A My role was to develop outreach programming for elementary schools around the mural. I received a grant from Wagner’s Mollica Family Fund to do this work. Together with my First-Year Learning Community students and fellow professor, Ousmane Traoré, we had three in-class workshops with third- and fourth-graders at PS 20 around the mural’s themes of diversity and migration. PS 20 is located in the heart of Port Richmond, just a short distance from the mural. At that school, 75 percent of the students are Hispanic and a third are English language learners, reflecting the influx of immigrants into this community. The PS 20 workshops included walking trips to the mural, discussions about world geography and family heritage, and a presentation by the artist about her work and inspiration. The final big component of the workshop was a tour at the Staten Island Museum, developed by the Wagner freshmen, again around the themes of the mural. We served 175 students last fall!

Q How has this work affected your students’ learning?

After the mural was created, my Wagner students went to see it, but they did not quite understand its iconography. As we talked about the iconography in class, they became aware of what it means.

In my art history class, which is an introduction to the ancient world from a global perspective, we were reading articles about Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, and the exchange of cultures that took place through trade groups. Light bulbs began turning on in students’ minds. Students realized that migration and cultural exchange today is not so different from the exchanges that occurred 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

When we took the elementary school kids to the mural, they added their own butterflies. Wagner students realized that having the elementary school kids involved in making the mural was part of their learning process. The students learned that involvement of the community makes art important and valuable. And that cultural exchanges even occur between elementary school kids and Wagner students while working together on the Mariposas Amarillas project.

Q What’s the next step in this collaboration? 

A The second half of the Mollica grant will be used this fall, when Lina and my new crop of freshmen install a partner piece on campus. We are also discussing what new outreach program we might do this fall around a new mural to be installed across the street from the original Mariposas project in Port Richmond.

  • Posted in Annual Report on May. 7, 2015


El Niágara en Bicicleta

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Ele Eme Project & Richmoond Hood Co. presents

“El Niágara en Bicicletaas part of La Isla Bonita Street Art Series. (Niagara Falls on a Bicycle, The Beautiful Island). Located at 827 Castleton Avenue in Staten Island, New York. Created by Colombian born-Staten Island based artist Lina Montoya AKA Ele Eme.

As part of La Isla Bonita series, this piece is named and inspired by music, the song El Niágara en Bicicleta which was written and performed by Dominican singer-songwriter Juan Luis Guerra. The phrase “…pasar el Niágara en bicicleta” (English: Cycling across Niagara Falls) is a Dominican idiom typically used to refers to a difficult situation, a miracle or an almost impossible to achieve task; in the song, Guerra uses metaphors and mixes reality and fantasy to parody his own experience while receiving medical care.

The piece consists of the artist’s salvaged bicycle attached to a chain-link fence, surrounded by yellow plastic flowers made of recycled-processed Tetra Pak cartons. The flowers were created by Tom Mazzone. Installation size: 9” X 6”.

Through the transformation of every day objects and innovating with designs and materials, this project intends to generate a positive impact within the community creating awareness about how it is possible to beautify spaces by recycling materials and transforming them into art pieces which intend to deliver a message about the importance of recycling, having healthy habits, and sense of belonging with the community in which we live.

The Ele Eme Project continues its journey around La Isla Bonita (The Beautiful Island AKA Staten Island) with its artistic interventions, reimagining, beautifying and transforming public spaces.

This piece was made and possible to the hands and hearts of the Richmond Hood crew, Michael Andrade from Ele Eme Project, Tom Mazzone from City Tree Guards, Staten Island Maker Space, 5050 Skate Park, Lenny Prince from Lenny’s Gallery and Wilfredo Zavala from Half Prices Mufflers. Supported by Transportation Alternatives & Staten Island Arts.

Man In The Mirror Project at New World Preparatory School

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As part of La Isla Bonita Street Art Series created by Lina Montoya – Ele Eme and New World Preparatory Charter School. More than 5000 plastic bottles transformed into flowers by the students. We made a change in the Port Richmond Community, north shore of Staten Island.

It was intended to beautify NWPS campus, engage community, give hope, new life and value to the educational space; bringing project based learning to the students through the arts, and opportunities for the community to engage with the school through this work. Inspired by the school mission and by Michael Jackson’s song (formerly used during New World Prep school performances), it is a call for social justice, beginning with the self, then expanding to others, and finally towards an ideal vision of the world and the common good of all. The use of recycled materials is a call for environmental justice and the floral pattern pay homage to the Silleteros, the hand-made floral displays elaborated for the Flowers Festival Parade in Medellin, Colombia.

This project came to life through the hands of our students, parents, neighbors, partnered CBO’s, Staten Island higher education institutions, local businesses, city-wide artists, and finally our extended family members at St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church. NWP students, staff, college students, CBO’s, and local businesses took ownership of collecting and providing the recyclable materials for the artwork. Recycled materials included, but were not limited to, plastic bottles, car mirrors, put-in cups, zipties, etc.

Via SILive New street art by Port Richmond’s ‘butterfly mural’ creator

Man in the Mirror Mural

Man in the Mirror Installation

Community Projects

Photo Jun 04

Photo Jun 18

Pictures by Lauren Steussy, Aaron Arroyo, Steff Gaviria & Lina Montoya.


Yellow Butterflies, Sirens & Guitars at Faber Park

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — “Beautiful” isn’t often the first word that comes to mind when the rest of the city hears “Staten Island.”

But to the artists and musicians who live and create their work here, it can be.

That’s why on July 12, many of those individuals are coming together for “La ISLA Bonita (The Beautiful Island).” The Global Local: Staten Island event includes live music from some internationally acclaimed acts, plus live visual art and other activities (read on for the full run down).

Everyone’s invited to the free fiesta, which is organized by art collective ISLA in collaboration with muralist Lina Montoya.

“People don’t think Staten Island is beautiful, but we want to celebrate the beauty that is here, in ourselves, our friendships and our community relationships,” said Natalia Linares, the co-founder of ISLA with Gia Dupree and Dizzle the DJ. “The ultimate goal for all of us is to create something that reflects us.”

The group organized several previous parties on Staten Island meant to bring world cultures here and establish the borough’s North Shore as more of a party scene.

Picnicking is encouraged on the Port Richmond waterfront bordering Faber Park, which provides easy access to the public pool and skate park. Linares said she wants events like these to be documented before development.

“This is our little moment on Staten Island before this happens,” she said. “They’re going to come in with an outlet mall and the New York Wheel and spend millions of dollars around the stadium, but it’s important that people know there was stuff going on before that, too.”

LA ISLA BONITA Summer Festival


First on the list is Mariachi Flor de Toloache, an all-female mariachi band. Founded in NYC in 2008, the traditional mariachi band not only appeals to music lovers but the strong Mexican community in Port Richmond, Linares said.

The group recently collaborated with Black Keys’ frontman Dan Auerbach on his most recent musical group The Arcs, and is set to release an album Sept. 4.

Also performing is Puerto Rico’s International Dub Ambassadors. The group’s synth-heavy “intergalactic dub” reggae explores the roots of the genre with heavy basslines and psychedelic vibes. The Ambassadors can call themselves such — having just performed with the “Godfather of dub,” Augustus Pablo, Linares said.

And Dolltits, Staten Island’s latest musical output, will perform original works, which range from good ol’ acoustic country to rock of the Riot Grrrl variety.

Throughout the day, S.I. natives Dizzle the DJ and DJ Run P. will pump up the jams.

ISLA is bringing in some topnotch talent.


Montoya, co-creator of the event, has made it her mission to beautify Port Richmond, through a series of murals and the party itself. She was the artist behind the neighborhood’s butterfly fence art, as well as the installment at the New World Preparatory Academy (Watch the video to the right to see how it came together). 

Montoya will be wrapping up her latest community art project, “Yellow Butterflies, Sirens and Guitars” at Faber Park during La Isla Bonita, with the help of kids in the area.

“Everything is coming together and many people are collaborating because of the arts — it’s a romantic idea, but it’s really happening,” Montoya said.

Here are some of the other art happenings that will be going on throughout the day:

  • Art Cypher’s Jodi Da Real will host. The cypher’s dancers will also give a demonstration
  • Projectivity will broadcast their radio show series, FREE SAFETY RADIO, live from the party with Richmond Hood Company.
  • Photographer Mike Shane will be patrolling the premises to capture the festivities. Plus, participants can also swing by the Deep Tanks Studio photo booth to get their picture taken.
  • The clothing company Stereotype Co. will be in the park with a ‘Release Your Dreams’ project. It involves writing your dreams on paper attached to a balloon and setting the balloon free.
  • NYSAI Press will host a community open mic stage for anyone to participate.

The “ISLA Bonita” shindig is supported by New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, Staten Island Arts and Sol Collective.

Via SI Advance

Mariposas Amarillas, La Isla Bonita Series

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It started as a long, routinely unattractive chain-link fence at a corner not far from the waterfront on a large chunk of city property.

The 1,400 square feet of nothingness at Richmond Terrace and Jewett Avenue is being transformed into a work of art — with thousands of wings.

Here’s how:
Port Richmond artist Lina Montoya is constructing an art installation called “Mariposas Amarillas, (Yellow Butterflies). The piece will include more than 15,000 plastic yellow butterflies and 10,00 blue plastic cups.

Here’s why:
She’s being helped by volunteers to complete a work that’s aimed at representing the influx of foreign-born residents to the North Shore community. Work will continue on the project throughout the next two weeks and others are welcome to help.

Here’s who:
Ms. Montoya, a native of Colombia, is working with the city Department of Transportation’s Art Program in partnership with El Centro del Inmigrante, Project Urbanista.

A work of art with wings, and a meaning

Pictures by Julieta Morales @vabemor

It was looked like magic had transformed a gritty corner in Port Richmond. At the intersection of Jewett Avenue and Richmond Terrace, Graniteville artist Lina Montoya, using sunshine yellow and bright, breathtaking blue, created an installation that symbolizes freedom, hope and the immigrant experience in the Big City.

At the heart of the vision are 18,000 yellow, palm-sized plastic butterflies and 10,000 blue plastic cups all tucked into the spaces of the chain link fence surrounding the city Department of Transportation (DOT) building. The exhibit titled, “Mariposas Amarillas” (Yellow Butterflies), involved the work of dozens of volunteers who placed the pieces just so to create what appears from the distance –- across a 1,400 square foot span of fence — as a larger-than-life vision of the New York City skyline.

18,000 yellow ‘butterflies’ turn drab intersection into uplifting vision of the world


Vaya Guacamaya

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Located at Castleton Avenue and Port Richmond Avenue. This piece was created with the support and hands of Rigoberto Fabian, Homero Herrera, Arlette Cepeda, Melissa Mejia, Mr. Bob and Jeff Rodriguez.

Vaya Guacamaya by Ele Eme

Mariposas Amarillas Video

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The NYC Department of Transportation Art Program partnered with El Centro del Inmigrante to present Staten Island-based artist Lina Montoya’s Las Mariposas Amarillas (The Yellow Butterflies) on the chain-link fence surrounding a DOT facility at Richmond Terrace and Jewett Avenue in Staten Island. Butterflies are a central image of migration and a symbol used in the struggle for migrant rights worldwide. Montoya zip tied over 18,000 vinyl butterflies onto the chain-link fence creating a whimsical wave. Behind and between the butterflies, Montoya created the Manhattan as viewed from Staten Island by popping in 10,000 plastic cups directly into the chain-link fence weave. The design concept was developed in conversations with members of El Centro and the broader Port. This piece is part of a larger body of work by Montoya entitled, La Isla Bonita (the Beautiful Island).

NYCDOT Art Program, Community Commissions. Las Mariposas Amarillas, Lina Montoya in partnership with El Centro del Inmigrante, located at Richmond Terrace and Jewett Avenue, Staten Island, New York.

Gallery & Pictures by New York City Department of Transportation

14542484326_54da95b3eb_oThanks to Wagner College for the video. Camera: Anna Mule. Edition: Allie Calascibetta. Special thanks to Sarah Scott.