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Children Communicate With Incarcerated Mothers Through Mural

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Earlier this month, NY1 told viewers about a Brooklyn artist who's using murals as a form of communication between women being held on Rikers Island and their children. NY1 showed viewers the artwork the mothers have produced in jail. Now, NY1 takes a look at the work their children have done. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.

10-year-old Shyzaya Louallen is using art to connect to his mother as she serves time at Rikers Island.

"I feel good about painting it because it gets me excited so when she comes out I could show her," he said.

The mural in East Harlem is a visual dialogue between children and their incarcerated mothers. The images are based on messages and drawings sent to the kids by their moms.

"She drew like me, my sister, the dog and my grandma and then she put a triangle around us that says love, love, love," Louallen said.

The mural depicting halos signifies that motherhood is sacred under any circumstances. East Harlem mother Dawn Andrade, who spent time on Rikers, talked about the difficulty of leaving her three kids behind.

"I got pictures all the time," she said. "I spoke to them on the phone. But it's hard."

This painting is half of a larger mural project. Three weeks ago, NY1 showed you the other half, created at Rikers by incarcerated mothers who drew images based on their children's messages. Hearts and kites are shown in both.

"Kites is something that can fly from one place to another place so it's kind of connecting without actually having the physical connection," said artist Katie Yamasaki.

Yamasaki raised money and planned all year to coordinate the dual mural project. She had help from the Department of Correction and a social service group called STEPS to End Family Violence.

"Art in creating something is a wonderful way for someone to get inside of the emotions as you work through the process," said Lucia Rivieccio of STEPS.

And it's this art process that captures the attention of so many in the neighborhood.

"It says that we have to take care of our children," said resident Cy Colon. "You don't have to be the parent to look over them. You don't have to be the uncle or the big brother. You can always take care of the kids in the neighborhood."

"I tells people not to give up," said resident Elijah Bennett. "Your family is always going to care about you whether they're with you or not."

A dedication ceremony for both murals will be held next month.

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