Mural beautifies Center for New Americans

  • Maricella Obando Moya of Greenfield, who is originally from Costa Rica, paints an acrylic mural in the stairwell at Center for New Americans July 13, 2017 in Northampton. The mural will depict the universe, surrounded by the work of the center in English classes, computer literacy, job placement and citizenship services. The mural is funded through a 1,000 grant from the Northampton branch of the Awesome Foundation.

  • Maricella Obando Moya of Greenfield, who is originally from Costa Rica, paints an acrylic mural in the stairwell at Center for New Americans July 13, 2017 in Northampton. The mural will depict the universe, surrounded by the work of the center in English classes, computer literacy, job placement and citizenship services. The mural is funded through a 1,000 grant from the Northampton branch of the Awesome Foundation.

For The Recorder
Published: 7/15/2017 5:13:01 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Two years ago, Maricella Obando Moya walked into the Center for New Americans at 42 Gothic St. knowing no English other than “hi,” “how are you” and “thanks.”

Today, she stands in the hallway painting a mural that will be the first thing new immigrants will see when they enter the center.

Moya, who moved here from Costa Rica with her husband in September 2015, is painting a mural that depicts the work of the center in English classes, computer literacy, job placement and citizenship services.

“Language is the biggest trouble for immigrants,” Moya said. “It puts up a big wall.”

Her images will show what the center offers to the new arrivals in a way they can understand, even if they don’t speak English.

The center won a $1,000 grant from the Northampton branch of the Awesome Foundation to fund the mural, the Center for New Americans Director Laurie Millman said. It will eventually cover the wall, from the building’s entrance up a curving staircase to the offices on the second floor.

Many of the immigrants who use center’s services, like Moya, are not fluent or literate in English when they arrive, Millman said.

“So we were looking at this wall, which was blank, and our signs, which might be indecipherable,” Millman said. “We knew Maricella was talented, and this became something we really wanted to do.”

Moya now lives in Greenfield and works as a home health aide, a job she found with the help of a Center for New Americans class for students interested in health care. But she’s been an artist since she was a child in Costa Rica. Painting, Moya says, is her passion.

Millman said the center organizes a program of art, music, poetry and dancing for its students each spring at the Shea Theater. Last spring, Moya participated, displaying some of her art.

Moya was taking English classes at the center at the time. While English is a primary focus, the center also offers computer classes, help with finding jobs and resources for becoming a U.S. citizen. On July 4 each year, the center has a naturalization ceremony.

The Awesome Foundation is a national program that has a branch in Northampton. Millman said when her initial grant application to the Northampton Arts Council was denied, a volunteer told her about Awesome.

The local branch of the foundation, run by trustees from 10 downtown businesses and nonprofit organizations, brings creative projects to downtown Northampton. The mural is the first recipient of an Awesome Foundation grant in Northampton, trustee Amy Cahillane said.

“We love that the CNA is working with one of their former students, someone who is a part of the community, for this project,” Cahillane said. “For our first project, we wanted something like this that lots of people would be able to see downtown for a long time to come.”

Millman said she hopes Moya’s painting will be completed in August. After completion, there will be an open house to present the mural to the public.

“I hope this will be a mural representing all the people who come here,” Moya said. “This center helps and supports so many people and gives them this beautiful treasure of language.”


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