The stairs leading to the Martin Luther King High School on Monday evening were lined with paint cans anchoring flocks of colorful balloons, which otherwise would have danced away in the breeze.
As you approached the door, that sinking sense of terror that immediately follows upon entering the halls of a public education institution was replaced by the cheerful greeting of high-school students welcoming you to the "Stir, Splatter and Roll" benefit and instructed you to follow the tissue paper-stuffed paint cans downstairs where Publicolor's annual fundraiser was in full color-flinging, cocktail-sipping swing.
Can Seaside Cerulean Blue have the power to send an underprivileged kid to college? Will Tropicana Cabana Green make a youth think twice before joining a gang?
Publicolor, a nonprofit based in New York City, thinks that a little color, applied appropriately, can go a long way in reaching those ambitious goals.
Over the past 14 years, Publicolor has put paintbrushes into the hands of students in low-income neighborhoods throughout the city and helped them transform their public schools and community centers into cheerful, brightly colored spaces, while teaching them a useful skill and keeping them out of trouble in the meantime.
And it seems to be working. After new coats of Benjamin-Moore (the group's sponsor), schools have shown better attendance and lower rates of violence. It makes sense: walking to class down a Citrus Blast hallway trimmed with Tangarine Zing is surely less painful than being surrounded by dingy cinder blocks.
But the organization's involvement in the lives of its students doesn't stop once the paint is dry. Students who choose to join one of Publicor's clubs are offered after-school tutoring, life skills workshops, career counseling and can even earn the opportunity to make money by performing touch up on former Publicolor projects.
Once downstairs, guests stepped into white Tyvek jumpsuits to protect their designer duds should they choose to contribute to one of the 20 murals designed by the likes of Nicole Miller, Isaac Mizrah and Jeffrey Banks. Students kept the paint flowing and encouraged guests to bid on the murals and other items at the silent auction block. Even Mayor Bloomberg, who recognized Publicolor with its very own "day" last year added a bit of peach (using Mark DiSuervo's crutch) to one of the paintings before heading into the school's gymnasium, where tables were cleverly clothed in well-stained dropcloths for the gala dinner.
To donate your time, money, painting supplies or anything else you think might be useful, visit Publicolor.org.