Jennifer Marino-Bonventre has always loved to draw.
“I’ve been drawing my whole life,” she said. “It’s something I liked to do but I never had the time. Now I have a lot of time.”
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Admittedly, she's had other things to do. She teaches English to seventh graders in the gifted and talented program at PS/IS 119 in Glendale, Queens. She’s been a teacher for 18 years. And she and her husband, Tom Bonventre, have been raising their kids, 13-year old Gianna and 9-year old Anthony.
Then came coronavirus, and Marino-Bonventre decided to put her hidden talents to work, spreading a colorful, if temporary, bit of cheer in her neighborhood.
“When this idea of staying home began, a lot of people had ideas, like putting rainbows in their windows so kids can see them," she said. "My son started making rainbows with chalk. He has favorite quote, 'Doing nothing leads to something.' So, I drew Winnie the Pooh, and added that quote."
When passing neighborhood kids stopped to look and take photos, she knew she was on to something.
"We're all here in the house," she said. "Everybody's in the same boat. We heard voices outside and were like, 'Oh, people!"
She was out there the next day and nearly every non-rainy day since, buying her art supplies online, like new chalk, so that she could get the colors right as she drew characters and inspirational quotes from her favorite universe.
"I like Disney a lot," she said. "My family does, too."
Marino-Bonventre said her cement canvasses have gotten a lot of support from the neighbors.
"Yesterday, I got an enormous bag of chalk from a teenage girl," she said. "And it was the good chalk, Crayola. Another neighbor said, 'If you use up your squares, come and use ours.'"
Her messages have been hitting home.
"About two weeks ago, a woman came to look at my Snow White drawing," Marino-Bonventre said. "She looked down and said, 'Do you promise?'"
The message she had drawn was, simply, "Everything’s going to be all right."
She said the drawings, and the smiles they bring to those who see her artwork, are a good lesson for her children to make the best of a bad situation.
“Years from now, we can say, 'Remember when we were locked down? We didn’t do nothing,'" she said.
Marino-Bonventre said she plans to keep going. Up next? Maybe some Harry Potter.
As she draws, she said, she often thinks of Peter Pan's advice to "Think of the happiest things. It's the same as having wings."