July 10, 2023 By Jessica Militello
The new mural on the bike corral at 31st Avenue and 34th Street in Astoria is full of bright colors, shapes and designs that intersect and overlap individually and harmoniously, not unlike the different cultures that comprise the community.
Artist and illustrator Talisa Almonte created the now completed artwork, titled “Kaleidoscope,” which she said is meaningful in more than one way. She started her own business, Almonte Studio, in 2021, and first began promoting herself at the 31st Ave Open Street, the same location where the artwork resides.
“It felt kind of like coming full circle since I started my business in Astoria and one of the first markets I did was 31st Avenue Open Street,” said Almonte, who first moved to the neighborhood in October 2019. “This was the first open street collective used to run the markets, so it was really cool to be able to give back to the same community that has supported me from the beginning.”
Drawing was a passion for Almonte since she was a child, but as an adult she worked in the fashion industry for seven years doing graphic and surface design, print design and trend forecasting for companies like the Gap and Victoria’s Secret. After losing her job in late 2020, she was mostly freelancing, but it was the loss of her father in February 2021 that gave Almonte a reason to really think of pursuing her art career with a sense of meaningfulness to her life by starting her own company.
“When my father passed away, that threw a wrench into my whole life,” said Almonte. “I lost my footing a little bit, and it makes you question, ‘what do you want to be spending your time doing?’ I wasn’t really happy working for someone else and then I got an email for a project for ‘Star Wars.’ They found me on social media from a hashtag. It was almost like a sign from the universe that I needed to do this full time.”
After starting her business, which she named Almonte Studio in honor of her father who owned a creative business in Dominican Republic called Almonte Estudio, she designed the passports for the Shop Small Astoria Crawl started by The Brass Owl, along with some other work for the store. At this point Almonte had never done a mural, even though she always wanted to. When The Brass Owl opened a children’s store called The Tiny Owl, Almonte was approached to do a mural for their store.
“It was kind of what started my whole mural process, because that gave me at least one wall that I could use to pitch myself for other projects,” said Almonte.
Through Almonte’s commitment to being involved with the community, as well as participating in markets and events, she’s also designed murals for Fresco’s Cantina as well as Earth and Me. When the 31st avenue Open Street did a call to art for the DOT’s Art Program to find an artist for the mural, the project was the perfect fit for Almonte.
“We wanted to create a mural that not only captivates the eye but fosters connection and belonging in the neighborhood through shared public space,” said Lola Telo, a volunteer with the group and member of their art review team. “The thoughtfulness that Talisa infuses into every one of her murals makes her a true gem in the community and now we were able to bring another touch of her magic to the neighborhood.”
The mural took four days to finish — from June 15 to the 18 — including street cleaning of the space, drawing the design’s outline on the street and painting in the colors, which was done with the help of volunteers. The result has already been admired and appreciated by residents and brings even more beauty to the area.
“I really wanted to have something that was colorful, because to me, the Astoria community and just Queens in general is a very colorful community,” said Almonte. “There are so many different cultures that come together and live in harmony, so that’s the essence of the design. I just wanted to embody the vibrancy and community that’s in Astoria.”