March 19, 2019 By Jon Cronin
Two international artists will be painting a mural that pays tribute to Helen Keller in Forest Hills in May, near where the famed blind and deaf activist and author once lived.
The mural will feature Keller’s face, her dogs and her now-demolished Forest Hills home. The center of the mural will include her famous quote: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
The mural, which is being designed by street artists Crisp and Praxis, will go up under the Ascan Avenue overpass below the Long Island Railroad. The two artists are no strangers to Forest Hills, having painted a mural that features the Ramones under the LIRR on 71st Avenue.
Michael Perlman, a local historian, has been working behind the scenes to bring the mural to Forest Hills for the past year. He was able to secure $6,500 in city funding to go toward the project.
“She was a very giving person,” Perlman said. “She truly inspired people in her attempt to remove social stigmas of being blind and deaf.”
A plaque will go up alongside the mural that will feature pictures of Keller in her Forest Hills home, some of her hand-written notes and a history of her accomplishments.
Keller grew up in Alabama and was struck by a disease as a toddler leaving her deaf and blind. Her parents hired Anne Sullivan when Keller was a child to teach her how to communicate.
The story of Keller and her teacher Sullivan was made famous by Keller’s 1903 autobiography, The Story of My Life, and its adaptations for film and stage, The Miracle Worker.
Keller moved to Forest Hills with Sullivan in 1917 and lived in the neighborhood until 1938.
She resided at 93 Seminole Ave. during that period, which was later renumbered and named 71-11 112th Street, Perlman said. Keller threw large parties at the house that she used as fundraisers for the American Foundation for the Blind.
The house burned down after she moved out and the property is now occupied by the Reform Temple of Forest Hills.
Perlman hopes that the mural will make more people aware that Keller lived in the neighborhood and inspire people. He said its also a way of turning a bland wall into something more meaningful.
“I hope its a source of inspiration,” Perlman said. “Keller led a crusade against darkness–hopefully this will light the way for residents and visitors.”