P.K. Subban
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Hockey Player P.K. Subban Taps Into Artistic Roots to Inspire a Community

The Spotlight: P.K. Subban partners with Newark Arts org and local artist Yasmin De Jesus to bring to life a multi-facade mural that promotes diversity in hockey.
By Dorian Hill
11 min readPublished on
This edition of The Spotlight focuses on the New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and his collaboration with local Newark, NJ muralist Yasmin De Jesus and Newark Arts, an organization advancing and expanding the resources and offerings of arts and cultural organizations in Newark. The group came together this summer to create a mural that focuses on diversity and empowering the community of Newark.
WATCH the behind-the-scenes video of P.K., Yasmin, and the team bringing the mural to life.”
P.K. Subban and Yasmin De Jesus at Newark Arts mural unveiling
P.K. Subban and Yasmin De Jesus at Newark Arts mural unveiling
P.K. Subban may be known to many as a professional hockey player, but what he should also be recognized for is his philanthropic work in the cities in which he’s played. In a society where many athletes and celebrities do philanthropic work to boost their image, P.K. does it because he believes “it's the greatest way to leave an impact. I think it's the best feeling in the world to be able to give back and see people flourish.”
It's the greatest way to leave an impact. I think it's the best feeling in the world to be able to give back and see people flourish.
P.K. gave $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital earlier in his career. For most athletes a substantial donation such as that would’ve been an accumulation of their charitable efforts throughout their whole career, but not P.K. And he didn’t stop after he gave to the hospital, he continues to impact and generously give to his communities in positive ways.
Recently P.K. teamed up with community organization Newark Arts to find a talented artist to collaborate with to create a mural on the side of the Sharpe James / Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation Center in Newark. The artist they selected was Yasmin De Jesus, a muralist who grew up in Newark’s low-income housing projects. Yasmin didn’t allow the environment around her to decide her future. “I worked hard to get out of the projects. And I also wanted to dedicate my life to beautifying places like the one I grew up in. I want to give back to my community and give people an opportunity to see more than what’s around them.”
Newark Arts mural artist Yasmin De Jesus
Newark Arts mural artist Yasmin De Jesus
Yasmin started painting murals while in high school where she had the opportunity to work with local legend Gladys Grauer. “Her long career and work as an activist in Newark and the fact that she really made a difference for the people there inspired me to continue doing murals. And she also motivated me to inspire others.”
When asked how she felt when she found out that she was selected to create the mural with P.K., Yasmin replied “I’m so privileged, this is awesome. Because it was a dream of mine to paint a mural of that large size. And the location is special, since I used to go to that rec center when I was a kid. I never thought I would create a mural there. Looking back, I'm like, wow I'm able to give back to the community that I came from. That's amazing to me.”
The mural’s location is just as impactful as the artwork itself. The Sharpe James / Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation Center was selected as the home for the “Stronger Together” mural since it’s an important space that serves the local community and gets them involved in sports including hockey.
Yasmin has already contributed to Newark’s beautiful art scene with some of her previous work. She credits the local art scene for inspiring her. “No matter where you start, or no matter how dark things can seem, you can always make something beautiful out of it. All you need is to be relentless and strong and just keep moving forward. I think that's what Newark symbolizes.”
The concept for the mural is to promote diversity in hockey and pay homage to those hockey players who paved the way for players like P.K. It was important to have the hockey players within the mural be represented by the people that make up the different ethnic backgrounds that reside in Newark.
There are three players on one facade with the center player paying tribute to P.K. by donning his jersey number 76 on the sleeve and his logo on the helmet. The player to the right is Brazilian/Portuguese. Representing the Ironbound community, his jersey displays a common phrase you’d hear in Ironbound “Oi, Tudo Bem?” which translates to Hey, everything well? The player on the left is a woman of Afro-Latina descent. She represents the large Latino population in Newark. On a separate wall an African American woman hockey player stands in a power position towering over anyone that walks through the entryway. The mural is filled with vibrant colors and shapes and words of empowerment. The background colors are inspired by the phrase Many Colors, One Human Race. As different as we may be, together we create a beautiful picture.

Can you tell me how this project came about?

PK Subban: Since I've been in Newark playing for the New Jersey Devils, my number one objective has been having a positive impact. The timing of moving here was great because I am at a more mature point in my career where I can be a little bit more strategic and more focused on exactly how I want to make that impact. I started an initiative that has legs of its own at the Montreal Children's Hospital and P.K.'s Helping Hand. I have a whole team of people supporting this and we do a great job. I want to make an impact in hockey and not just hockey, and help people, but specifically people that look like me, and grew up the same way that I did, come from similar backgrounds, or neighborhoods, the people that resonate with me instantly. I wanted to be more focused on helping that community. And I think that coming to Newark has given me an opportunity to help people that look like me and help others through hockey and the platform that I have. It’s awesome that Red Bull has supported me with this opportunity to do something pretty special. To be able to create this mural has been a great experience for me. To be able to work with Yasmin and select an artist from Newark was really important to me. To have somebody that was local, create this with me was special, it's probably one of the most special things I've seen in my career so far.

What stuck out about Yasmin's work and led you to select her for this project?

PK Subban: First of all, she's extremely talented. Yasmin brings everything together. I've worked extremely hard to get to this point in my career, but I've also had a lot of coaches, trainers, and a lot of people that have supported me. People that have helped open doors for me along the way. This is an opportunity for me to create something with someone like Yasmin at this level, to help her give back to her community. The most important thing is teaching the youth that they can give back, not when they've achieved their goals, but they can do it while they're in the process of achieving their goals. Having Yasmin, a young woman from the community, be able to be a part of something special like this was a no brainer. She's an awesome, sweet and intelligent, and extremely talented young lady. We were very pleased with the work that Yasmin has done.

Why did you guys select Newark as the location for the mural?

PK Subban: I drive through Newark every day. I drive down Broad Street. I've been doing that for the past two years. I have friends from the community, and met different people that live in the area, The Sharpe James / Kenneth A. Gibson Recreation Center is beautiful. There’s also a hockey rink there. It just made sense to select Newark as our location because it's where I play every day at the Prudential Center. It's where I bring my fans to the games, where I interact with law enforcement and people of the community. Those are the people I play for. I play for that community. I don't think it can be anywhere else.

You're an artist yourself that loves to draw, so do you have plans to collaborate in future with Newark Arts?

PK Subban: I love it. It’s a passion of mine. I started playing pro hockey pretty early on in my life. Unfortunately, because of hockey I didn't have as much time to really stick with all the sketching that I did growing up. What's awesome about the position I'm in is that I'm able to do cool projects such as this which brings me back to my days of sketching, drawing, watching Art Attack on television, and watching my sister paint. For me, this project is really cool. I'd definitely be open to doing more with Newark Arts. I'm a firm believer that an open mind is a goldmine. As long as things are pushing the right messages forward and we're creating a difference, I'm all for it.

Now that you guys have finished the mural, and you've been able to drive past and see it regularly. What do you think it symbolizes for that community?

PK Subban: I hope that it symbolizes more than just hope and that people look at that mural and see that you can do it! You don't have to hope you can do it, you can just go out and do it. All you have to do is put your mind to the task and execute and put in the work, regardless of where you're from, or what you look like. I've never allowed any of those things to hold me back. Now more than ever the opportunities are out there and we just have to go out and do it and take advantage of the opportunities. Hopefully the mural brings some positivity and motivates the community.

Were you able to get out there and help with the creation of the mural?

PK Subban: Yes, I was able to get out there. I got my hands dirty and got to paint a little bit. They took it easy on me. It was really nice to get out there and have a bunch of people from the community come help out. Honestly, I still have to pinch myself about it. I still don't believe that it's actually there. My head's always down trying to do my thing and make a difference. But sometimes I'm forced to pick up my head and take a look at what I'm doing and it's just really cool. It's really cool to see.

Your financial commitment to the Montreal Children’s Hospital has been well documented. Most people would’ve stopped there but you continue to add to your list of generous contributions. Why is it so important for you to continue to give in the communities where you play?

PK Subban: Giving is important, period. I don't take myself too seriously. I know what I do for a living. I know all of those things. But at the end of the day, I'm just like everybody else. There was a time when no one really knew who I was. It was the work that put me in this position. And I'm a firm believer that you have to show respect to your craft and to the goals that you've set and how you've achieved them. Not only do I want to be successful, I want to see everybody be successful. I want to see everybody be able to put food on the table and be able to look back on their life and feel proud of how hard they've worked to accomplish their goals. I want everybody to have the tools to be able to do that, that's what I want to see. I want to be remembered for opening doors and giving people opportunities.

ABOUT NEWARK ARTS

Established in 1981, Newark Arts was created to advance and expand the resources and offerings of arts and cultural organizations in the great city of Newark, New Jersey. Newark Arts provides leadership, direction, and technical assistance through partnerships with Newark’s many artists, arts administrators, community organizations, and more. Newark Arts’ goal is to share resources, develop collaborations and cross-functional opportunities, promote advocacy efforts, assist in audience development and public awareness of arts and culture, and serve as a cultural resource to the community.

ABOUT YASMIN DE JESUS

Yasmin de Jesus had an early start at Art’s High School, followed by Cooper Union’s Pre-Collegiate Program, where she studied Art and Design with the top art students in the Tri-State area. Shortly after, she was selected as an intern for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and awarded a scholarship to study art abroad in Provence, France for the summer of 2008. She was the recipient of the NAACP Regional Gold Place Award for Painting and Drawing, NAACP Nationals Silver Place for Drawing, received the collegiate scholarship from Art in the Atrium and a Sculpture award from NJCU. In 2016, she graduated from Montclair State University with a BA in Arts. From 2010 to 2019, she created numerous murals around the City of Newark commissioned by Yendor Productions and various sponsors.

ABOUT THE SPOTLIGHT

The Spotlight is a series of articles and content that gives Red Bull ambassadors the opportunity to spotlight organizations, businesses, community groups and/or individual people raising awareness and driving progression in mental health, environmentalism, and/or diversity & inclusion.