Most artists spend years creating an international platform for their artworks, but Muhammad-Hakim Azly began his work as a mural painter on the international level at an early age.
Azly, a freshman architecture major, has already completed five murals. By doing so, he said was able to regenerate a lost spark of interest for art in the community.
Azly was offered the chance to paint his first mural when he was a freshman in high school, after a family friend asked him to design the mural for a school she built in Nigeria.
Soon after, he completed a second mural for another school in Africa. Each theme is based on where the mural is located, Azly said.
In his senior year, Azly completed two murals at his high school in Teaneck, N.J. The first was an honor roll mural, which was meant to inspire students to maintain good academic standing, Azly said.
Azly said his main outlet for artistic expression will most likely be architecture. He plans to focus on designing residential buildings.
Azly will use his artistic talent and passion as an advantage as he goes through the program.
“In architecture, it’s good to have an art background because it gives you an edge,” he said.
Azly said he hopes to make a trip to see the murals he painted in Africa and is considering participating in the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
Azly’s main goal in painting murals is to enrich communities where his artwork is featured. Born and raised in Malaysia, Azly said he feels a strong connection to the town of Teaneck.
“It’s my second home,” said Azly, who lived in Teaneck for eight years. “That’s why I wanted to give back to the community.”
After completing his fifth mural, Azly organized a group of students from his high school. The students in the program paint murals in both the school and community. Most of the work is done during school hours when there are free blocks of time.
Azly said the mural-painting group is a productive alternative to going home after school or cutting class.
“The idea is to get the kids to go around the community and leave something, a legacy,” he said. “Ultimately, my hope for this still small yet growing organization is to make all types of art considerably ‘cool’ again.”
Christine Fisher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.