Kew-Forest Students Collaborate with Maple Grove Cemetery to Honor Formerly Enslaved Woman, Millie Tunnel

Recently, you may have seen Kew-Forest in the news.  Our studio artists in the Upper School were involved in an exciting collaboration with Maple Grove Cemetery.  See below for more details.
  • Carl Ballenas, President of The Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery, approached Mrs. Narges Anvar, Kew-Forest's Upper School Art Teacher, with an exciting opportunity.
  • Our studio artists in the Upper School were asked to design a plaque for the tombstone of Millie Tunnell, who was born into slavery around 1783.  She was buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in 1896 but her tombstone was unmarked.  Maple Grove wanted to design a plaque to honor her life, dying a free woman at the age of 111 in Jamaica, Queens.
  • Kew-Forest students each designed thoughtful plaques with images and words to honor her life. This was especially challenging since no pictures of Millie Tunnel existed.  Students had to research old newspaper clippings and articles about her life, provided by Mr. Ballenas.
  • Bringing together history, art, design, and community service, all from a humanitarian perspective, made this a meaningful endeavor.  Last month students submitted their designs and the Board at The Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery reviewed them and ultimately chose that of Annie Vaca ‘23.
  • Ms. Vaca’s illustration on the plaque on Tunnell’s new tombstone features a reinterpretation of an old anti-slavery logo with an image of a black woman standing up instead of kneeling down, and triumphantly dropping a set of shackles to the floor. There are also nine birds flying off into the distance that represent each member of the Tunnell family buried at Maple Grove Cemetery. 
  • Students also put together the final epitaph based on a selection of several studio artists' writings.  
This year marks the 125th anniversary of Millie Tunnell's passing. The final plaque for Millie Tunnell’s tombstone was cast in bronze and revealed at The Friends of Maple Grove Proudly Presents: Juneteenth, Lecture and Concert this past weekend.
Congratulations to Mrs. Anvar and all of our students for their hard work and dedication to this meaningful project!  Thank you to The Friends of Maple Grove Cemetery, especially Mr. Ballenas, for inviting Kew-Forest to be a part of it.

The Kew-Forest School

119-17 Union Turnpike
Forest Hills, NY 11375
(718) 268-4667
The oldest independent school in the borough of Queens, The Kew-Forest School is an independent co-educational, college preparatory school for students in Preschool through Grade 12.