By CBSNewYork Team

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – National Public Lands Day is observed annually on the fourth Saturday of September.

This year, Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park celebrated by holding its 10th annual “Art in the Park” event. City of Paterson Art Commissioner Mohamed Khalil told CBS2 about the meaning behind this chalk art competition.

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“It’s an annual event. I do it in partnership with the National Park. We started in 2011 when the National Park first came here, and it’s for the community and the kids. They come here and be happy, and do art, and some of the kids come and they don’t know each other, and they leave with good friends,” Khalil said.

“I’m here with my son Antonio, right over here, who’s 9.  He has autism spectrum disorder, so he loves anything dealing with paint, art. So chalk and doing this is just right up his alley, very therapeutic for him, and it helps him relax and express himself,” said Cynthia Pearce.

“Art is very therapeutic. It is therapy. It’s fun, and kids learn a new technique from each other, or sometimes I give them a little class. But it’s good for kids to express their feelings,” Khalil said.

“I’m coloring my unicorn with these colors,” one child said.

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“Every kid that comes, I give them juice and cookies and chalk to express their feelings, and they go home with a bag full of art supplies and some gifts,” Khalil said.

“Well I think it builds great memories and brings the community together a little bit, and I feel like it has great family memories, because any age can come out.  You get to know your neighbor a little bit,” said Jill Sluka.

“I have kids that start from the first year, and every year they come, and even they call me and they come to visit me during the year. We build a friendship, and some of the same kids every year,” Khalil said.

“We came out to have fun and to join the contest,” said Onisty Garrett of Paterson.

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“It’s good for the community, to heal the community, and show them that we have a beautiful site here. They can enjoy either doing art or come have fun just to play around, but I use my part as an artist to make the kids come and  families and feel happy and feel welcomed, and they enjoy the time,” Khalil said.

CBSNewYork Team