During recent years, we have worked with Groundswell Community Mural Project to support projects in their annual Summer Leadership Institute (SLI).Each year 65-75 low-income youth work with Groundswell artists on six large-scale public art projects across New York.
We supported the creation of a large-scale mural for the Hans Christian Anderson Complex, which houses two New York City public schools in Harlem. In Central Harlem nearly 50% of the population and 61% of children live in poverty.
The mural and mosaic were created by students and alumni from the schools under the guidance of Groundswell artists. Groundswell developed the project in partnership with Future Leaders Institute and the Trust for Public Land, who were simultaneously transforming the schoolyard into a fully functional park for use by the whole community.
The artists guided the mural team through the history of public art, and the process of designing and creating a mural. The program ran four days a week over seven weeks.
In preparation, the youth visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they were given a tour by William Crow, the Associate Museum Educator. Crow guided the team through the Museum’s collection and focused on works that incorporated images onto large walls. As the participants learned about such varied works as the Temple of Dendur, John Vanderlyn’s The Palace and Garden of Versailles, and a Sung period Chinese temple wall painting, they drew and took notes in sketchbooks provided by the Foundation. The tour ended with an elegant luncheon in the Museum Cafeteria also provided by the Foundation.
During late July and August, the team painted the mural, which is a massive 55 feet in height by 165 feet in length. The mural’s title is “The Animation State” and celebrates the power of imagination by showing how animated people are free to do anything they wish.
The project has made a notable impact at the Hans Christian Anderson Complex. Catherine Mikic, FLI’s Development Director commented, “This was the first project where we brought back alumni to serve their community around a shared tangible project. It made a tremendous impact on galvanizing alumni,” She went on to say that the project was a, “powerful way for the community to take ownership over their space.” Families of FLI students have been incredibly supportive, “people came out of the woodwork.”
The impact on the youth too was meaningful. Cheryl Simmons, a parent of one of the participants offered, “One of the most important aspects of this project was that it gave my child the opportunity to mix with and learn from professionals.”
Through analysis of its pre- and post-evaluations, Groundswell found that:
- 95% of the youth arrived at work on time and never missed a day
- 100% of the young people stated that their mural design skills have improved
- 100% stated that their painting skills have greatly improved
- 45% cited an improvement in drawing; 55% cited an improvement
in color mixing
- 100% felt they created a quality mural
- 60% stated that the program made an exceptional contribution
to their personal growth; 20% reported noticeable growth; 20% reported
The Future Leaders of Harlem project reflects Groundswell’s commitment to bringing together professional artists and low-income youth to create public art projects that visually transform their communities while building skills in art making, boosting self esteem, fostering leadership, developing civic responsibility and activating opportunities for youth empowerment.