2021 SLI Mural Lead Artist, Ryan Davis at the end of summer "Art In The Garden" event
September 3, 2021

Groundswell's 2021 Sumer Leadership Institute Leaves Its Mark On New York City

Summer 2021 saw the return of something Groundswell holds dear, our Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), our flagship summer job program that employs New York City’s youth as apprentice artists from July-August to create beautiful large-scale works of public art throughout New York City and bring key community issues to life through the fabrication process. Over the course of the summer, the 2021 cohort consisting of 28 youth employees conducted extensive research covering community safety and gentrification rooted in knowledge gained from the Brooklyn Movement Center's Black Brooklyn Campaign.


The Summer Leadership Institute brings together visions of positive change from our diverse stakeholders, youth artists, neighborhood residents, community organizations, city agencies, and social activists across the globe. Each year the youth we employ engage in critical research, arts education, political education, and creative problem-solving sessions where they develop a concept and design for the SLI public arts projects then bring the design to community stakeholders for feedback.

SLI Youth Artists working in Groundswell's Gowanus Studio.
2021 SLI youth artists working on their projects in Groundswell's Gowanus studio.

The 2021 hybrid model saw the participants split into two groups, one focusing on the completion of Groundswell’s latest mural installation in East New York, Brooklyn, and one working on printmaking installations at the Pacific Street Garden. Both groups participated in multiple visioning sessions and workshops facilitated by the Brooklyn Movement Center. They are assigned a series of art-based reflections and activities, each one challenging them to grow as artists and individuals. SLI participants explore project themes through individual work as they prep the group installation for the final stages of fabrication 

Groundswell's Summer Leadership Institute at the 2021 Mural Dedication

SLI Mural Group

Groundswell’s Mural Group fabricated their mural in East New York, Brooklyn, and researched the neighborhood's history and the current impact of gentrification in the area. Mural is located at 128 Hendrix Street, Brooklyn, NY 11207


Lead Artist: Ryan Davis

Mediums Utilized: Acrylic paint (for mural), digital, watercolors, photography for independent projects.

Youth participants: 15 youth

2021 SLI Art Advocacy Group Lead Artist, Jeannette Rodríguez Píneda speaking at the Art Advocacy Dedication

SLI Art Advocacy Group

Groundswell’s Art Advocacy Group engaged in print-making techniques, utilizing wheat pasting and block printing. Youth prints address the gentrification and the mass displacement of black businesses and tenants in the Downtown Brooklyn and East New York areas. Youth pieces are installed on the garden gates of Pacific Street Garden, located across the street from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. 


Lead Artist: Jeannette Rodríguez Píneda

Mediums Utilized: Painting, videography, writing, collage, block-printing, wheat pasting, and relief carving.

Youth participants: 13 youth

Artwork from our 2021 SLI Art Advocacy Installation at Pacific Street Garden
Artwork from our 2021 SLI Art Advocacy Installation at Pacific Street Garden

This year’s SLI was made possible by support from our corporate and community partners – Warner MediaSpectrumM&T BankOvationDavis Polk & Wardwell LLPNew York Restoration ProjectThe National Academy of DesignThe Brooklyn Movement Center, and The Future of Tomorrow Youth Advocacy group.