August 24, 2017

Inspired NYC Youth Utilize Public Art for Community Expression, Not Oppression

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – As seen in the protests in Charlottesville and the subsequent removals of Confederate statues across the nation, art is a site of power when placed in a public space. Instead of perpetrators of a violent past, art can be used as a liberatory process formed through community partners by providing platforms for voices that aren’t heard.


Groundswell, New York City’s premier social justice arts organization, creates murals through a creative practice that amplifies youth voices to achieve social equity in our communities. Through highly public murals, Groundswell youth reclaim public space by transforming blank walls into sites of community dialogue. Through art, youth offer their solutions for the social justice issues important to them, New York City, and beyond.


“We often say that 'art transforms', but we end the conversation there. I want to ask: how do we make that so? To make art that transforms, we must commit to antiracist creative practice, one that engages the deepest part of our radical imaginations. Groundswell has always created art with and for communities who have been historically marginalized,” said Groundswell Executive Director Robyne Walker Murphy.


Groundswell continued our twenty years of community-engaged art this summer with a series of simultaneous murals throughout New York City, including Groundswell’s 500th Mural and three murals at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing developments. These murals are a part of Groundswell’s two-month long flagship program, the Summer Leadership Institute. This summer youth jobs program offers New York City youth the opportunity to reimagine public spaces as sites of community dialogue.


Groundswell’s 500th Mural Celebration will be dedicated at a community event on August 31, at 2:30 PM at PS 373 K – Brooklyn Transition Center, 185 Ellery Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206. Centered on the theme of immigrant rights, the mural “Flight of Freedom” presents a new narrative for how art be used to transform public space into a site of hope, resilience, and activism. The celebration will include a speaking program including teaching artists, youth, Groundswell staff, and PS 373 representatives. Groundswell partnered with global design firm Gensler New York and their “Summer Studio” intern program to engage the community in this celebration. The Summer Studio developed a robust campaign for the dedication that involved three pop-up installations highlighting the legacy of change, the significance of the 500th mural, and the community impact and engagement of the artwork.


In addition to the 500th Mural, Groundswell continues our work in NYCHA housing developments at three sites: Polo Grounds Houses (Manhattan), Castle Hill Houses (Bronx), and Tompkins Houses (Brooklyn). Presented in partnership with Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, these three works bring attention to the community activism of public housing residents.





Groundswell will celebrate these summer murals at the following community events:


Groundswell’s 500th Mural Celebration: August 31 at 2:30 PM

PS 373 K – Brooklyn Transition Center, 185 Ellery Street, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

“Flight of Freedom,” Groundswell’s 500th mural, documents the United States’ long history of forced and voluntary migrations to shows immigration’s historical and cultural importance in the US.


Castle Hill Houses: August 30 at 10 AM

635 Castle Hill Avenue, Castle Hill, Bronx

Through a colorful, video game inspired design, the artist team uses symbols of peace to illustrate what makes the Castle Hill community unique.


Polo Grounds Houses: August 30 at 2 PM

2931 8th Avenue, Harlem, Manhattan

The mural illustrates the story of Polo Grounds housing development’s past, present, and future, including Polo Grounds’ rich sports history as the location of the original New York Giants’ field.


Tompkins Houses: August 31 at 10 AM

212 Throop Avenue, Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

The mural reflects the goals of the community partner to express the diversity of Tompkins Houses while encouraging cooperation and alliance in growing and fostering supportive relationships.


Food Bazaar Supermarket: August 31 at 1 PM

21 Manhattan Avenue, Bushwick, Brooklyn

The third mural painted at this location, the mural proposes the values of empathy, communication, solidarity, and self-awareness as tools to dismantle the systems of oppression faced by young men of color.





Press Contact

Groundswell: Ariel Estrella, 718.254.9782 x 1009,


Gensler: Ashley Goode, 212.492.3222,