Youth Artist

Nathaniel James

Hello all I'm Nathaniel James. I've had the privilege of working with Groundswell since 2012 and each year continues to get better. I started participating in the TEMA afterschool program during my sophomore year of high school thanks to a recommendation from my English teacher. Since then I've been able to work with hundreds of youth and a diverse list of professional artists to create well over 10,000 square feet of painted illustrations for our New York community.

I have deep gratitude for my Groundswell family for exposing me to so many hidden treasures within this city and for introducing me to the social injustices woven into our modern society. Fellow youth participants and I tackled subjects related to domestic employees in our urban work force, the relationships between men of color and the NYPD, the heritage of immigrant New Yorkers through Ellis Island and many more tangible themes.

When I participate in these youth-led projects I express myself and genuinely invest in researching and fabricating these dynamic murals. This empowers the communities impacted and motivates them to continue as ambassadors and I love that!

So after the paint dries and the final design is in full display, I have a sense of pride and ownership to what I've produced, knowing that I’ve given communities a voice and a lasting imprint on this city landscape.


The Fall of Oppression

This summer, a team of young men of color created a mural encouraging and inspiring their peers to know their value and know their rights. With an approach centered on personal narratives and storytelling, the team challenged notions of identity to break cycles of inequity facing young men of color today.



One Crown Heights

Over the course of the 2015-2016 school year, a team of young artists collaborated on a public mural addressing the current and future residents of Crown Heights in a time of both change as the nei...


The 3 Pillars

The 3 Pillars represents the spirit of the Housing Works organizations core pillars of advocacy, services, and entrepreneurial businesses. The mural is a triptych, with each canvas embodying ...



I Just Want To Come Home declares a new mural in Bushwick on a Food Bazaar Supermarket, painted by a team of young men considering the complex relationship between police and young men of col...


Our American Narrative Continues

Created for public display at Ellis Island, Our American Narrative Continues is a six-part mural panel series celebrating the rich history of immigration to the United States.


House of Knowledge, Boat of Success, and The Flow of Knowledge

Groundswell and Row New York, the only program of its kind dedicated to teaching young people in under-resourced communities the sport of competitive rowing, unveil a mural banner series celebratin...


It’s Not A Dream If You Will It

Installed on Herzl Street, It's Not A Dream If You Will It is inspired by Theodore Herzl's famous quote If you will it, it is no dream. and encourages psychological transfor...


Respect The Work

In this project, a group of Groundswell youth partnered with Domestic Workers United (DWU) and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) to help organize domestic workers in their continued fight for justice, dignity, and respect.


Here Goes Something (Part 2)

Here Goes Something uncovers the rich hidden history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and engages passersby in the thriving activity taking place today.


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