2016-09-07 / Features

Long Island City Mural Unveiled

The Groundswell dedication of the mural, “The Balance – The Four Faces of Health,” at the Queensbridge Houses. Pictured are Groundswell staff, teaching artists, youth artist representatives (mostly Queensbridge Houses residents) and staff from the Riis Center. The Groundswell dedication of the mural, “The Balance – The Four Faces of Health,” at the Queensbridge Houses. Pictured are Groundswell staff, teaching artists, youth artist representatives (mostly Queensbridge Houses residents) and staff from the Riis Center. A team of young artists have inspired a holistic view of healthy living at the Queensbridge Houses through a new mural on the Jacob A. Riis Settlement House community center (10-25 41st Avenue, Long Island City). Created in response to the community’s tradition of memorial shrines and murals, the youth tackled health issues faced by Queensbridge residents, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, food access, mental wellness, and gun violence. Their mural, entitled “The Balance – The Four Faces of Health,” stands in honor of all lives at the development – past, present, and future.

The mural, created with the non-profit organization Groundswell, was unveiled at a dedication on Wednesday, August 31.

The youth artists worked as part of Groundswell’s two-month long flagship summer youth employment program, the Summer Leadership Institute, presented in collaboration with the Queensbridge Tenant Association, New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres, and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). In lessons facilitated by Lead Artist Misha Tyutyunik and Assistant Artist Victor A. Saint-Hilaire, the young artists researched, designed, and fabricated the mural.

This mural is part of Groundswell’s larger “Public Art / Public Housing” Initiative, in which five developments identified from the Mayor’s Action Plan (MAP) for Neighborhood Safety, one in each of the five boroughs, have co-created three mural projects for a total of 15 new public artworks throughout the city.

The mural presents a vision of holistic health through symbols hidden within a mythical sphinx, which represents a healthy, strong, and proud community. Physical health is shown as a figure with an apple for a head (representing both healthy eating and the “Big Apple”) lifting weights. Mental health is a scene of a man holding up his community, illustrating the importance of each individual in building their community. A heart framed by a flower crown represents emotional health, and spiritual health is depicted as a scale balancing the sun and moon. Through these playful depictions of the elements of healthy living, the artist team hopes to bring joy to the Queensbridge community as the mural promotes a holistic view of wellness.

“Groundswell’s programs, including the Summer Leadership Institute and the ‘Public Art / Public Housing’ Initiative, which engages youth in public housing, have resulted in astonishing murals throughout the City depicting themes of social justice and equality. They truly are inspirational and will leave a lasting impact on public housing developments. Groundswell and the City Council have had a successful collaborative relationship to lift up public housing residents and the results will now be visible throughout the City,” said Council Member Torres.

“Thanks to the hard work and creativity of our young resident-artists, five developments across New York City are more beautiful than ever before,” said NYCHA General Manager Michael Kelly. “Vibrant public spaces like these give residents more reason to be proud of where they live – and NYCHA could not be prouder to share these works of art with all New Yorkers. With the leadership of Council Member Torres and the Groundswell team, our residents were able to tell their stories through painting – and those stories will live on at our developments for years to come, creating more connected NYCHA communities.”

“Using the mythical sphinx to carry their message, the fantastical imagery of this mural captures a holistic view of wellness and its meaning for Queensbridge youth and the community at large. The design references the young artists’ interpretations of healthy living, emphasizing the importance of connecting physical, mental, emotional, and community wellness. The artists of ‘The Balance – The Four Faces of Health’ have leveraged the power of socially engaged art and made a thoughtful contribution to the Queensbridge community,” said Groundswell Interim Executive Director Rob Krulak.

“I loved painting murals and helping out my community this summer,” youth artist and Queensbridge Houses resident Kevin Perez, 21, said about his experience working on the mural. “It’s really changing my life. It’s been very inspiring and I enjoyed working with different Groundswell teaching artists. My plan for this coming year is to be better with myself and fix my life by setting goals.”

Through Kevin’s example and the work of the other youth artists, “The Balance – The Four Faces of Health” stands as a call to action for a healthier way of life for all residents at Queensbridge Houses by encouraging balance in all areas of life.

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