Youth group #Groundswell aims to expand #art and #activism work

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In 1996, Groundswell’s first mural went up on a building in Williamsburg. That piece, addressing the topic of tenants’ rights, no longer exists. It’s been whitewashed. But the nonprofit, which is dedicated to student art and activism, is still making its mark across the city with 500 murals and counting.

Robyne Walker Murphy, the social justice organization’s new executive director, has noticed Groundswell’s work as long as she’s lived in New York, some 18 years now.

“These murals were just a part of the landscape — part of my daily walk or just being in the neighborhood,” said Murphy, an art and social justice educator and administrator who joined the organization a year ago. “You would just see them everywhere.”

The murals are a large part of the organization’s mission — working with teaching artists, students primarily from ages 16 to 19, local groups and schools to address issues affecting the community and creating public art that reflects those issues.

“We’re not just painting things to make it really beautiful,” Murphy said. “We’re speaking to issues like police brutality and sexual harassment. We’re also talking about possibility and celebrating the beauty in these communities, too.”

In recent years, Groundswell has also expanded its programming to reach more students and people interested in “artivism” — a portmanteau of art and activism.

Reaching Vulnerable Youth Through #Streetart in #Jamaica

Jamaica street art image courtesy of  Streetartnews .

Jamaica street art image courtesy of Streetartnews.

The programme was conceived with the intention of finding the good that exists in these communities and using various art forms to highlight these positive elements so that youth living within these communities can use it as an encouraging reference point.

At the same time, it was envisaged that the programme would allow for the creation of a creative space where specifically targeted youth within these communities could learn and express themselves. Within this framework, participants would learn important skills, but more important, they would assist in creating the aesthetic that would better define themselves and their communities. For those who have shown clear artistic talent, they are expected to create at a level where they can become competent in their specialised area. They can even take it a step further and use their art to embark on their own entrepreneurial/professional path. Already, some of the art that is produced in the programme is sold through the Foundation.

Art on the Street is part of The MultiCare Youth Foundation's Visual Arts programme, which also includes the provision of training workshops and guided practice for teachers and students in a variety of art forms, with emphasis on the value of art for creative expression and as a career option.

More ‘inclusive and inspiring’ #publicart expected with city’s plan in #Chicago

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For Kamelia Hristeva, founder and CEO of Green Star Movement, art is about more than paint on walls or the tedium that can come from piecing a mosaic together.

“It creates a sense of place making, a place that’s inclusive and inspiring,” said Hristeva, whose non-profit, art-focused group is responsible for murals, sculptures and mosaics on elementary schools and underpasses throughout the city

“When you beautify a place people care more, it connects to people and helps them connect to different communities and learn about them.”

Through the city’s 50×50 neighborhood art project, Green Star Movement has been involved in creating murals at 65th and 67th Streets and at Belmont and Kenmore Avenues as well as other artworks.

And now more artists will get the opportunity to showcase their art in the city through Chicago’s first public art plan, which aims to showcase and generate more artwork in public spaces.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Friday announced the plan  – a collaboration between the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Department of Transportation, the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Libraries and the Chicago Transit Authority among others.

“It’s the 50 year anniversary of the Wall of Respect and the Picasso sculpture. Those are reflection points for us in charting the history of Chicago and writing a new history,” the mayor said.

“We want to bring the city’s artists together to re-envision our spaces because they are places where we can bring people of different backgrounds together and create a common foundation.”

Whole Foods Market unveils public artwork, Harlem: Past, Present, Future

Mural at Whole Foods Harlem BILL MOORE PHOTO

Mural at Whole Foods Harlem BILL MOORE PHOTO

There was an official dedication of the public artwork, Harlem: Past, Present, Future, at Whole Foods Market Harlem Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. Three large canvases were created as part of a Creative Art Works Public Art Youth Employment program, commissioned by Whole Foods. Nine students from A. Phillip Randolph Campus High School participated in this after-school program as paid youth apprentices. They were guided by CAW Teaching Artist Vince Ballentine, who previously worked on the Dr. Lottie Taylor Library Mural on the Fourth floor of A. Phillip Randolph, as well as the lunch room mural at PSMS 278 in Inwood, Manhattan.

Four APRCHS students participated in this event, including Matthew Smart (who also served as MC for a student question-and-answer session), Carla Mateo, who is represented as the face of Harlem’s youth on the canvas depicting the future, David Sarpong and Uriel Garcia Flores.

Also in attendance were James P. Thomas, constituent service liaison and community coordinator from the Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale E. Brewer; Lucia Albero, Whole Foods Metro Marketing team leader; Damon Young, Whole Foods Harlem Store team leader; CAW Executive Director Brian Ricklin; and CAW Program Director Daniel Bergman.

The youth apprentices who created this public art include Marcela Gomez, Julio Alvarez, Matthew Smart, Dorena Pink, Emilio Peralta, Halima Benjamin, Carla Mateo, Uriel Garcia Flores and David Sarpong.

Brooklyn-based #Groundswell engages community to make art - and a statement

Groundswell Mural

It’s to be expected that some residents would object to allocating city funds to creating murals on the external walls of New York City Housing Authority developments when it’s hard to find funds to clear interior walls of persistent, dangerous mold. But Groundswell, a Brooklyn-based community arts nonprofit, regularly proves its value to supporters and detractors alike as it partners with local youth and community stakeholders to turn public walls – in NYCHA developments and elsewhere – into public works of art.

“It always turns out that those who resist in the early stages, the (NYCHA) tenant leaders, become the strongest advocates once they see the final result,” said Nana Ama Bentsi-Enchill, Groundswell’s youth development manager, who joined the organization in 2015. “They will tell that story over and over again, once they grasp the impact of the mural.”

Last year, New York City Councilman Ritchie Torres, a Bronx representative who grew up in NYCHA housing, allocated $500,000 to Groundswell. The funds supported the Public Art/Public Housing initiative and produced three youth-led murals in each borough. The funds were from the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety, a program intended to reduce violence and make neighborhoods safer in and around 15 NYCHA developments that have experienced some of the highest crime rates in the city. Groundswell partnered with Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx, Queensbridge Houses in Queens, Tompkins Houses in Brooklyn, Stapleton Houses in Staten Island and St. Nicholas Houses in Manhattan.

“The Queensbridge project revealed how powerful art can be,” Bentsi-Enchill said. “The neighborhood was full of unengaged youth who were just idling. Once they plugged into the project, they took ownership of it and their commitment followed.”

Since 1996, through the medium of murals, Groundswell has matched artists and inner city youth to walls in underserved communities. The art brings messages of social justice to every corner of the city – including Rikers Island, where Groundswell produced 13 works of art with incarcerated youth in the past year alone.

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