Through a new mural, youth artists engaged seniors at the Stapleton Houses in a public dialogue about the development's past and future as a site of hope, dreams, and community engagement. Their mural, entitled “Empowering the People, Transforming Our Home,” combines Staten Island landmarks with images of activism and resilience to build a lasting conversation about the Stapleton Houses' heritage, history, and legacy.
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 Stapleton Resident Association, New York City Council Member Ritchie Torres, and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). In lessons facilitated by Lead Artist DonChristian Jones and Assistant Artist Lina Montoya, 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 design explores key Staten Island landmarks to illustrate the importance of building local community. In a field in front of the Verrazano Bridge, raised hands grow out of a garden of flowers. The hands grip onto the vines as a symbol of peace and anti-violence. Tree roots that spell out "Stapleton" support an above-ground train and a grandmother hangs laundry out to dry on a clothesline that spans the landscape, symbolizing nature and the community members as the infrastructure of the neighborhood.
“My biggest success on this site was finishing it,” said youth artist and Stapleton Houses resident Quinshawn Williams (19). “I worked hard to make something for my community with all my partners who made it very memorable every day. Every time I hear someone say they love it, it makes me feel so proud. Now when I pass it by I look back at all the fun I had creating this mural for my community.”