Groundswell, New York’s leading organization dedicated to community public art, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), and New York City Council Public Housing Chair Ritchie Torres collaborated on a major one-year initiative entitled “Public Art / Public Housing.” The pieces were designed and installed by a total of 200 young adult NYCHA residents ages 16-24, in the transformation of vacant walls throughout public housing developments in all five boroughs. The tenant's association at each development guided the creation of three mural projects, for a total of 15 new public artworks throughout New York City.
The first of three murals at Saint Nicholas Houses, "I Am Who We Are" was addresses the Saint Nicholas Houses residents’ concern for the public space within the neighborhood. Within the mural, the division between public and personal space is indistinct in order to highlight the fact that one’s personal life effects public life and vice versa. The mural serves as a reminder to the viewer that although parks exist outside their home, public space is equally important and should be treated with care and reverence. Flowers play an important role within the mural as a metaphor for the community. Each community member is like a petal that can only survive if the whole flower endures. In order to maintain a good quality of life, we must all respect the environment and public space. The mural is installed in a highly visible community gathering place.
Smithsonian – New York City Is Paying Public Housing Residents to Paint Murals
Observer – New City Program Brings Art by Public Housing’s Own Residents to its Walls
New York Times – Wielding Paint Brushes, Not Spray Cans, at a Bronx Housing Project
City Lab – Youth Artists Are Painting Gorgeous Murals Inside New York City Public Housing
Nonprofit Quarterly – Mural Project Gives Young NYC Artists a Venue for Public Voice