Mapping Aspirations

Project Description

Groundswell worked in collaboration with Rikers Saturday Academy to create a mural inspired by the Nelson Mandela quote: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Groundswell worked with a small group of youth participants in eight sessions to plan, design, and execute the mural.
Nelson Mandela lights his fist in a sign of overcoming huge odds and racism to realize personal potential. He has a shining heart over his chest to illustrate strength, perseverance, and love. The light from the heart leads to a boy in profile. He looks out to both overcome challenges and face his potential to succeed. Rays of light color his skin multiple tones, representing all races. He is surrounded by compasses from antique maps, which symbolize the multitude of choices in life. A bridge entitled “Education” bisects the mural, showing how schooling can lead to the achievement of aspirations. To the right, Nelson Mandaela’s quote is included on a swirling coil.

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Project Info

Location: 11-11 Hazen Street East Elmhurst, NY 11370
East Elmhurst

Mural Residency Program for Incarcerated Youth

Dreams and Aspirations


Passages Academy

Passages Academy

Lead Artist(s):
Christopher Cardinale

Assistant Artist(s):
Raúl Ayala



A team of incarcerated young people
Acrylic on Brick Wall

Dimensions: 8 x 11 ft

Fun Facts

The team was inspired by the aesthetic drawings of 19th century phrenology, a pseudoscience that involved connecting head shape to personality traits.
Maze: The maze at the end of the bridge represents the barriers and challenges in life.
Fun Fact
During one activity, the team was tasked with drawing a symbolic map answering the question: “who is 'the community' where you’re from?”