New Decisions and Second Chances

  • This side of the mural articulates the artists' visions for their future. An arrow labeled "Second Chances" points forward, through bright images of strength, growth, creation, and joy.
  • On the opposite side of the mural, the artists use dark colors to depict aspects of their past and of thier present incarceration. As the image of the past transitions into the images of a hopeful future, we see a buttefly, representing the young artists who are trasnforming themselves by making "New Decisions."
  • Above the words "Second Chances," we see images of success, rebirth, and vitality. We see a hand held to an ear to signify listening, a mother nurturing her child, youth playing, and sticky notes which read "Jobs" and "Collage."
  • The mural is a rich collage of colorful symbolism. Here we see the gears turning in somebody's mind, the sun shining, and a bird taking flight to achieve new heights.
  • Here we see textured depiction of Atlas, a Greek mythological character who is burdened with carrying the world on his shoulders. A "Right Turn" arrow carries the onlooker's eyes away from Atlas and towards the hopeful and bright side of the mural.
  • Here, a man looks into the direction of the arrow reading "Second Chances." Behind him a family walks through an open door of opporunity, and ahead of him a seed of "New Decisions" begins to grow.

Project Description

“New Decisions and Second Chances” was created by a group of young men at East River Academy on Rikers Island. Through this project, the incarcerated youth were able to take ownership of their space and transform a blank hallway into a celebration of their creative vision and generative power. The artists began their process by reflecting on the question, “how did you get here and where can you go?” They sought to create a mural that would pose the same question to their peers and encourage them to imagine new possibilities for their future. The mural design emphasizes the potential to turn a new corner by making positive decisions towards personal growth. The artists depict past decisions and the present isolation of incarceration as they interface with the hopes of new possibilities and a positive future. While their experiences in the streets and at Rikers are shown in dark colors and shadow, the future is painted in vibrant and dynamic colors. On this inspiring side of the mural, the artists show us the joy and richness of their vision of a bright future. They use symbolism such as keys, growing plants, a mother and child, a transformed butterfly, opening doors, a listening ear, family, a lion, and turning gears. The young people used art as a medium to engage with their powers of choice and self reflection. The very process of transforming an idea into design and then into a fabricated mural demonstrated to the artists their own capacity for envisioning a goal, and working towards its manifestation. 

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Project Info

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

Fun Facts

Fun Fact
In 2001 the Correctional Education Association found that re-arrest rates were reduced by 9% and re-incarceration rates were reduced by 10% for inmates who received educational services when incarcerated.
Rikers Island is home to 10 jails with a staff of 9,000 officers and 1,500 civilians which support a daily inmate population of 14,000.
Legend Symbol
Atlas. Atlas is a Titan from Greek Mythology. After the Titans lost a war against the Olympians, Zeus sentenced Atlas to carry the world on his shoulders.