We Rose Above the Challenge

  • "We Rose Above the Challenge."
  • The youth worked on transforming what they learned from their research into visual imagery by sketching.
  • The team presented their design concept to the public to elicit feedback.
  • The youth were inspired by master artist Swoon, using bold colors and repeating geographic patterns.
  • The mural traces the timeline of the storm from darkness and devastation, to light and hope.
  • This mural detail showcases the Challenge Preparatory Charter School that served as a hub for services after the storm.
We Rose Above: Healing Communities Through Public Art

Project Description

“We Rose Above the Challenge” was created as part of Recovery Diaspora, a collaborative citywide public art installation created by Swoon, together with youth from Red Hook, Coney Island, Staten Island, and the Rockaways, among the neighborhoods most affected by the storm. As a response to the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, teen artists drew from stories of healing and recovery to create a visual narrative that captures the concerns, hopes, and overall spirit of these communities.


In collaboration with Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation, teen artists researched the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the Rockaways through a series of interviews and site visits with local residents. As a response to these interviews, teen artists drew from stories of devastation and recovery to create a mural design that captures both the concerns and optimism of the people of the Rockaways. The mural, 35 ft wide by 5 ft high, was installed at Challenge Preparatory Charter School. The mural boldly declares “We Rose Above the Challenge.” A beacon in the mural symbolizes the important role this school played within the community in the days and months following the storm.


The work of these teens proved meaningful following Mayor Bloomberg’s announcement of the opening of registration for the NYC Build It Back Program. NYC Build It Back provides several pathways to help affected residents return to permanent, sustainable housing by addressing unmet housing recovery needs. Teen artists leveraged the unveiling of the mural to host a press conference to raise awareness of how local residents might register for the program.


The four murals created through Recovery Diaspora are tied together by a temporary site-specific mural on the famed Bowery Mural wall, created by Swoon herself. Scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of the storm in October, it is a testament to both resilience and vulnerability, and by engaging the public in its design, it serves to highlight the importance of continued relief efforts by and for Sandy’s victims.

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Project Info

Fun Facts

According to the U.S. Census, 25 percent of Far Rockaway residents live below the poverty line, compared to 15 percent for the rest of the state; 77 percent of the students subscribe to the free lunch program.
Suggested Activity
Learn more about how you might volunteer to support Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts by visiting www.nycservice.org.
“This mural highlights the importance of the continuing rebuilding efforts in these devastated, but resilient, communities.” Denise Scott, LISC New York City Managing Director