You Can Take Our Homes But You Can't Take Our Hearts

  • "You Can Take Our Homes But You Can't Take Our Hearts."
  • The team visited Swoon's studio to learn about her practice, including her printing and stamp-making techniques.
  • The team took their human heart-shaped design concept to the street by holding up signs that say "Honk for the mural," "Mural coming soon," and "Ask me about my mural."
  • Youth participants prime, grid, and outline the image before adding color.
  • The team began filling in large blocks of color, working their way into more detail.
  • The dedication ceremony was a huge success and each participant received recognition from a political official.
We Rose Above: Healing Communities Through Public Art

Project Description

“You Can Take Our Homes But You Can’t Take Our Hearts” 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.


“You Can Take Our Homes But You Can’t Take Our Hearts” illustrates the hope and optimism of the people of Staten Island. The mural takes the form of the human heart, stronger and more resilient as families return and homes are rebuilt. In the mural, a stained glass motif suggests that the school where the mural is installed, New Dorp High School, is also a sacred space, where neighbors helped neighbors in the days and months following Superstorm Sandy. The young women responded to feedback from the community on their design during a public design sharing. During this sharing, local residents expressed their desire to see a more optimistic vision for the final image than the teen muralists originally proposed.


The young women artists responded to this feedback, and the 12 ft wide by 17 ft high mural was unveiled to the public in August 2013. A representative from State Senator Adam Lanza’s office was on hand to present the teen artists with certificates of appreciation. NY1 covered the event, expanding its reach beyond New Dorp High School to the entire borough of Staten Island.


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.

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Project Info

Fun Facts

Suggested Activity
Research the life-size wheatpaste prints and paper figure cutouts of acclaimed street artist Swoon. Take a self-guided tour of her iconic street art installed throughout New York City.
Fun Fact
NYC Build It Back provides several pathways to help affected residents return to permanent, sustainable housing by addressing unmet housing recovery needs. New York City residents can register for the program by calling 311 or visiting
“I live in Staten Island, the ‘forgotten borough,’ which was really affected by Hurricane Sandy. Working with Groundswell was so important because through the mural, we could recognize and help victims in my community.” – Tasleem Sheikh, Youth Artist