teen Mural project
By: Laila Stevens
Journalism and Media Arts Major, Benjamin N. Cardozo High School
Volunteer, Art Connects New York
From April 22 - 26, seventeen Middle + High School students from NYCHA Robert Fulton Houses, Avenues: The World School, and the greater Chelsea neighborhood leaped at the chance to grab their paintbrushes and have some fun. Over the course of the week, the group painted two large-scale public murals - one to be installed on a building at Fulton Houses, and the other at Avenues. The mural designed for Fulton Houses highlights the idea of unity, and will be unveiled at Art Connects’ upcoming Participatory Art Fair | Chelsea on Saturday, June 1st.
International community-based public artist Max Frieder, from the non-profit organization Artolution, guided the student artists from the very beginning. The group talked openly about the world in the present, and their dreams for the future. They brainstormed objectives and sketched out their ideas with colored pencils and sheets of paper. Themes ideated for the mural included the injustices of inequality, lack of diversity, gun violence, police brutality, education, pollution and many more.
From there, ideas were narrowed and the students chose to focus on specific themes for each mural. The importance of education and the overwhelming influence of technology was highlighted in the mural at Avenues. It depicts teachers and families supporting children on their journey to reach their endeavors. A staircase of books represents stepping stones and important moments in life. For the Fulton Mural, the teens found fascination in the brightness and significance of the New York City landscape. A place that they have in common and that connects them all.
The composition processes were initiated by painting large shapes in swaths of color on blank canvases. Next, teens outlined shapes and texts to represent society including birds flying through the air, representations of people and animals, a portrait of a young child, and words that define what they want for the future.
Participant Alexandra Greenberg reflected on her experience working as one of the teen muralists, “We were able to build a really good relationship through art. It’s a universal language, everyone understands art,” she said. “It brought together two communities.”
Through this collaborative project, these young artists hope to inspire change and send the message that despite perceived differences, people have similarities and strong connections can develop in many forms. Beyond skin color, language, economic status and in the face of injustice, art is a way to come together and express shared hopes. The neighborhood of Chelsea will now have a permanent representation of these ideas in the form of two colorful murals installed 8 blocks apart that tell the story of the 17 teens who bridged the space between them.