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ArtBridge announced Culmination of City Artist Corps: Bridging the Divide, Celebrating the Completion of 50 Art Installations and Book Release
ArtBridge, in partnership with NYC Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), proudly announced the completion of 50 art installations from the ambitious, year-long, five-borough, public art exhibition City Artists Corps: Bridging the Divide that amplifies the stories, cultures, talents, and histories of New York City’s 400,000 public housing residents. The program’s final installation of large-scale public art was completed in March at Manhattan’s Baruch Houses, and most of the 50 installations throughout the city will remain on display through August 2023 for all community members to enjoy. Celebrating the completion of the project, New York City Commissioner of Cultural Affairs Laurie Cumbo and NYCHA’s Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt joined artists and NYCHA residents at the Taft Houses on April 19, 2023. Bridging the Divide was funded by City Artist Corps, a $25 million program created by DCLA and the Mayor’s Office to provide relief to New York’s arts community and reinvigorate arts and culture as part of the City’s recovery from the pandemic. It was made possible by the City Canvas program, an initiative of DCLA, the Mayor’s Office, and Department of Buildings that transforms temporary construction sheds and fencing into platforms for public art.
Over the course of ten months, ArtBridge held a citywide open call and commissioned 50 local artists, nineteen of whom were NYCHA residents themselves. ArtBridge partnered with more than a dozen local nonprofit orgs to select artists for each community, seeking artists who possessed deep relationships with those communities. The selected artists ultimately created 50 site-specific works, producing public murals that altogether span nearly two miles in length. The program’s artworks are all installed on construction fencing and sidewalk sheds that surround sixteen individual NYCHA sites, with the designs deriving from hundreds of workshops, community events, and close collaboration with NYCHA residents across all five boroughs. Embodying the project’s core principle of artist-led engagement with NYCHA communities, each artist held numerous workshops, in which they shared art making skills and gathered information on community values and what imagery residents wanted to see in the work.
Upon the completion of each installation, community celebrations were held, featuring music and art workshops as well as booths from local organizations providing resources such as PPE, free books, and information on community events and job opportunities.
Much of the program’s success can be attributed to its foundational partnership with NYCHA and the strong relationships built with the Resident Associations, Resident Leaders, and Property Managers at each NYCHA site — all of which ensured that the work being done was a direct reflection of the communities themselves.
In addition to uplifting the NYCHA residents, ArtBridge also worked with the artists to make sure the experience allowed them to further their careers and reach their next level of professional development. Through the program, artists were fully supported in the creation of public art and were provided training in community engagement best practices. There were also ribbon cutting events, a panel discussion, and the release of a book about the program to help shine a light on the work done by the artists and communities.
The digital version of a print book, summarizing the project in full, is available here.
Participating NYCHA developments include: Baruch, Polo Grounds, Taft, and Lillian Wald in Manhattan; Brownsville, Howard, Ingersoll, Red Hook East, and Red Hook West in Brooklyn; Adams and Mitchel in Bronx; Astoria, Pomonok, and Woodside in Queens; South Beach and Todt Hill on Staten Island.
TAFT HOUSES East Harlem, Manhattan
August 2022 installation
The artworks developed for Taft Houses derived from more than a dozen workshops and engagement events between artists and residents, aided by Taft Houses’ Resident Leader, Beverly MacFarlane, and six Taft residents who were paid stipends to facilitate the program. Workshops were hosted in the office of the Taft Resident Leader, a location that proved to be a hub for residents looking for resources. Bringing art workshops to the space allowed the community to discuss their concerns while engaging their creativity. The workshops gained momentum over a number of months, as did youth participation. These positive results have prompted the continuation of art workshops in the Resident Association’s office.
Artwork Title: Nurture Nature
Location: 1345 5th Avenue
Nurture Nature is a celebration of life in New York City. The imagery was inspired by the beauty and resilience of the Taft Houses’ East Harlem community. The piece features various elements symbolizing universal values. For instance, blue swirls—invoking the Aztec symbol for speech—represent the voices of the community, while butterflies represent the contributions of immigrant populations. Throughout the design, flowing, colorful human figures represent diversity and adaptability. The bouquets of flowers represent growth and resilience.
Andrea Arroyo works in painting, sculpture, artists books, site-specific installation, and public art. Her art has been exhibited in 50 individual, and numerous group shows in the US and abroad. Permanent collections include The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, The New York Public Library, The Richmond Museum, and The National Museum of Mexican Art. She holds awards and grants from numerous non-profit and government organizations and has permanent public art in the New York City subway, two public schools, and a children’s clinic in Florida. Additional commissions include projects for The International Museum of Women, The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Museum, The Morris-Jumel Mansion, The New York Women’s Foundation, The Women’s Rights National Historical Park, and The Latin Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her work has been published extensively in The New Yorker (cover art), The New York Times, and The International Herald Tribune, and has been the subject of over two hundred features in international media.
Artwork Title: Reflections of Our Community
Location: 1735 Madison Avenue
Reflections of Our Community combines imagery expressing the artist’s own experience of living in public housing with those shared by adults and youth during her art workshops at Taft Houses. Themes of deep community bonds, pride in heritage, and beauty of place, are depicted through the patterning of people, color, and flora. Specific elements, like the church building, a school, and the image of an NBA player, were included because of suggestions made by workshop participants. The occasional floating eye represents ancestors.
Gwendolyn Black is an award winning artist who started her career as a fashion illustrator. She later moved to fine arts, where she found her niche organizing and curating exhibitions and programs. Since 1991, she has been using her work to uplift the community, most notably through the following events and organizations: Arts and Jazzfest NYC / Visual Arts and Jazzfest, Pioneer Awards: Honoring Women in Visual Arts, IAM (Incorporation of Artists on the Move, Inc.), and OpenSpace Arts. Black is a graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Artwork Title: I Love My Hood
Location: 1695 Madison Avenue
I Love My Hood by Dister Rondon portrays the vibrancy of Harlem through a Hip Hop lens. Bold lines and arrows weave in and out of a typical New York City streetscape. A fire hydrant, chimi truck, and pigeon share the scene with depictions of people engaging in everyday life and expressing themselves. The artwork mirrors the eclectic power that emanates from the city’s uptown streets.
Dister Rondon is an artist from Washington Heights, NYC. He is also a member of I Love My Hood, a collective of worldwide artists, educators, and activists dedicated to serving the greater good through Hip Hop. He has created and collaborated on projects worldwide, ranging from mural paintings in the Dominican Republic, to organizing community discussions of social issues in Uruguay, to Breakin’ battles for youth in Kyrgyzstan.
Artwork Title: Resilient
Location: 1385 5th Avenue
Coraima Santana’s Resilient is dedicated to her sister Yomaira. It represents the beauty of growth and reconnection. The array of people, patterns, colors, and nature depicted within the work is an homage to utilizing the inherent beauty of the world to heal. The artist wants to emphasize that life, as it exists within us and around us, is a blessing. The overlaying graphic lines and colors are inspired by nature and are intended to be a source of tranquility and resilience.
A multidisciplinary artist and storyteller, Coraima Santana creates space for expression to shift and transform. Her subjects are often grassroots issues that call for increased public participation, self-empowerment, and centering of underrepresented groups. She wants her art to resonate with people of all backgrounds and to advocate for basic human rights. Drawing from personal and collective experiences, she seeks to expand the power of creativity to encourage difficult conversations that will propel us forward. Santana graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Production Management and a minor in Ethics and Sustainability.
“New York City is home to the most extraordinary creative talent in the world, and nowhere is that more evident — and underappreciated — than among our NYCHA residents,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams. “I applaud the artists and residents who worked together to bring these incredible artworks to public spaces across the city, and I encourage all New Yorkers to check them out in the months ahead.”
Statement from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Laurie Cumbo:
“Bridging the Divide shows what’s possible when our artists and residents are empowered to collaborate and create toward a shared vision. It also shows how innovative use of our public spaces can turn something like a drab green construction shed into a canvas for artist-led collective creation, and a platform to engage and inspire New Yorkers. Congratulations to ArtBridge, to the participating artists, and to every New Yorker whose vision and contribution is represented in one of the amazing pieces featured in this citywide exhibition. It’s a powerful reminder that when we collaborate with and work to understand one another, we can do amazing things.”
Statement from the New York City Housing Authority Interim CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt:
“NYCHA’s collaboration with ArtBridge has given residents the opportunity to see their stories and ideas reflected in incredible artwork. Through a participatory process with local artists, residents help design and create pieces that beautify NYCHA developments, while celebrating the exceptional talents and contributions of the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living in public housing.”
Statement from Jon Souza, ArtBridge’s Director of Programs:
“The City Artist Corps program started with the intention to provide relief to artists and reinvigorate communities in New York City through public art; it has since grown into a program rich with community engagement, quality arts programming, and professional development. The production of these 50 murals has opened the doors for future programs that recognize the value of art as a means to engage communities through creativity and collaboration.”
Abrons Art Center, Center for Court Innovation – Neighborhood Safety Initiatives, DYCD Cornerstone, Hellenic American Neighborhood Action Committee, Joan & Alan Berkinow JCC of Staten Island, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, Moore Jackson Community Garden, Office of Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, PAL Cornerstone, Pioneer Works, Queens Community House, Raymond Velez Health Center, Red Hook Art Project, Red Hook Initiative, Save Our Streets, UJA Federation of New York, United Activities Unlimited Inc., University Settlement, William Cullen Bryant High School, and Woodside Senior Center.
Founded in 2008 by artist and designer Rodney Durso, ArtBridge empowers local artists to transform street-level construction fencing into canvases for art. ArtBridge works with communities and artists to develop large-scale art exhibitions that represent local narratives and cultures. Through this program, ArtBridge’s outdoor exhibitions have provided unprecedented exposure for hundreds of artists, and have covered over 100,000 square feet of public space.
About Bridging the Divide
Launched in 2019, Bridging the Divide is a series of ongoing artist residencies at NYCHA developments throughout New York City. Through this program, artists engage with local residents through a variety of workshops and create artworks that empower residential narratives. The resulting artworks are transformed into large-scale public art, displayed on the construction fencing that surrounds the NYCHA sites.
About City Canvas
Announced in September 2018, City Canvas allows nonprofits to install large-scale, temporary artwork on protective construction structures — namely construction fences and sheds — throughout the five boroughs. A 48-month pilot program, City Canvas is a collaboration between NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the Office of the Mayor, and the NYC Department of Buildings designed to improve the city’s visual landscape, while giving artists and organizations opportunities to bring their work to public space. Learn more about the program athttps://www.nyc.gov/site/dcla/publicart/citycanvas.page.
About City Artist Corps
Announced in May 2021, the New York City Artist Corps was a historic investment in artists by the City of New York. The $25 million program was created to provide relief to the City’s hard-hit arts community and reinvigorate arts and culture as part of the City’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to giving New Yorkers opportunities to experience a diverse range of free cultural programming across the boroughs, City Artist Corps ensured that more than 3,000 working artists were supported in their own right, recognizing their labor as critical to the City’s recovery. Through a number of partners, City Artist Corps provided thousands of grants and support to artists in all disciplines across New York City. Learn more about the program at https://www.nyc.gov/site/dcla/cultural-funding/cityartistcorp.page.