In case you’ve noticed some inspiring new works of art in your neck of the (urban) woods – ones with vibrant colors and powerful voices – it’s thanks to a group of young NYC residents who are enrolled in Groundswell’s Summer Leadership Institute (SLI). The program, facilitated by professional artists, enrolls up to 140 participants who work summer jobs researching, designing and painting murals. Prior arts experience is not a requirement, but an interest in using art as a tool for social change is.


This year, Groundswell has brought their murals citywide: students aged 14-24 worked with professional artists to create works that reflect their views on social change. Seven groups, at least one in each borough, each created a large-scale work of public art. According to the organization’s press release, its “collaborative process is founded on the belief that art creates community and community creates change.” This week, these young artists will feel the satisfaction of unveiling their completed murals in a dedication ceremony.


Ninety-two percent of the youth Groundswell serves are underserved, marginalized and/or economically disadvantaged. Now those youth have a voice. Each mural presented in SLI empowers participants to bring key community issues to the forefront by establishing conversations with their artwork about public health and safety, youth leadership and social inequities.


Five of the murals were created in public housing developments, as part of Groundswell’s Public Art/Public Housing Initiative; another, as part of its Voices Her’d program to celebrate contributions of women of color in public/private spheres; and the last as part of its Making His’tory program, encouraging young men of color to know their rights and their value.



Celebrate with these young artists and their mentors during Groundswell’s dedication event at each location in the coming days:


STAPLETON HOUSES (Stapleton, Staten Island)
This summer, youth and seniors in this community engage in a dialogue about this development’s past and future as a site of hope, dreams and community engagement. Dedication: August 29, 10-11am // 230 Broad Street


TOMPKINS HOUSES (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn)
Painted on a handball court, this mural’s empowering message will mobilize youth to engage their community to become the next generation of community leaders. Dedication: August 29, 1-2pm // Handball Court at Tompkins Houses


The Making His’tory program mural centers on personal narratives and storytelling, challenging notions of identity and break cycles of inequity facing young men of color today. Dedication: August 30, 10-11am // 21 Manhattan Avenue


MAMA DEE’S COMMUNITY GARDEN (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
The Voices Her’d program mural will investigate and elevate perceptions of women of color’s self-worth in order to challenge how racism and sexism impact contemporary culture. Dedication: Tuesday, August 30, 1-2pm // 1401 Bedford Avenue


CASTLE HILL HOUSES (Castle Hill, Bronx)
This piece encourages its community’s elders to serve as mentors so that the young people of the Castle Hill Houses can become a force of positive change and inspiration. Dedication: Wed, August 31, 4-5pm // 635 Castle Hill Avenue


QUEENSBRIDGE HOUSES (Long Island City, Queens)
This mural tackles health issues faced by Queensbridge residents, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, food access, mental wellness and gun violence. Dedication: Wed, August 31, 10-11am // 10-25 41st Avenue


This Harlem artwork will bring together different generations to inspire new perspectives on technology, community engagement, and youth activism. Dedication: Wed, August 31, 1-2pm // 210 West 131st Street