Murals in the Bronx and Brooklyn — developed through community engagement — address mental illness
Members of the public can help paint sections of the murals at two Community Paint Fests: one this Saturday, April 28 in the Bronx and another next Saturday, May 5 in Brooklyn
April 23, 2018 — The Health Department today announced an expansion of the NYC Mural Arts Project, which will create three new murals about mental health in Morrisania and Mount Hope, the Bronx and Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The mural designs were developed by local artists, people with mental health conditions, and peer specialists — people who have lived experience with mental illness and are trained to support others with mental health conditions. Members of the public can help paint sections of the murals at two Community Paint Fests: one this Saturday, April 28 in the Bronx and another next Saturday, May 5 in Brooklyn. The Mural Arts Project is part of the City’s effort to build social and neighborhood cohesion and reduce stigma about mental health, aligning with First Lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC initiative. The Mural Arts Project is funded by the State Office of Mental Health and the Health Department through the Fund for Public Health of New York City. For more information on the Mural Arts Project, visit its website or Facebook page.
“The NYC Mural Arts Project shows how joyful art with strong messages can help educate, heal and beautify our communities,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, who leads the City's mental health and substance misuse efforts. “When people see positive reflections of mental well being where they live, it helps put an end to stigma, isolation and misinformation.”
“By supporting people with mental health conditions and strengthening the bonds within our communities, the NYC Mural Arts Project is part of the City’s effort to bring neighborhoods together and change the conversation around mental health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.
NYS Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “By forging partnerships with local artists, community based organizations and people living with mental health issues, the Mural Arts Project opens the door to discussion and conversation about mental health and treatment. And creating a dialogue is the best way to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness. So in addition to beautifying the neighborhood, these murals also help residents understand that individuals living with mental illness are like all of us, and want to live independent, happy and productive lives.”
“We are excited about the expansion of the NYC Mural Arts Project and the continued efforts to use art to improve social relationships and destigmatize mental illness in communities across NYC,” said Sara Gardner, executive director of the Fund for Public Health in New York City.
This year, the Mural Arts Project will create two murals in the Bronx and one in Brooklyn. Artists developed the designs for the murals through weekly workshops with peer specialists and people with mental health conditions who are members of designated community organizations. The first mural, by muralist Aaron Lazansky-Olivas and members of Acacia Network, will be above the elevated Prospect Avenue subway stop in Morrisania, the Bronx. The second, by muralist Jon Souza and members of Community Access, will be on the Davidson building on the 176th street corridor between Jerome Avenue and Davidson Avenue in Mount Hope, the Bronx. The third mural, by muralist Christopher Cardinale and members of Services for the UnderServed, will be at MS354, The School for Integrated Learning in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Last year, the Mural Arts Project created three murals in East Tremont, the West Bronx, and Hell’s Kitchen.
“The Mural Arts Project’s new piece at MS 354 The School of Integrated Learning in Crown Heights will raise awareness about the need to shatter the stigma around mental health and create an environment where open, supportive dialogue can take place in every community,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “We must ensure that people experiencing challenges are aware of and feel at ease to seek out the many services available to them as pursue fulfilling, healthy lives.”
“The NYC Mural Arts Project is an important and effective tool to reduce mental health stigma and bring people together around mental health awareness,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “I'm thrilled the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is expanding the Mural Arts Project into my district and installing a beautiful and thought provoking art piece in the Morrisania community. I encourage everyone in the West Bronx to join in on next Saturday's Community Paint Fest mural instillation event and take this important opportunity to promote mental health awareness in our community.”
“Bringing our communities together is critical to creating an environment that is best equipped to support people living with mental illness,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “I am extremely grateful that District 36 has been chosen as a location for a mural, and look forward to the community coming together not only to create art but to reduce the stigma around mental health. I encourage the people of Crown Heights to come out and participate in this extremely worthwhile initiative.”
“Art is a meaningful connector. The Mural Arts Project encourages our residents to share their expertise and experiences with the Bronx community in order to reduce stigma through collaboration and creativity. Community Access is excited to be a partner in this project,” said Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.
“At Services for the UnderServed, we are committed to combatting stigma about people living with mental illness, breaking down the barriers these misconceptions create, and raising awareness within our communities that individuals with mental illness are resilient, empowered, and capable of living productive, healthy lives,” said Trish Marsik, Services for the UnderServed Chief Operating Officer. “We are honored to have the opportunity to uplift our shared humanity through the Mural Arts Project.”
“Art is the best way to tell a story in a language that anyone can understand,” said Jon “Phes” Souza, lead artist of the mural on the 176th street corridor between Jerome Avenue and Davidson Avenue in Mount Hope, the Bronx.
“Reflections of ourselves and each other’ is about creating conversations through our individual experiences and seeing ourselves in each other to provide a support system called community. Over 50% of the mural design was created by the actual participants of our workshops and thus it is a direct expression from the community back to society. There are many smaller back stories to the artwork elements that has meaning to the participants as well as in context of the project itself,” said Aaron Lazansky-Olivas, aka SpazeCraft One, lead artist for the mural above the elevated Prospect Avenue subway stop in Morrisania, the Bronx.
“When I first moved in this building, I felt bad because people in the community would say, ‘She has a mental problem because she lives in that building,’ but when the people in the community see the mural, they will think differently of us. I feel it will bring people closer to us, because when something like that comes out, it brings more understanding and love. It makes me feel good to see something in my community that’s positive. At first there will be something that’s empty, but it will be filled,” said J.J., a participant in the Mural Arts Project.
“I feel it’s trying to show me the story of Davidson [the building where the mural will be installed]. Davidson is being used as an example of how stories are being told through art. Some stories are told by music and others, through poetry. We will paint our story. It is an honor because I get to express myself through art,” said N.R., a participant in the Mural Arts Project.
“I feel that I helped dispel myths, rumors and gossip surrounding mental health in our community. Our Clubhouse will use our voice and this amazing experience to promote social change and tolerance,” said Elfreda, a Services for the UnderServed Brooklyn Clubhouse member and a participant in the Mural Arts Project.
Acacia Network offers integrated health and housing programs by reinvesting in communities through innovative programming, employment opportunities and affordable housing ownership.
Community Access expands opportunities for people living with mental health concerns to recover from trauma and discrimination through affordable housing, training, advocacy and healing-focused services.
Services for the UnderServed creates pathways to rich and productive lives for people with disabilities, people in poverty, and people facing homelessness through housing, employment, skills-building, treatment, and rehabilitation services.
Aaron Lazansky-Olivas, aka SpazeCraft One, is an internationally recognized urban visual artist, designer, D.J., music producer and media arts educator born and raised in midtown Manhattan, currently residing in the Bronx.
Jon “Phes” Souza is an artist, educator and community organizer from New York City. His work is characterized as a blend of New York hip-hop, with international and cross-generational influence.
Christopher Cardinale has been creating murals collaboratively in a wide range of communities for over 20 years. He has produced numerous monumental murals, poster campaigns and more in New York City over a period of 15 years.
ThriveNYC is an unprecedented strategy and set of 54 initiatives by the City to approach mental health as a comprehensive public health challenge involving many City agencies. ThriveNYC aims to change the conversation and stigma surrounding mental illness and provide greater access to mental health care. For more information on ThriveNYC, visit nyc.gov/thrivenyc.
MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177