Large-scale murals in the Bronx and Brooklyn were developed through community engagement to address mental illness
“The NYC Mural Arts Project brings together people with mental health conditions, artists, and the community to talk about mental health and break down stigma, which can prevent people from getting the help they need and make their condition worse,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We hope these murals encourage New Yorkers to talk openly about mental health and help communities feel more connected.”
Reflections of Ourselves & Each Other (Seeing Through a Unique Lens)
By muralist Aaron Lazansky-Olivas and members of Acacia Network, installed above the elevated Prospect Avenue subway stop in Morrisania, the Bronx.
“‘Reflections of Ourselves and Each Other (Seeing Through a Unique Lens)’ was created with the original artwork of the participants and the experiences they shared during our creative process. There are multiple, rich stories embedded within the graphics and symbolism in the mural. There are representations of the struggle of the disabled; the institutions that support individuals and communities; the LGBT community; our veterans (by remixing the red, white and blue of ‘patriotism’ to show our future through the eyes of our children); the immigrants from around the world who helped build this country; and universal symbols like the heart and circle of life. The mural represents resilience, pride, a longing for the meaning of life, and for all people to be supported and understood by each other. Ultimately, what we all want beyond basic needs and human dignity is to ‘enjoy life.’” – Aaron Lazansky-Olivas, a.k.a. SpazeCraft One, muralist
Our Everyday Heroes: Using our Hidden Strengths to Overcome Adversity, Combat Mental Health Stigma and Help our World
By muralist Jon Souza and members of Community Access, installed on the 176th street corridor between Jerome Avenue and Davidson Avenue in Mount Hope, the Bronx.
“This mural is the result of a lot of hard work, dedication and creativity. Together, the Health Department, Community Access and its participants came up with the theme, ‘Our Everyday Heroes: Using our Hidden Strengths to Overcome Adversity, Combat Mental Health Stigma and Help our World.’ This theme represents many of the topics we discussed and worked through as a group in our many workshops, discussions and design reviews. The mural shows different characters experiencing different challenges and using their strengths to succeed in the hope that the community can connect and relate with one or all of the images.” – Jon Souza, muralist
ONE PEOPLE Eradicating Labels and Nurturing Mental Health Support
By muralist Christopher Cardinale and members of Services for the UnderServed, developed for installation at MS354, The School for Integrated Learning in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
“Over a period of more than six months, I collaborated with the members of Services for the UnderServed Brooklyn Clubhouse to research, conceive and design a mural that visualized two actions: breaking down stigma around mental illness and building a support system to nurture mental health in our communities. The very act of using art to explore these concepts was empowering and healing for the members, just as it informed our collaborative process. Designing and painting the mural built ties with youth from local public housing; the students, families and teachers from a nearby middle school; the local library and their patrons; neighborhood businesses, a community development organization and more. Once we install the mural in the heart of Crown Heights, it will continue to spread the message of mental health awareness to all who see it as they go about their daily routines. In turn, this will reinforce the support we strive to create for every member of our community.” – Christopher Cardinale, muralist
“The NYC Mural Arts Project gives artistic expression to the truth that we all share a common humanity,” said Donna Colonna, Chief Executive Officer of Services for the Underserved. “‘One People’ uplifts, inspires, and brings a sense of togetherness to our community. With one voice we are confronting stigma and promoting the worth in all of us.”
“The Mural Arts Project has allowed us to take a step towards creating change by using art as a healing force to combat stigma of mental illness and promote awareness, rehabilitation, recovery and social integration within the consumers we serve and the community at large,” said Raul Russi, CEO of Acacia Network. “Acacia Network is honored to have worked as a partner in this project and will continue to provide personalized, integrated care to help our communities improve overall health and wellness.”
“Community Access is dedicated to promoting community inclusion and social justice for people labeled with mental illness and other conditions,” said Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access. “By fostering a collaborative relationship among our artists, tenants, and local neighbors to design and produce a unique piece of public art, The Mural Arts Project exceeded our expectations by truly engaging community members as equals and thereby allowing people to appreciate their respective hopes, dreams, and challenges.”
“I am proud that Central Brooklyn is a part of the important conversation that The Mural Arts Project has begun in New York City,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. “This project seamlessly ties the arts to mental health awareness, making it a concept that all New Yorkers can understand and digest. It is my mission to bring work like this that removes the stigma attached to mental health to the forefront. As one of our most diverse neighborhoods, it is fitting that Crown Heights be the first location in Brooklyn for The Mural Arts Project. I look forward to increased dialogue in public spaces around mental health in our communities.”
“By bringing together local artists, people with mental health conditions, specialists and community members to create art and discuss mental health, the NYC Mural Arts Project helps raise awareness about an often ignored health care issue,” said Congressman Jose Serrano. “The first season was a success, and I’m confident the second phase will bring our communities closer and further encourage people to talk about and take care of their mental health. Murals are also a beautiful addition to our streets and neighborhoods, and I’m glad the residents of Morrisania and Mount Hope can benefit from this innovative program.”
“As a former mental health counselor I appreciate the power of the arts to lift our spirits and to inspire hope,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “I find particular satisfaction in knowing that the artists involved in the Mural project are themselves survivors of mental illness. These murals will serve as an everyday reminder that mental illness is a survivable disease.”
“My community suffers from some of the worst health disparities in the country,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. “It’s important to address not only physical ailments but also mental health issues that are often unspoken about in my community. I hope that these beautiful, public and community-created murals can foster the much-needed mental health conversations in the South Bronx and encourage those suffering in silence to reach out.”
Last year, the Mural Arts Project created three murals in East Tremont, the West Bronx, and Hell’s Kitchen. For more information on the Mural Arts Project, visit its website or Facebook page.
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, a.k.a. 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