Murals in Brooklyn and Staten Island — 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, May 4 in Brooklyn and another on Saturday, May 18 in Staten Island
April 29, 2019 — The Health Department today announced the designs of two new mental health murals in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Graniteville, Staten Island as part of the NYC Mural Arts Project. The mural designs were developed by local artists, neighborhood residents, 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, May 4 in Brooklyn and another on Saturday, May 18 in Staten Island. The program aims to raise mental health awareness and reduce stigma towards people with mental illness. An early evaluation funded by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund found that, of people who participated in the community engagement workshops, 65% had a positive change in their stigma towards people with mental illness and 58% showed an increase in mental health awareness and education. 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.
“Art is a powerful force for fighting stigma, and bringing communities together,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “We want New Yorkers of all backgrounds to have mental health support wherever they live, learn, worship, and play, and that requires collaboration across sectors. We are proud to continue this work, and look forward to creating more thoughtful, healing spaces across the city.”
“The NYC Mural Arts Project works to break down the stigma of mental illness,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Through months of collaboration with an artist and a peer specialist, people with mental health conditions tell their stories; connect with one another; and develop ideas that become a mural for the community to enjoy and learn from.”
Artists developed the designs for the murals through a series of public events in the community and weekly workshops with peer specialists and people with mental health conditions who are members of designated community organizations. The first mural, “Feeling All Four Seasons, Bridging All Four Seasons” by artist Julia Cocuzza and members of Baltic Street, AEH, Inc. will be installed on PS 24K at 427 38th St. in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The second, “We are a Connected Community” by artist Alice Mizrachi and members of Venture House, will be installed on PS 22 1860 Forest Avenue in Graniteville, Staten Island.
In 2018, the NYC Mural Arts Project created three murals in in Morrisania and Mount Hope, the Bronx and Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In 2017, the NYC Mural Arts Project created three murals in East Tremont, the West Bronx, and Hell’s Kitchen. For more information on the NYC Mural Arts Project, visit its website or Facebook page.
New York State 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 thrilled to partner with the NYC Health Department on NYC Mural Arts Project, engaging communities in understanding mental illness through the arts,” said Sara Gardner, Executive Director of the Fund for Public Health of New York City.
“We are proud to support these new mural projects in Brooklyn and Staten Island,” said Laurie M. Tisch, President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “Not only do they provide beautiful and stimulating additions to their neighborhoods, the process of creating each mural is collaborative, creative and healing, helping to reduce stigma and promote healthier and more cohesive communities—values central to the mission of the Illumination Fund.”
“I believe mental health needs to be prioritized and maintained with the same care and vigilance as physical health,” said Julia Cocuzza, Brooklyn Muralist for the NYC Mural Arts Project. “At Baltic we had so many incredibly moving conversations around mental health, excavating personal narratives of struggle and recovery. Despite the differences in the details, we all arrived at the same conclusion: Our lived experience is a part of us, but our trauma and our diagnosis does not define us. Those in the mental health community are just like everyone else: We all cycle through emotional highs and lows. We all seek connection, compassion, and balance. We all feel all four seasons in New York City. No matter how unique one’s circumstances might be, there is more that connects us than isolates us.”
“We are happy to be part of a project that both promotes artistic discovery and community inspiration for our fellow Citizens,” said Isaac S. Brown, President/CEO of Baltic Street, AEH, Inc.
“It has been a joy working with the Sunset Park community and the children and families at PS24, where the mural will be installed. This art grounds me and is an expression of my inner self and a way to share my ideas. This project has been a blessing for me,” said Vincent, a member of Baltic Street who worked on the Brooklyn mural.
“We must realize that there is no health without mental health. Mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone because mental health is everyone's business. It’s great to see community residents, peer specialists, artists and individuals with mental health conditions come to together to create a message through art,” said Assemblyman Charles D. Fall.
“Working as a muralist that destigmatizes mental health in Staten Island alongside Venture House members has been a positive and uplifting experience for me; it reminds me that we are all connected and our kindness towards one another is imperative to achieve a higher divine frequency. I am grateful for this experience,” said Alice Mizrachi, Staten Island Muralist for the NYC Mural Arts Project.
“It has been a distinct pleasure for the Venture House membership and staff to collaborate with the NYC Health Department, professional muralist Alice Mizrachi, PS 22 faculty, parents and students, as well as the community at large on this spectacular project, working together toward a common purpose of stamping out stigma, dispelling misconception, and embracing the reality of every day mental health matters. We have seen the strength and beauty that comes from our shared humanity,” said Juliet Douglas, Executive Director of Venture House.
“Art is a permanent form for us to represent our mental health community. We enjoyed the brainstorming, painting, and working with different media to make the project come to life. We are honored to be representatives of the mental health community and felt welcomed by an open and understanding segment of the community. This project is a positive step for an inclusive climate for all!” said Andre, Dawn, Janice, and William, members of Venture House who worked on the Staten Island mural.
About the Partners for the Brooklyn Mural
Baltic Street, AEH, Inc. is a peer-run not-for-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with mental illness. Located in New York City, their recovery-oriented services help recipients obtain jobs, housing, social supports, education, vocational training, entitlements, and other life-enhancing services. Baltic Street, AEH, Inc. believes that individuals can and do recover from mental illness. They work to support recovery efforts and to decrease the stigma and alienation related to mental health diagnoses.
Julia Cocuzza is a Brooklyn-based painter, muralist, designer, print maker, and educator working with the Mural Arts Project in Sunset Park. Her paintings capture the loaded intersections, layers, and fragments of daily living, with a particular affection for urban structures, natural systems, human interaction, music, and obsolete media.
About the Partners for the Staten Island Mural
Venture House is a non-profit, community-based mental health agency, serving adults diagnosed with serious mental illness. They support individuals in finding quality of life through improved access to education, employment, community engagement, and a lifetime of meaningful social connection. Venture House utilizes the Clubhouse approach to psychosocial rehabilitation, which is a unique model rooted in the notion that engagement in purposeful activity brings meaning to life and promotes health and wellness. To that end, members of the Clubhouse work side by side with staff to run day-to-day operations as well as advocacy and recreation.
Alice Mizrachi is a New York-based artist working with the Mural Arts Project in Staten Island. She explores both the spiritual and physical dimensions of being human, and in particular, female. Often times, the female figure in various mythical iterations intersects with earthbound feminine forms as a means to communicate social consciousness. Mizrachi’s intentions include the empowerment of self and others through artistic expression, as well as advocacy for women, youth, and the environment.
MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Gallahue/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177