On Thursday, June 21st, the Red Hook Community Justice Center hosted an unveiling ceremony in partnership with the Groundswell Community Mural Project for the new mural in our Youth Justice Programs room. Groundswell brings together artists, youth, and community organizations to use art as a tool for social change. Their projects beautify neighborhoods, engage youth in societal and personal transformation, and give expression to ideas and perspectives that are underrepresented in the public dialogue. Local youth from Red Hook and the greater South Brooklyn area were brought together via Groundswell's Teen Empowerment Mural Apprenticeship (TEMA): an after-school program, modeled on a traditional apprenticeship, in which teens create public art for community-based organizations, working in Groundswell's studio and with a particular emphasis on skills development.
At the unveiling ceremony, student artists spoke about the process of creating a mural from scratch, beginning with studying the neighborhood and the Justice Center's role in the community, and turning that knowledge into a visual concept. The result is a testament to the creativity and skill with which these young artists were able to interpret their research to effectively portray our work—Judge Alex Calabrese remarked that the street sign depicted in the mural that reads "2nd Chance St" reflects one of his favorite nicknames for the Justice Center, "the court of second chances." The same journalist who coined the nickname also quoted the judge using an appropriately artistic metaphor about our work: "Downtown, you feel like you're an artist with only two colors...Here, I have the whole Crayola box. There are so many tools to bring to a problem." In the ten years since that quote was published, we have expanded the box both literally and figuratively, in the new services and programs that we offer and the veritable rainbow of paint colors that the students mixed for the mural (including "Pink Friday").
Chief Clerk Toni Bullock-Stallings, deputy director Jessica Colon, and Groundswell director Amy Sananman joined the judge in commending the youth for their hard work, and distributed certificates to thank them for such an amazing contribution to our center. The mural has already become a favorite part of the building and will continue to send a positive message for years to come.
Red Hook also partners with Groundswell through the TurnStyle program, in which youth arrested for minor offenses are able to fulfill their community service requirements by working with Groundswell staff and artists, and the Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), a youth summer job-training program. The Red Hook neighborhood is also home to another Groundswell mural created through our partnership with Groundswell via these programs, titled "Some Walls Are Invisible," which examines the ways that visible attributes of race and ethnicity can be invisible barriers to equality and justice that can be overcome with careful attention to our shared humanity and principles of human rights.
|Students pose in front of their work with staff from Groundswell and the Justice Center|
|Students receive certificates of recognition for their work on the mural|
|A detail of "Some Walls Are Invisible," a mural created in 2010 as a result of the Justice Center's partnership with Groundswell|