Groundswell Community Mural Project, a nonprofit organization conceived by artist Amy Sananman in 1996, creates public art—colorful, mosaic murals—as a means to explore and the concerns, dreams, and histories of local communities. Groundswell’s goals are grounded on community involvement and collaboration: the murals speak in the way that art—in an age where art has largely become diluted products of commercialism and consumption—can still, in very public ways, facilitate conversations that center on community and social change. Murals completed by Groundswell’s youth artists can be seen throughout the city, from the Bronx to Brooklyn. A number of them can be found in Sunset Park.
With the exception of the resident artist (one resident artist is chosen to spear-head, mentor the youth artists involved in each mural project), all artists involved are youths (mostly students) between the ages of 14-21. Most of the artists come from working-class families, and each project strives to recruit artists who are local to the community in which the mural is commissioned for. Groundswell also respects the labor of all student artists, as each participant is also paid for their work and time.
The mural project, depicted in these photographs, is entitled “Building Better Tomorrows” (completed in the summer of 2007). Each one of the thirteen murals can be found lining the gated perimeter of P.S. 24, a bilingual public school (38th Street and 4th Avenue) in Sunset Park. “Building Better Tomorrows” was one of six projects commissioned and completed as part of Groundswell’s Summer Leadership Institute (SLI). The research process for this “Making His’tory” program (in conversation and collaboration with a mural completed the previous summer by young female artists in the “Voices Her’d” program) consisted of each young male artist interviewing immigrant fathers living in the neighborhood. Created from a process of collaborative oral history, then, the thirteen murals celebrate Sunset Park’s unique stories. They visually document a diverse range of experiences, exploring complex issues of US immigration laws, as well as diasporic transformations. These personal stories arise from a host of different cultures (the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico), and represent the compelling, complicated experiences that make Sunset Park a communal, urban arena of diversity and difference.