For Immediate Release: Friday, July 3, 2020
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Black Lives Matter street mural stretching across three Manhattan city blocks has been completed near City Hall
Mural, conceived by Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer and Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, and supported by by a group of designers, architects and planners, is the first to be completed in Borough of Manhattan. Street will be later co-named "Black Lives Matter Boulevard."
Justin Garrett Moore, executive director of the Public Design Commission said "The Black Lives Matter mural at New York's Civic Center is a strong, beautiful, and necessary message. This collaboration by activists, artists, and designers demands that our city and nation do more to realize justice. With intentionality and care, Black leaders and allies from the grassroots to government worked together to build trust and remake 'our streets' into a space that reflects the people, power, and potential that make New York City great."
NEW YORK -- Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Hawk Newsome and Chivona Newsome of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, and Cara Michell and Jhordan Channer of WXY officially kicked off a giant 600 foot, three-block long Black Lives Matter mural that stretches northwards from the Manhattan Municipal Building to the New York Supreme Court House at Foley Square.
The gigantic mural was conceived by a partnership with Black Lives Matter of Greater NY and Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer with the support of a group of downtown architects. It has been designed by artists Sophia Dawson, Tijay Mohammed, Patrice Payne and architect Jhordan Channer and is being realized by muralist collective TATS CRU and Thrive Collective, a youth arts nonprofit.
The artists were chosen with support from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art Program from criteria developed by Black Lives Matter to showcase emerging artists, particularly focusing on LGBTQ artists and women. Artists used 180 gallons of paint over three days of stenciling, basecoats, drop shadows and artwork to cover 600 feet from Reade Street, steps away from the African Burial Ground, northwards on Centre Street, past Lorenzo Pace's sculpture Triumph of the Human Spirit, ending at Worth Street by the New York State Supreme Court Building. The paint was donated by Janovic Paint & Decorating Center in SoHo and Benjamin Moore. The NYC Department of Transportation's Art program is also a presenter of the artwork.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said: "I chose this location to paint a Black Lives Matter mural because of the history of downtown Manhattan, a site of resistance to slavery and Jim Crow, of gathering places, houses of worship, and workplaces, steps from the African Burial Ground, and in front of institutions in our justice system--from the police to prosecutors to courts. Tomorrow we observe the 4th of July: As we bring down symbols of eras of bigotry and oppression all over the country, let us put forth symbols that truly speak to America's promise of freedom, equality and liberation. Let us set down a marker for our current goals and mark this era for future generations."
Hawk Newsome, chairman of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York said "We are excited about this tribute to the sustained struggle of those who seek to end racism and liberate Black People from 400 years of oppression. This project is a memorial to those who lost their lives to anti-Blackness and a celebration of those who continue to march toward justice."
Amina Hassen of WXY Studio said, "Foley Square’s significance for Black Lives Matter is multifold. It has been a place of activism and protest since the movement was christened after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman in 2013. It sits steps away from the African Burial Ground and Commons Historic District, in front of Artist Lorenzo Pace's Triumph of the Human Spirit Monument and near African Burial Ground Memorial (designed by Rodney Leon). And it faces the New York County Supreme Court and One Police Plaza--institutions that have and continue to perpetuate anti-Blackness. So I think it’s crucial to say “Black Lives Matter” here, atop the remains of our Black and Indigenous ancestors, confronting institutions whose work in dismantling structural racism and white supremacy is only just beginning.”
Tijay Mohammed, artist who designed the word BLACK, said "The design of ‘BLACK’ incorporates Adinkra symbols and Kente fabric designs which corresponds with its 400-year history in Africa and to pay homage to the African Burial Ground and all our ancestors. The ‘BLACK’ impression in the U.S. stands for humanity, people of color, LGBTQ and any marginalized part of our society."
Sophia Dawson, artist who designed the word LIVES, said "I chose to feature mothers who I have had the privilege of meeting and working with over the past eight years of addressing this issue through my work. Gwen Carr and Lisha Garner, mother and sister of Eric Garner, Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham and Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez are all portrayed in the letter “L.” I also included a portrait of a young George Floyd and his mother."
Patrice Payne, artist who designed the word MATTER said, "For the Black Lives Matter Mural Project, I was presented to create a design for the word MATTER. One definition for matter is “to be of importance or to have significance”. This word highlights what the Black community strives for and evokes the various experiences we face, regarding our presence, not only in the United States, but globally. I wanted my design to identify what our ancestors had encountered in the past — enduring pain and adversity but seeking freedom and happiness and how we can move forward to envision a better and brighter future, both near and distant."
Kendal Henry, NYC Percent for Art program Director, said "We thank the artists for contributing their inspiring, powerful visions to this timely public artwork, declaring from the civic heart of New York City that Black Lives Matter. We're proud to contribute to this effort to amplify Black voices through creative expression, and to inscribe our values on the city itself as a way of holding ourselves accountable for making this message a reality. Painted on the street, this artwork is a pathway envisioned by artists toward a more fair, just society."
DOT Chief Operations Officer Margaret Forgione said “DOT is honored to play a role in utilizing public space for artistic expression by communicating such a powerful message at an iconic location in the Civic Center. Thank you to Borough President Brewer, Department of Cultural Affairs, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, the architects and artists for bringing these Black Lives Matter murals to our streets."
Victor Body-Lawson, architect, said "As architects, we are charged with the mantle of creating fair, just and socially equitable environments that benefit everyone regardless of their race, creed or position. Being major stakeholders in the formulation of countries and cities, it is imperative that Architects and planners step up to engage in the process of strengthening bonds between the environment and people. We should work to eliminate the paradigm of racism that is counter active to our role as shepherds of the planet and built environment.”
Rodney Leon, architect of of the African Burial Ground Memorial said "Why here? This mural is located in the African Burial Ground and Commons Historic District, in front of Artist Lorenzo Pace's Triumph of the Human Spirit Monument, near African Burial Ground Memorial and adjacent to the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse.”
Other support came from A. Woodner Foundation, who was inspired by this quote: “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” -- Arthur Ashe
About TATS CRU: TATS CRU is a group of New York City-based professional muralists whose work in aerosol has transformed graffiti into a commercially beneficial art form. For over two decades TATS CRU has spearheaded the battle to change people’s perception of graffiti as an art through their respected work. In addition to the recognition they receive throughout the world as leaders in mural advertising and art, proof of TATS CRU’s success and the acceptance of graffiti as an art form can be found in their murals that adorn the walls of numerous hospitals, museums, schools, businesses, and New York City institutions.
About the NYC DOT Art Program: The New York City Department of Transportation’s Art Program (DOT Art) partners with community-based, nonprofit organizations and professional artists to present temporary public art on NYC DOT property throughout the five boroughs for up to eleven months. Artists transform streets with colorful murals, dynamic projections and eye-catching sculptures. Sidewalks, fences, triangles, medians, bridges, jersey barriers, step streets, public plazas and pedestrianized spaces serve as canvases and foundations for temporary art. Over the past 12 years, DOT Art has produced over 300 temporary artworks citywide. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/dotart @nyc_DOT, @nyc_DOTArt
Supporters of the mural include: Architecture Research Office, BBB, BJH Associate, Caples Jefferson, COOKFOX, Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architect, Fred Clarke, Fogarty Finger, FRONT Inc, FXCollaborative, G TECTS, Ken Smith Workshop, LERA Engineering, LTL, MdeAS Architects, ODA, Paula Scher, Rafael Pelli, Richard Gonzalez Architects, Rodney Leon Architects, Rogers Partners, Sara Lopergolo, SCAPE Studio, SHoP Architects, Silman Associates, Snøhetta, Susan T. Rodriguez Architecture Design, Victor Body-Lawson Associates and WXY architecture + urban design, and special thanks to Jose Torres.
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