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A woman holds up a bullhorn with people next to her holding signs reading We Are Brownsville.
Photograph: Courtesy of Groundswell | "We Are, I Am"

Check out these powerful new murals popping up around Brooklyn

Local youth created the murals with help from pro artists.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

Four beautiful, powerful murals are adding some colorful inspiration around Brooklyn thanks to a local art organization called Groundswell. Local students painted each one with the help of a professional artist, giving kids a chance to truly make their mark on the neighborhood. 

"Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, and to inspire," Mary T. An, Groundswell's executive director said in a statement. "Our murals are a testament to the collective spirit of New York City. They reflect our past, present, and future, weaving themes of Afrofuturism, intergenerational wisdom, and the undying spirit of togetherness, echoing our dreams, struggles, and triumphs."

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More than 50 students worked on the murals as part of Groundswell's Summer Leadership Institute program. Since its founding more than two decades ago, Groundswell has focused on using art as a tool for social change; it's painted more than 600 murals across the city so far, including these new additions.

Find the murals in Bushwick, Sunset Park, Cypress Hills and Brownsville. Here's the story behind each one.  

A mural with purple and yellow colors.
Photograph: Courtesy of Groundswell | Murals for Change (M4C)

Murals for Change (M4C), Sunset Park

Located at MS 136 in Sunset Park, this yellow and purple mural features a sun, sunflowers, a fist clutching a pencil and the phrase "Lenape Land." With kids playing and businesses thriving, the artwork shows a blend of nature and urban life. 

"Set against the backdrop of a working-class neighborhood grappling with gentrification, the mural paints a vivid picture of cultural celebration and unity," Groundswell explained. 

It includes words in Chinese, Arabic and other languages. 

"The sun, a prominent feature, not only symbolizes hope but also holds special significance for Sunset Park, uniting the community under its rays," per the arts organization. 

Julia Cocuzza served as lead teaching artist, with Lina Montoya as teaching artist assistant. 

A mural with orange and purple figures.
Photograph: Courtesy of Groundswell | Making His'tory "El Paso Del Tiempo"

Making His'tory "El Paso Del Tiempo," Bushwick

Adorning the walls of Food Bazaar in Bushwick on Wyckoff Avenue, this vibrant mural serves a testament to the transformative potential of youth of color. 

"Drawing inspiration from Afrofuturistic aesthetics and the Sankofa concept, it delves into the past to propose a brighter future," Groundswell said. "The mural is a visual journey, celebrating the culture, resilience, and commitment to challenging systemic oppression. It's a multilingual masterpiece, amplifying the voices of neighbors and celebrating the vibrant energy of Bushwick and Brooklyn's diverse communities."

Symbols include an egg, indicating hope and evolution, as well as caution tape, sparking conversation about gentrification and discriminatory practices. It tells a story of a moment when communities cohabit in harmony, united by shared dreams and collective aspirations.

Raul Ayala worked as lead teaching artist with Carlos Mateu's assistance.

A mural with an astronaut and an artist.
Photograph: Courtesy of Groundswell | Voices Her'd "The Sky Isn’t The Limit"

Voices Her'd "The Sky Isn't The Limit," Cypress Hills

Students walking into PS938 in Cypress Hills will now be greeted with an inspiring mural encouraging kids to follow their dreams. It depicts children as astronauts, engineers and artists.

"It's an Afro/Latinx futuristic depiction set in outer space, urging children, especially girls, to reach for the stars and embrace STEAM learning," Groundswell explained. "The mural not only reflects the diversity of the school body and the surrounding neighborhood but also champions careers in fields where women and BIPOC have been historically underrepresented."

Kristy McCarthy served as lead teaching artist with assistance from Eva Mariscal.

A mural with a woman holding a bullhorn.
Photograph: Courtesy of Groundswell | "We Are, I Am"

"We Are, I Am," Brownsville

Located on the corner of Rockaway Boulevard and Dumont Avenues at the Marcus Garvey Apartments, this mural depicts a community coming together to proclaim, "We are Brownsville." A young woman passionately speaks into a megaphone, a man holds a long planted vine in the palm of his hands and a dove with an olive branch perches overhead, all surrounded by a deep purple and gold backdrop. Painted text reads "I am" followed by a long list of adjectives, such as successful, smart, beautiful and proud.

This mural was created in partnership with The Brownsville Community Justice Center (BCJC) and L+M Development Partners. The team received a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice Services to create an art project that would beautify the neighborhood. 

To create the mural, participants attended weekly workshops to explore the history of public art and interrogate some of the social issues affecting the community. They also sought feedback from the community to reflect their perspectives in the design. Groundswell artists Yolande Delius and Eric Miles led the project. 

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