NYC Mural Arts Project/Fountain House Gallery: Community Mental Health Mural Installed on West 34th Street
By: Camille Tibaldeo
A large-scale mural that spotlights mental health is now enlivening the Port Authority Bridge, on 34th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. The 90-foot-long mural, installed across both sides of the street, is titled “Some days I have to push myself/ Say hello!” This mural, along with two others in the Bronx, marks the end of the first year of the NYC Mural Arts Project, a joint endeavor of people living with mental illness, artists, and community members.
The New York City Mural Arts Project (NYC MAP) is part of the City’s effort to increase awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma that continues to surround mental illness. The mural design evolved through months of collaboration among people living with mental illness or substance use disorder, the community at large, Fountain House Gallery, and the lead muralist. The project is funded by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Fund for Public Health.
The process of bringing the 34th Street mural to fruition unfolded at Fountain House Gallery, where Gallery artists and lead artist Andrew Frank Baer engaged in a period of brainstorming and planning, followed by design review sessions with Hell’s Kitchen neighbors. After the mural design was finalized, local residents of all ages turned out for a Community Paint Fest, during which the artists guided them in filling in the various sections of the mural design with color.
Ariel Willmott, Director of Fountain House Gallery, said, “For this project, Fountain House Gallery was transformed into a mural-making factory! Witnessing day-to-day progress as the mural design emerged and was filled in with color was remarkable, and we’re thrilled that members of the community engaged with our artists to make the mural a reality.”
Fountain House Gallery artist Anthony Newton created the main character seen throughout the mural. Anthony was on hand for the mural ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 24th, joined by Fountain House President Kenn Dudek, Gallery Director Ariel Willmott, and a host of well-wishers. Anthony expressed gratitude for “the extraordinary journey of using my talent as a painter on this amazing project” and said that the message behind the character he created for the mural is, “Nothing can stop you from realizing your dreams.”
Lead artist Andrew Frank Baer with Fountain House Gallery artist Anthony Newton
Dignitaries in attendance to offer congratulations at the ribbon-cutting were: Jill Bowen, Senior Advisor for Mental Health Initiatives at the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York; Mark Schaff, General Manager Port Authority; Dr. Gary Belkin, Executive Deputy Commissioner of Mental Hygiene at the NYC Health Department; State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried; and State Senator Brad Hoylman.
If you haven’t yet seen this striking work of public art, head over to the Port Authority Bridge and have a look!